A Must-Read for any author, novelist, or writer: Lloyd Shepherd’s dialogue with a book pirate.

JackSparrow
I love it when someone tells me they've read one of my books, and enjoyed it.

But let me tell you: I wince inside when they add: "My sister [daughter, girlfriend, whatever] lent it to me."

Admittedly, it also hurts a little when they tell me as much they took it out of a library. But because I too love libraries ( besides being a big user, I also support my library during their fundraising efforts, and by donating books I no longer use) I figure, "Okay, well then maybe they'll buy the next one…and the next one…"

I write because I have to. It's my life. It's in my blood.

And I'll do it for as long as others want to read what I write–and are willing to pay for it.

Aye, there's the rub…

I have to tell you: it kills me when I discover my books are being sold illegally on the Internet.

And no, I'm not fond of the fact that people are file-sharing them, too.

You see, not all pirates are Johnny Depp.

Let me explain something:  I spend months (and in some cases, years) research, plotting, and writing my books. I see only 8 – 12 percent royalties on books that are published via large publishers.That's only $1.14 per book, and that is after I pay back an advance–in which the publisher subtracts any (gulp) returns from bookstores.

On the books I've published myself and put up as digital files that are distributed by online bookstores, I net somewhere between 35- 70 percent of my reasonabe $4.99-$2.99 retail prices. That's only $3.50-$2.10 a book — and I see that, only after I pay a graphic designer, and editor. Let's not forget my taxes.

And I still have to make my rent. And pay for my own healthcare, like every self-employed person.

So, yeah: I'd prefer if you paid for my books.

As would every other author I know.

This isn't a rant. It's a plea. For the few hours of enjoyment you get, shell out what you would for a lunch. Or for that matter, a cuppa joe.

Call it your cuppa Josie.

In this article, which appeared in the UK Guardian, Lloyd Shepherd, who wrote the wonderful novel, The English Monster, put it quite succinctly to one book pirate.

Click onto the article to read the comments.

Guilt sucks. Here's hoping it also works.

— Josie

*Picture: Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow, in PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN.

 

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Lloyd Shepherd: My parley with ebook pirates

When the author of The English Monster found a request to pirate his novel circulating on discussion board Mobilism, he decided to respond himself – and was surprised by the results.

My novel The English Monster was published on 1 March. A week later, a Google alert dropped into my inbox with a link to a forum post on a site called Mobilism, on which a character called "Fe2" was offering a reward to anyone prepared to produce a free ebook version of The English Monster for him to use.

Most books these days are pirated in some form or another, and having worked on the web before I was a novelist I was anticipating that with a fair degree of sang-froid. But this was the first piratical move on my book, and it was also an oddity – more an incitement to piracy than piracy itself.

This, I discovered, is how Mobilism works. The site is essentially an enormous discussion board. It started, as far as I can make out, as a place where people made "mobile" versions of games and other stuff and offered them to each other. It now offers mobile (read: pirated) versions of movies and music as well as games. And books. Lots and lots of books.

However, I need to be careful about my terminology, because Mobilism is very, very careful about its own. It states, often, that it does NOT host any files of pirated material on its own servers; it only links to them. It also provides a kind of currency mechanism for people to reward each other for producing pirated material; you earn things called "WRZ$" by posting on the site, and you earn a great deal more by producing versions of content and making them available for other users.

But – and I am being careful to repeat this – these versions are NOT hosted by Mobilism. All that Mobilism requires is that you put your pirated material at a website address where other users can download it, for free, without registration. Mobilism is like a catalogue of links to other people's warehouses. It's an index, not a repository. It's exploiting a characteristic of the legal arrangements around the internet – that you should be able to link to something without becoming liable for it. This is an essential element of what makes the web work. It also allows Mobilism to create entire cathedrals to pirated content, without hosting any of that content itself.

(As an aside, this legal arrangement is now under some attack. Richard O'Dwyer is right now facing extradition to the US to feel the wrath of the Hollywood entertainment industry for building a site that contained thousands of links to pirated material. It's hard to understand why O'Dwyer is attracting this kind of legal firepower, while no one seems to be extraditing Mobilism's owners. Perhaps because, as far as I can see, no one knows who they are.)

