Thursday, 29 August 2013

OUGD601 // Dissertation // Digital publishing predictions

We've reached the digital frontier of book publishing, but the implications of living in this new territory are not yet fully understood. If anything's certain it's that the next couple decades will see major changes in how we think of books, publishing, marketing, and maybe even writing itself. Here are eight of my predictions about the future of digital publishing.

1. eBooks will become "normal."We've already seen a transition from eBooks being that strange and threatening outside force to eBooks being an accepted part of society that many youngsters and a fair handful of oldsters enjoy. However, as the library of eBooks expands, the formatting improves, and the reading devices become more affordable, eBooks will start being seen as little different from standard books—more akin to a different edition with a unique cover as opposed to an evil doppelganger.
While there are plenty of holdouts—both on the consumer and publisher end of the spectrum—they're gradually giving in or retiring. Teachers are one resistant group that's gradually giving in, which is more significant than it may seem: The adoption of the eBook in the classroom will support the format and provide the next generation with a personal, portable library of books by the time they graduate.
2. Publishers will adapt or perish.
In his fantastic keynote address at the 2013 London Book Fair, Neil Gaiman told the anecdote of a man who stocked up on calendars from 1993. His wife then berated him, calling him an idiot for buying the calendars of a past year. "You may think that if you like," said the man. "But if 1993 ever comes back, I’m going to clean up."
"I worry that too many of us," said Gaiman, "are certain that if only we can get 1993 to come back again, we’ll clean up." If publishers fail to adapt to the new paradigm, they will die out.
What will adaptation look like? Many have already started by releasing eBook editions alongside the standard publications. Having a healthy eBook division that formats content appropriately and promotes it through online mediums is another key factor. Other options abound, such as providing an eBook download code along with physical book purchases.
3. Publishers will behave more like publicists.
Because Amazon is currently—and will likely continue to be—the middle-man for most digital publications, the power structure of publishing agencies will shift dramatically. This will open the door for smaller publishing agencies, but the definition of "publishers" will also need revision.
The rise of digital sales and the decay of hard-copy sales will force publishers to decrease focus on creating and distributing a physical product. Their main value will, instead, be in publicizing quality content. Individual authors who publish their own work in the digital marketplace are lost in a sea of anonymity; publishers will be able to leverage their current vetting systems, connections, and reputation to launch new authors into visibility.
Since the investment cost of taking on a new book or author will be far lower, publishers will also be able to afford more experimentation and risky choices. Publishers will thrive if they exploit this opportunity for experimentation and emphasize their skills in marketing, events, and outreach.
4. Formatting will get much, much better.
Right now eBooks are entirely readable, but many books—especially re-released classics—see a surprising level of formatting problems. This is painfully true for poetry. While improvements have already been made, there's an increasingly major incentive for improving formatting systems.
Much of the blame falls to tablets. The Google Nexus 7 gives one example of the current trend: Tablets coming in below the $200 mark. This round of tablets is the first time Google has really made a dent in the iPad's ownership of the market. Between the affordable Android tablets and the iOS lineup, the market is being saturated with tablet technology that allows everyone to read eBooks conveniently.
In response to this new incentive for improved formatting, eReaders and apps will automatically strip out common formatting problems, new software solutions will be created to make proper formatting easier, and systems to report and resolve formatting issues will be streamlined. The improved formatting will, in turn, increase the adoption of eBooks in professional and classroom settings.
5. Physical books will start to be seen as memorabilia.
I don't want to give the impression that I think physical books will disappear. Far from it. I think a hundred years from now we'll still have hard-copy books. However, they won't be seen as the primary way to read content: The advantages of direct download, decreased cost, improved note-taking and organization, portability, etc., will simply win out in time.
But physical books have an appeal based on more than mere nostalgia. A physical book is a public signifier: It is a way to show what we are enthusiastic about and broadcast that element of our identities. Physical books will be akin to a collector's edition of a movie or a t-shirt broadcasting one's love of a band. Oddly enough, this change in function is likely to improve the artistic design and material quality of the physical books.
6. Systems for vetting indie books will leap forward.
One of the major challenges facing digital distribution—and, indeed, the reading of eBooks—is the lack of a vetting system. At a bookstore you can assume that some company has read through the book and ensured that it's not entirely terrible (though this doesn't always prove to be true). In the digital marketplace, there are many terrible books. There are also some fantastic ones. But how are the two separated?
Right now digital books float to the top when they get enough purchases and positive reviews. While these things should, presumably, reflect the quality of the content, that's not always the case. Reviews can be gamed, the presence of sales and positive feedback often reflects more time in advertising as opposed to better content, and many fantastic books never reach the point of substantial visibility.
What's needed is a leap forward. In the same way that Google's search algorithm took an entirely new concept for organizing content, Amazon—or someone else—will need to implement an entirely new system for culling the garbage and allowing the better books to rise. I believe this will happen within the next five years.
7. Battery life will decide the tablet vs eReader war.
Tablet dominance is not as secure as one might think. While the cost gap will close, some are drawn to the eReader specifically because it's a distraction-free environment where the simplicity of the hardware and software allows an impressive two-month battery life. If eReaders retain this advantage, they will likely co-exist with tablets. However, if tablets extend battery life to an even vaguely competitive level, the eReader's remaining advantages aren't likely to retain a sustainable audience.
Battery tech hasn't progressed nearly as quickly as our mobile and computer tech. Today, the most efficient of tablets will give 20 hours of use. OS improvements (including smarter down-clocking of processors when executing simple tasks like using an eReader), new battery-efficient processors, and the gradual improvement of current battery technology will improve battery life—but not enough to shut down eReaders.
But there's a lot of early-stage research being done into radically different battery technology. While still unstable and experimental, these new battery models provide anywhere from 3 to 12 times the battery life of current tech. If these models pan out in the near future, 2018's tablet could give 300+ hours of active use and months of standby time. In other words, goodbye eReaders.
8. We'll all be surprised.
With all I've predicted here, I think the most important thing to predict is that the future will remain as wonderfully unpredictable as always. We haven't made it yet, and there will be all sorts of new problems, opportunities, and technologies that change the way we think of digital content and the written word.