Many writers in my position, I know, have gone into a rage when their books are pirated – particularly those with no experience of the legal ways of the internet. How can it be, they yell, that these clowns are stealing my livelihood? And I felt some irritation, of course. But blind anger wasn't getting us anywhere, and here was an opportunity to ask this guy (in my head, he's a guy, although she may well not be) what he thought he was doing. I went on to the forum to put it to him. This is what I said:

So, I'm the author of The English Monster. Can it be that you're offering to pay someone to create an ebook of the book I wrote? I'd be interested to hear your justification for this. For your interest, this book took me two years to write, and represents (on a rough estimate) perhaps 500 hours of work on my part, not to mention the time and effort put in by others to design, print, copy-edit and produce the final version. And you're proposing to pay someone else – someone who had no part in the making of the book – to produce a copy for you. Is there a good reason why you can't pay through normal channels for my book?

Please understand me – I am genuinely interested in what you've got to say about this. This is my first book, and this is my first experience of someone attempting to produce a pirate version of it (I do not use the word "pirate" pejoratively, mind). Is there any reason why I shouldn't expect to be compensated for the time I have put into this?

To my surprise, this attracted a response.

Mr Shepherd, I can tell by your measured reply that you are trying to be as fair and nonjudgmental as possible, so thank you. I am not sure how to answer you – and our messages will no doubt be deleted soon.

Bottom line is, there is no justification or reason that would or should ever satisfy the author of original content. Anyone that tries to make sense of this process (that publishing houses are greedy; that knowledge should be free … just two reasons that I have seen bandied about) is just fooling themselves. There is also a Robin Hood aspect to this, that perhaps you may understand. Either way, I don't think there is a way of putting this digital information era genie back into the bottle.

I wish you every luck in future.

This was the point at which I did, I confess, lose it for a moment. This was such a stupid collection of cliche and childishness. It's the kind of pseudo-anarchist garbage we've come to expect from the more militantly dumb wings of the anti-copyright campaign. I wrote a long reply (you can see the entire discussion here) which said, in summary, that if authors couldn't get compensation for their work there would be no authors, and didn't he know that Coleridge and Wordsworth only wrote Lyrical Ballads to fund a holiday in Germany, and why was he blaming this "digital information era genie" for his own bad behaviour. But, you know, friendly-like.

At this point, two things happened. First, the mysterious powers at Mobilism moved the forum thread from its original location under "ebook requests" to a new place called "fulfilled ebook requests". Meaning, I suppose, that they had recognised I had a problem with what was going on, but didn't want to delete the topic. For this I give them some credit (perhaps in the form of WRZ$).

The second thing was that "Fe2" sent another reply, which again I reproduce in its entirety.

Mr Shepherd, again I thank you for your considered, elegant reply. I felt replying to you was not only appropriate, but mandatory.

A small note in closing, as the thread has been moved (but not deleted – my thanks to the moderator who made that decision): it was not I who advanced those reasons that you read. I do not for one minute think that any author is being "greedy" for wanting payment for their labour, nor do I think all knowledge should be free. In fact, I cannot fathom anyone thinking that, but I wrote it because I have seen some people in other fora write those very reasons as to why they want ebooks without remuneration. Slavery, which is work without payment, was abolished in all civilised lands a long time ago, so I wish said people would read our thread and understand that.

Me, I have lived in Africa and Asia, in such remote locations that it is difficult to get internet, let alone ebooks, even if locals could afford that. Yet I've met some who try to reach for better things in life, such as current or helpful books to read, and find their options curtailed by circumstance. I know it is no excuse, but since you ask for elucidation, that is mine.

I veered from rage to puzzlement. I even wondered if this post was the product of some kind of bot. The reply did posit a reason for this guy's behaviour. There was a sort of psychology at work. But it was pretty thin: he says, for instance, that "I have lived in Africa and Asia", where presumably ebooks are hard to get hold of legitimately, but he says it in the past tense. He doesn't let on where he lives now. As a friend pointed out, he basically seemed to be saying, "Yeah, you're right, but, you know, what's a guy to do?"

I decided to go into the main Mobilism forums and start a new topic, called "Novelist seeking understanding". I asked people to explain how they justified to themselves what they were doing, or whether they even needed to. I also wondered whether they thought what they were doing would damage the culture in the long run, if authors became disincentivised to write. It's had some pretty interesting responses. The reasons and justifications given for pirating ebooks include:

• that sharing a book is great publicity for the author. Lots of quoting of Paolo Coelho and Neil Gaiman here, who've both said this sort of thing recently;

• that people who travel a lot like the convenience of ebooks, and if they already own the book in physical form they feel justified in getting a free copy;

• that this kind of "free sharing" allows people to sample books (again, it's great publicity, is the argument).

Now, two of these are not justifications for freeloading; they're after-effects. If I let people pirate my book, this argument goes, I get publicity and create a "debate" around myself which gets me noticed. Only one point (the second one) is an actual attempt to justify piracy itself.

But all of the people who replied to my original post denied being "freeloaders" – they claimed to still buy books, as many as they ever did, if not more. Their argument seemed to be that Mobilism provided a platform for discussion and, yes, sharing of books – and that this kept up a high level of appetite for, and interest in, new authors.

Obviously missing on the forum were the voices of those "pirates" I had demonised in my own head: the ones who pirate gleefully and indiscriminately, who host vast folders of free content, who give the finger to anyone in a suit and tie and believe they are changing the world one cracked DRM at a time. You know. Pirates.

I'm not naive. I do believe that in the long run I am damaged by piracy more than I am helped by it. I also know that my publisher, on whom I depend for income, support and promotion, is severely damaged by it. On that level, I want it to stop. This feeling is made even stronger by the realisation that Mobilism can sell advertising (and presumably generate a bit of revenue for someone, somewhere) on the back of well-organised and ongoing larceny. Somebody, somewhere is making money from my own labour.

But I see the sense of what the well-mannered people who responded to my question were saying, and I have some sympathy for what Gaiman and Coelho have been saying about piracy – that the more it happens, the more people find out about their books. Neil Gaiman's recent point – that no one buys their first book, they are given it by someone – is a strong one. But then, Gaiman and Coelho are established authors. Is this kind of free-for-all the best way to launch a new author? I simply do not know.

Whatever my own response, publishing as an industry could respond to this. Is there a mechanism that allows people to discuss and share books, sampling them and even giving them away, in such a way that encourages the social appetite for books and reading? Could there be a platform for people to access books in places where local deals have not made them available through traditional channels; a kind of global meta-copyright which stands where no local copyright licence has taken place? How we do either of those things is beyond me, and perhaps beyond anyone. What I can't deny is that my parley with the pirates was more fruitful than I expected it to be, and there's a lesson in that for all of us.

How the Publishing World Has Changed…or Not

Kirk-scotty While Googling myself (Hey, 'fess up! You do it, too!) I came up with this article, in LiveWires.com, dated April 3, 2009. In it, I was asked: "How do you see the world changing from a writer’s point of view?"

 My answer is below.

Do I still feel it hits the mark? Hell yeah. In a nutshell, my two cents: as online distribution of digitial books grow, the roles of publishers, agents, and book retailers will have to change, in order for these functions to survive. I the article, I  give my suggestionsas to how these change will benefit authors.

Warp speed, Scotty: has anything changed in the year and a half that's passed, to validate my predictions?

Nah. But then again, we all know that the book publishing industry moves as slow as a Ferengi returning a lost wallet. I hope that doesn't get lost in translation.

I'm givin' it all I got, Cap'n,

–Josie


(ISBN: 9781439173176)

In bookstores June 1, 2010. Order it TODAY!

"Hollywood's got nothing on the cast of characters living in the bedroom community of Paradise Heights, who have the secrets, sex, money and scandal of an OK! Magazine cover story. Josie Brown is a skilled observer whose clever dialogue and feisty style make for truly entertaining reading." –Jackie Collins, Hollywood Wives

 

JOSIE BROWN ANSWERS OUR QUESTION

LiveWires.com

We are asking a few author friends a question: How do you see the world changing from a writer’s point of view?