OUGD601 // Dissertation // The truths about digital publishing

Until November 2007, when Amazon introduced the Kindle, the only viable means of book distribution was paper. Accordingly, a writer who wanted to reach a mass audience needed a paper distribution partner. A writer could hire her own editor and her own cover design artist; she could even hire a printing press to create the actual books. The one service she couldn't hire out was distribution. And publishers didn't offer distribution as an à la carte service. If a writer wanted distribution, she had to pay a publisher 85% of her revenues for the entire publishing package: editorial, copyediting, proofreading, jacket design, printing, and marketing, all bundled with distribution.
Was a price of 85% of revenues a good deal for this packaged publishing service? For some writers, it clearly was. JK Rowling became a cash billionaire via the traditional packaged publishing service, and obviously there are hundreds of other examples of authors for whom the packaged service has represented a good value.
But for every author who wanted and benefited from the packaged service, there were countless others who took it – if they could get it at all – only because they had no alternative.
Digital distribution has provided that alternative. And increasing numbers of authors are choosing it.
Digital book distribution is available to anyone who wants it. What in the paper world requires trucks, warehouses, a sales force, and longstanding relationships with buyers at dozens of retail operations, in digital is a push-button à la carte service offered by companies like Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Google, Kobo, and Smashwords. An author so inclined can buy digital distribution for 30% of the list price of the book she's publishing – the same digital distribution a legacy publisher offers – and outsource all other publishing functions, all for significantly less than legacy publishers charge for their packaged service.
Tens of thousands of writers newly presented with the lower-priced, à la carte choice of self-publishing are taking it. Many others prefer the traditional route. Some are embracing a hybrid approach, doing one book with a legacy publisher, another with Amazon Publishing, and yet another by self-publishing.
Now, there's nothing unnatural about this, you might think. Or undesirable. I myself have published books with legacy publishers, with Amazon Publishing, and via self-publishing. The various possibilities all have their advantages and disadvantages, there's no one-size-fits-all solution, and different routes will make sense for different authors. What matters is that authors make informed choices – because, for the first time, we authors are fortunate enough to have choices to make.
And yet, when I offered these fairly axiomatic observations during a recent keynote at the 21st annual Pike's Peak Writers Conference, the reaction among some editors and agents in the audience (and elsewhere) was extremely negative, with some walking out; others taking to Twitter to urge others to leave, to boycott my talks, and to boycott conferences where I'm talking; and a fair amount of name-calling.
The hostility is surprising in one sense (we're just talking business, after all, not politics or religion), but in another sense it's readily understandable. Because in essence, what I was describing in my talk was how digital distribution has changed the legacy publishing industry from something a writer needed, into something a writer might merely want. Because of digital, legacy publishing, which used to be a necessity, is now only potentially useful.
Bear in mind, "useful" is not at all a bad thing. It doesn't mean no one will want you. No one "needs" a BMW, after all, and yet BMW manages to sell millions of its cars to people who like to drive them.
But if your worldview, your conception of your rightful place in the universe, has always been informed by the implicit knowledge that you are indispensable, and tens of thousands of authors are now informing you that you'll have to account for your value or they will take their business elsewhere, it's not so inconceivable that you might find your sensibilities temporarily shocked.
Hopefully, the shock will lead to action. Necessities in business are rare, after all. They're called monopolies, and their customers typically revolt at the first opportunity. But businesses without a monopoly position – which is to say, almost all businesses – manage to thrive all the time while being "merely" useful. If so many other businesses are able to thrive because they are useful, there's no reason to believe legacy publishers can't do so, as well.
We have to be careful not to conflate publishing services with the entities that have traditionally provided them. The services are essential; the entities are not. This would seem a fairly obvious point, and yet as thoughtful and experienced a person as novelist James Patterson is now calling for a bailout of the legacy publishing industry, apparently because he fears that publishing is dying.
No. Publishing isn't dying; it is evolving. Authors understand this, and are embracing it. Legacy publishers need to do the same.