Here is Josie Brown’s answer –

“The literary world is beginning to look a lot like the music and entertainment industries, at least as it pertains to the future distribution of its products: online sales and downloads, as opposed to instore CDs and vinyl (music industry), DVDs (film/TV entertainment), or paper (book industry.)

As technology moves by leaps and bounds, all these media are struggling to establish a viable revenue model that fairly compensates those who create the product (writers, musicians, directors) and those who bring it to market.

That said, short of having your book written on Charmin toilet paper, I’m guessing most authors will welcome any and all new media that allows their stories to reach new and or loyal fans–

That is, if the fair compensation model can be upheld.

Aye, there’s the rub.

The advantage to technology is also its Achille’s Heel: pirating copywritten material is very easy to do when it’s put online. The Google lawsuit  and settlement opened up a Pandora’s box of legal issues that we all will be struggling with for quite some time,

The current compensation model used by the original eBook publishers is as follows:

(1) to attract readers, offer  books for a price cheaper than printed ones. This was something they’re able to do since they don’t have printing expenses. And because eBook publishers sell primarily online and promoted their books there as well, they have no shipping expenses, retail discounts, or returns: all of which gouge a publisher’s return on his investment .

(2) To entice authors, pay higher royalty rates: 40-50%,  as opposed to the print standard of 8-15%, depending on formats and formulas–albeit small or no advance. (“We’re all in this together, right? And besides, since New York won’t publish you, we’re your BFF….”)

(3) Pay authors on a monthly basis, as opposed to twice a year. (That’s the real advantage to the digital era.)

Now that eBooks are predicted to be the norm as opposed to the anomaly, traditional print publishers are seriously reconsidering the eBook’s role in their business model. However, this sea change change in product distribution will affect print publishers’ role in an even more profound way:

They will no longer serve as the gatekeepers of what is printed. Their role will shift to that of brand manager: that is build, promote, and manage the brands of their authors their books, both the front and the backlist.

Ideally, promotion will begin much earlier – perhaps even the minute the book’s contract has been signed – and continue much longer than 60 days beyond the launch date. This is a model used in both the music and entertainment industries (both of which have much more expensive production costs) – so why not for books?

(Oooooh…..sorry! I got tingles just THINKING about this!)

And much of this promotion will happen online as well – because much of the traditional media previously used to promote books  – newspaper reviews and magazine excerpts – is also disappearing.

Or going online.

An promotionally aggressive media-savvy author can use this to his/her advantage. Blogging daily and uploading content to your blog that entices daily visits from your fans, utilizing social networks to reach out to them, offering contests and excerpts, posting events  – all of these marketing endeavors define your voice and your brand.

And in partnership with a publishing house which see you as a viable brand and treats you as one, this brave new world will be a great place to sell our books.”

Great article in Fortune: “The Future of Reading”

Fortune
Magazine has done an insightful and well researched article on how we may be
reading in the future. The big question: How will it affect what we read, and
how we buy it . . .

Not to mention, at what price?

I agree with what they say about our loss of journalistic integrity. I see it in the cutbacks in my favorite news media, and in the professorial cutbacks and class furloughs in journalism schools all over the country.

However, having spent a part of my career in advertising, I find it hard to believe that the ads we see alongside the online articles we read are not effective. According to the article below, traditional print ad spending is dropping. But that's due to drops in readership. Some of these same media outlets also have online entities.

I just don't buy the fact that you have to click onto an ad to see it, read it, admire it, and otherwise take in its message. For centuries other media, both print and broadcast ads — newspapers, magazines, radio, television — got us to react and to buy.

Granted, it would be wonderful if advertisers could have the kind of quantifiable data and analysis that the digital age promised. Frankly I think that's the icing on the cake. What they're discounting is that which may not be quantifiable, but qualifiable.

It's dumb to sell consumers (or for that matter, good ad campaigns) short. If the message is clear, and delivered in a manner that provokes a response — either direct or subliminal — then awareness will be created, perceptions will be enhanced, and products will be bought.

Hopefully, many many books will be among them.

—Josie




BestSLHW Josie's Next Book: Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives

Simon & Schuster/Downtown Press

(ISBN: 9781439173176)

Look for it in bookstores June 1, 2010

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0:00 /4:31Extra! Extra! One newspaper prospers!

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Future_of_reading.top

The future of reading

http://money.cnn.com/2010/02/09/technology/tablet_ebooks_media.fortune/index.htm


By Josh Quittner / February 11, 2010:
11:05 AM ET

(Fortune
Magazine) — A few months ago the most amazing thing happened: Unbidden,
unpressured, and all by herself (armed only with my wife's credit card), my
12-year-old daughter subscribed to a magazine.


While
Clem has long harbored a fantasy of one day being the editor of the French
version of Vogue (inexplicably, she
is a life-long Francophile), it still surprised and thrilled me when Vogue started showing up in the mail.


Magazines,
books, newspapers — all that printed stuff is supposed to be dying.
Advertising pages, which have been steadily declining, dropped 26% in 2009
alone. But here, surely, was some evidence that publishing might have a chance.
If an adolescent who otherwise spends every waking hour on a laptop still
craves the printed word, then maybe, just maybe, there's a little new growth
left in old media.


This
tender, green, old-media sprout began to bloom in a curious way, however. Each
month Clem was excited when Vogue
arrived. She'd rip into the issue and scamper up the stairs to her chambre à coucher, with enough enthusiasm
to do Anna Wintour proud. But after digesting each issue, Clem would reappear
with it hours later — only now a zillion Post-its jutted from its pages,
stegosaurus-like.


Over
time, one by one, those stegosauri began to stack up, spines out, in her closet.
One day I decided to take a peek at the dinosaur graveyard to see what my
daughter was tagging so furiously. It turned out that she was trying to
annotate each issue, sorting the material by outfits, accessories, footwear,
and other categories for later reference. I noticed that the more issues she
tagged, the more frustrated she became. This was a lot of work. So why was she
doing it?


"Don't
you get it?" my wife observed. "She's trying to turn the magazine
into a computer."


Et voilà!
Of course she was.


The
more I thought about it, the more I decided there was good news for the
evolution of the publishing industry here — and better news. The good news is
that 12-year-olds, just like their parents and their parents before them going
all the way back to the publication of the first magazine in 1731 (the year
Charles Darwin's grandfather was born), still enjoy the medium. But they want
it delivered in an exponentially more useful way.


Raised
to expect instant, sortable, searchable, savable, portable access to all the
information in the world, these digital natives — tomorrow's magazine
subscribers, God and Steve Jobs willing — could well become the generation
that saves the publishing industry.


Gallery:
10 sages read the future of print


The
better news is that with the arrival of Apple's forthcoming iPad
and other tablet computers
— touch sensitive, full color, easy to watch
video on, network-connected to virtual newsstands and stores — the publishing
industry might once again have a remunerative way of giving it to them.


In
fact, for the past year I've been pushing the theory that the Age of Tablets
will give print media one last bite at the apple — and publishing companies
that are able to make the transition could one day thrive again. I'm so
convinced that it will happen that I've been working with other folks here at
Time Inc. (Fortune's publisher) to create prototypes of digital magazines that
will soon be delivered to tablets and smartphones. So consider this my
apologia.


This
isn't a case of excessive introspection on the part of a media insider: The
future of publishing is fast becoming topic A in business circles. Financiers
who make trades based on access to reliable information fret about the fate of
outlets like the Wall Street Journal
and the Financial Times. Urban
planners worry about what happens to communities if digital books make
libraries obsolete. Nonmedia billionaires, from Mexico's Carlos Slim to real
estate magnate Sam Zell, have invested their own money in newspapers.


No
one can accuse newspapers and magazines of failing to embrace the web. Shortly
after going to Time to write
full-time about the Internet in 1995, I abandoned print and did a stint on the
web. But I soon realized I couldn't do online the kind of long-form journalism
I wanted to do. The web is for scanning, not deep reading. People typically
spend two minutes or less on a site. Why do you think the killer app is called
a browser?


Worse,
it was hard to make a buck. While in those early days we were optimistic about
online advertising — the click-through rates were through the roof — it
turned out that users were actually clicking on ads by mistake. Call it poor
mouse control.


The
standardization of ad sizes and placements only worsened the problem,
relegating pitches to the periphery of content, where they are easily ignored.
Revenue growth rates quickly began to tank as it became apparent that no one
looks at ads online. (Name one you've seen in the past week.)


That's
why today online ads bring in junk CPMs — about 10% of the revenue per 1,000
views compared with print. The only new media life form that has managed to
live off those junk-ad rates is the blog, a medium that tends to favor breadth
over depth and cheap opinion over expensive, original reporting.


It's
no wonder that traditional publishing companies have been looking beyond the
"freeconomics" of the web to find new ways to turn a buck. (I'm not
even going to touch on broadcast media or movies here, which suffer from the
same problems.)


The
New York Times has said it will be erecting
a "paywall" on its website
next year and has been working with
Apple (AAPL,
Fortune
500
) to create a new (and, we can safely assume, paid) Times app for the tablet.

Rupert
Murdoch's Wall Street Journal, which
he initially wanted to give away online, is now in full-on pay mode. And
Murdoch is so pissed at Google (GOOG,
Fortune
500
) that he's reportedly been trying to get Microsoft's Bing to pay for
the exclusive right to search and index his publishing empire. As for the rest
of the newspaper business: Good luck, fellas!

Book
publishers, having been tortured by Amazon's attempts to cut them out, are now
running into Apple's embrace and will soon be hawking their e-books on the
iPad, which CEO Jobs unveiled in late January.

The
only media company that's in the money these days is Google, whose $23.6
billion in revenue last year dwarfed the entire magazine industry's. While
Google is paying lip service to how much it loves and respects professionally
produced media, its message is essentially: Adapt or die. Well, we've been
trying to, Schmidty.

Now
along come tablets. Apple's iPad was exactly what we all imagined it might be
— a giant, honking iPod Touch that does what we e-ink-stained wretches want it
to do: It browses the web superfast (thanks to Apple's new, homegrown A4 chip),
displays images and video in throbbing color, and runs downloadable apps that
we can sell.

Even
if consumers fail to stampede to the Apple Store, every major computer
manufacturer, from Hewlett- Packard (HPQ,
Fortune
500
) to Dell (DELL,
Fortune
500
) to Asus and a raft of others you've never heard of, is focusing on the
same form factor, which many people believe will replace not only the laptop
but the desktop too. (Just add wireless keyboard.) ABI Research predicts that
some 58 million tablets a year will be shipping by 2015.


Apple's
announcement — the product will be available in late March — already seems to
be helping the book business: Apple has said it will let publishers set the
price of electronic books for the iPad, something Amazon (AMZN,
Fortune
500
) has refused to do for Kindle books. Now Amazon appears to be
reconsidering its pricing policy.


While
old media can find much to cheer about with the arrival of the Tablet Age,
which promises to smooth old media's transition from paper to digital, the
publishing industry still faces considerable obstacles.


As
I zigzagged from the media capital of New York City to the tech wonderland of
Silicon Valley in my role as tablet evangelist, I sought answers to some of the
larger existential questions my bosses and their brethren will need to address.
Here are the fruits of my labor.


Question
1:
Will anyone
be willing to pay for content delivered to a tablet when they can get information
for free on the web?


Here,
let me quote my longtime sparring partner, Marc Andreessen, who happens to be
the father of the modern web, its greatest advocate, and one of the smartest
cookies in the jar. For years he's been (joylessly) predicting old media's
demise unless it figures out new business models. The tablet is a false
messiah, he argues.


"The
problem is that the successful tablet is also going to have a really good web
browser on it," he tells Fortune.

"So am I going to pay $5 for
something I download through the App Store when I could go on the web — using
the exact same device — to get it for free? Um, the answer to that is
no."


It's
an old argument. We heard the same thing about the music industry, back in the
days when the "music sharing" site Napster allowed people to
"swap" MP3s for free. I myself may have even sinned one or two times.


But
now? I pay $15 a month for a music subscription that lets me listen to
virtually anything, as often as I want. Why do I pay for it when I can still
get music for free from a dozen pirate sites? I'm lazy. My time is valuable.
And the price seems fair. Steve Jobs proved with that first iPod that people
would willingly pay for music when you made it easier to buy than to steal —
especially when the media is linked via a store to a cool, fetishistic device.


A
great device is actually the key here: When you've invested in a tablet (or an
iPhone or a Droid or a Kindle, etc.) and love it, you want to increase its
functionality — with media. That's why nearly half of the 75 million iPhone
and iTouch users download one paid app a month, by the way, when they could get
the same kind of stuff for free elsewhere.


Question
2:
But aren't
tablets just a better way to browse the web?

Almost
certainly, in a few years more people will be browsing the web via a tablet
than on laptops and desktops. Jobs pitched the iPad as a better way to access
the web, in fact. But with the tablet, there ought to be room for great,
downloaded apps that are usable offline too. Again, Andreessen takes issue.


In
fact, he says, there's a real danger if media companies waste precious time
trying to put the genie back in the bottle: "I think that's going to be
three to four years that are going to be really critical in terms of making the
jump to new models. And in this kind of transition, a three- to four-year delay
is really dangerous."


In
fact, he advises, apps aside, don't even put your websites behind paywalls
because you'll be losing your audience and "gutting your advertising
revenue and leaving your market wide open for a competitor." The
competitor, in this case, is a blogger who will simply read your stuff and
repost it in truncated form à la the Huffington Post and so many others.


It's
a persuasive argument. People definitely want to browse. And using your
headline, along with a few key bits of content, is fair use and legal. But many
also crave deep reading experiences. Man does not live by blog alone! It would
be like surviving entirely on cupcakes.


Downloadable
textbooks will be among the first paid-content to cross the chasm to the
tablet. A whole generation of readers will cut its teeth on that experience,
and, it stands to reason, they will grow up both browsing for quick hits and
surface understanding while buying the deeper reading experiences.


Question
3:
Reading?
Reading is dead.

Nearly
a decade ago Kevin Kelly, a co-founder of Wired
and a great future-of-business thinker, was so sure that reading was dead that
he, er, pitched a book on the subject. (He never sold that one.) Still, I think
of that these days when I see my daughter Clem communicating with her friends
via video messages on Facebook.


So
I called Kelly recently and was happy to hear that he has revised his opinion
and now thinks reading will prevail — in a wholly different form. It will, he
told me, "become embedded into screens that are full of moving images …
like subtitles in a movie, where you're reading and watching at the same
time."


The
point is, Kelly says, media are changing. As they get mashed up with other
media, newer forms are born.

"Right now digital magazines are in the same
phase that cinema was when it started out just recording plays. They weren't
really movies." Reading will evolve. It's our job to make sure, however,
that magazines adapt along with it.

Isn't
the idea of a magazine irrelevant in the atomized, buy-the-single-not-the-album
world? If that were so, we'd expect to see fewer people reading magazines. But
according to the Magazine Publishers Association, 174.5 million people paid to
subscribe to magazines in 1970; that number has steadily and consistently risen
over the years, to 324.8 million as of 2008. (Paid circulation, another measure
of magazines' health, has seen modest declines recently.)


Okay,
I know how the sausage gets made in this business — you can get almost any
magazine in America for around 50¢ a copy when you subscribe, vs. a newsstand
price that is typically 10 times higher. Publishers, eager to fatten their rate
bases — which ad pricing is based on — have been known to add other
incentives ("a free radio alarm clock!") as well. But even
discounting those shenanigans, it's pretty clear that people still derive value
from curated, packaged collections of content delivered to them.


Magazines
are just vertical collections of content that feed our individual interests.
Like blogs. The trick for publishers will be to figure out how to be
compensated for individual articles as well.


Question
4:
How will
tablet-based ads work better than the web?


Three
words: full-screen ads. Expect to see them reemerge in digital magazines and
other publications — even blogs. These ads actually have the potential to
deliver the best of both the old world and the new: They can have as much
impact and be as relevant as the most compelling TV commercials, with the same
analytics as the web.

While
prototyping digital magazines during the past few months, I've seen new kinds
of interactive ads that are cool and arresting — like highly produced
videogames. While I think most publishers will allow you to skip an ad with a
swipe of your fingers, a 10-inch full-color touchscreen gives the advertiser a
rich enough canvas to grab you by the eyeballs and make its case.


In
fact, I suspect ads will work so well on tablets that even if subscription or
pay-per-read models don't work, many publishers will be able to thrive on
advertising revenue alone.


Question
5:
Can
traditional publishing companies reorganize and move fast enough to embrace and
serve new platforms?


"They've
had 15 years to do so since the commercial browser came out," says Jeff
Jarvis, a reconstructed old media guy (he worked for years here at Time Inc.)
who's now a professor and author of the book What Would Google Do?


"They haven't reinvented or reimagined
themselves. The talk we're hearing now is not at all about reinvention and
reimagination — it's again about trying to shoehorn old models of content and
business into this new reality."


Jarvis
is right, of course. Publishing companies haven't reinvented or reimagined
themselves so far. That's because the old way of doing business has been
blindingly successful.


Can
you imagine being the operating chief of a newspaper company in, say, 1995 and
having the bright idea to start giving away classified ads? Had you done it,
you would have immediately gone from being a fiercely profitable business to a
highly unprofitable one. Over the next decade, though, you might have been able
to repel Craigslist, which has, in large part, decimated newspapers' revenue stream
by giving away classified ads. But what kind of a nut would have made that call
in 1995?


No,
the people running these companies weren't stupid. It's just that the
"reimagination" called for in the switch to the everything-is-free
web model was untenable and involved gutting multimillion-dollar operations and
giving up millions more of today's revenue on the chance that something would
happen tomorrow. It was spreadsheet-defying logic that looked like the right
thing to do only in hindsight.


The
biggest mistake they made was in ignoring the people who might have been able
to solve their problems in the late 1990s when things went bad: their best
reporters. Instead they tapped consultants and strategists. Publishers of the
greatest newspapers and magazines should have gone to their very best reporters
and deployed them!


The
best reporters I've met thrive on chaos. When men, women, children, and
livestock are fleeing the scene of some unexpected horror, the best reporters
are the ones running in the opposite direction. They all suffer from certain
personality defects — pursuing truth over money, status, personal safety —
that would have served their industry well here.


But
the consultants didn't do any new reporting. They prescribed old, tired fixes
— cost cutting, outsourcing back-office operations — but failed to address
the core problem: Distribution no longer had value.


I
doubt that we'll see publishers dragging their feet as tablets take hold,
because the potential revenue model is clearer. Publishing companies, however,
will indeed need to do more than simply port their print products to the new
tablet-friendly format. And dragging all that baggage from the old world to the
new will almost certainly slow us down. The whole enterprise is focused on
print because that's still where the money comes from. So in some ways, we
continue to face the Craigslist problem.


"The
model of the magazine as we know it is just outmoded," says Kelly.
"It's doomed if we think of it as the magazine we think of now." Instead,
he says, the publishing industry — books, magazines, newspapers — ought to be
approaching the problem of content creation differently. We should be thinking
about selling attention. "Wherever attention flows, money will
follow," he explains. "What shape that takes doesn't really
matter."


In
other words, in the ever-burgeoning universe of media overload, content
creators are battling for a user's time. If a book is a 20-hour call on one's
attention, a magazine might be better defined as a bid for an hour or so of the
consumer's day. "If we think of magazines as an intermediate form — a
read that can last several hours — it has a tremendous future," Kelly
says. "We've just begun to explore what it can do."


I
hope the tablet buys us enough time to finally figure all this out, because
someday I'd like to visit Clem in her office at French Vogue.

Reporter associates: Beth Kowitt
and Christopher Tkaczyk