OUGD601 // Dissertation // Digital publishing in China

BEIJING, July 9 (Xinhua) -- China's digital publishing business reported year-on-yearrevenue growth of 40.5 percent in 2012, said a government report here Tuesday.

Its annual revenue totaled 193.55 billion yuan (31.55 billion U.Sdollars), accounting for11.6 percent of the revenue of the whole publishing industrysaid the report issued bythe State General Administration of PressPublicationRadioFilm and Television.

It was the first time that this ratio had passed 10 percentthe report noted.

According to the reportthe administration listed digital publicationsonline musiconlinecartoonsInternet gamesmobile phone games and Internet advertisement as digitalpublishing.

Last yearthe revenue of publishers of e-booksdigital magazines and digitalnewspapers increased by 52.6 percent while more edgy digital content providers suchas those of online music and cartoons reported a revenue increase of 291.2 percent.

In additionthe country's whole publishing industry reported a total revenue of 1.66trillion yuan in 2012, a year-on-year growth of 14.2 percentaccording to the report.

About 414,000 kinds of books were publisheda year-on-year growth of 12 percent.About 58 percent of them were new books.

Howeverthe print run of booksmagazines and newspapers grew more slowly than theprevious yearthe report added.

OUGD601 // Dissertation // E-publishing predictions

It's not always easy to make predictions, unless you're making predictions about ebooks, in which case all you have to do is look at the US. Here's what we can expect on the e-reading front in 2013:
1. E-reader sales will tail off as people buy tablets instead, meaning ebooks will increasingly have to compete with YouTube and Angry Birds HD. Basic Kindles and Nooks will soon cost the same as a hardback.
2. Ebooks will continue to cost less than a single espresso.
3. As the self-publishing market booms, more writers will be scouted on Wattpad and more publishers will launch self-publishing services, such as Simon & Schuster's controversial Archway.
4. We'll see new digital publishing startups, along the lines of Plympton and Atavist. Self-published authors will start to form co-operatives, such as Awesome Indies.
5. Traditional publishing will become more experimental. "Storygames", such as Random House's intriguing, will push the bounds of narrative and apps will stretch the definition of "book".
6. We will see more ebook exclusives, and not just shorts. Picador's digital-first political thriller The Kills is described as "a landmark novel in four parts", the first of which will appear in February.
7. Publisher-led online communities, such as Little Brown's the Crime Vault and Gollancz's SF Gateway, will help genre fans discover backlist and new writing.
8. Newspapers will become bigger players in the ebook market, following the example of the New York Times, which has joined forces with startups Byliner and Vook to publish original and archive material.
9. Libraries and publishers will fail to see eye to eye on ebook lending.
10. Amazon will be forced to file for insolvency after a mass boycott over its failure to pay corporation tax.
All right, that last one might be a tad optimistic.

OUGD601 // Dissertation // Case study: Future Publishing

Future Publishing, owner of magazines including Metal Hammer and Total Film, has reported that digital accounted for more than 50% of total advertising revenues for the first time in the final three months of 2012.
In an interim management statement published on Monday, Future revealed that digital made up 54% of its total ad revenue, from 45% in the same quarter in 2011.
Future also reported a 24% increase in digital revenues year on year in the final quarter of 2012 following its prediction of a surge in e-edition sales thanks to a "tablet Christmas".
The company – which said it has closed four games console magazines, launched four digital brands and one print title since 1 October – said that digital revenues now account for 23% of the total. In the last three months of 2011 digital accounted for 18% of total revenues.
Digital revenues from selling iPad and other tablet editions of Future titles has averaged quarterly growth of 16% over the past year, with 40 titles now on Google's new magazine shop, which launched in December.
Future's US operation, which reported yet another loss in the final three months of the year, is forecast to return to profitability in the current financial year to 30 September.
In the US digital advertising accounted for 74% of total ad revenue in the last three months of 2012, up from 64% for the same period in 2011.
Net debt was £16.8m at 31 December, a 6% year-on-year fall.
"We expect trading for the full year to be in line with our expectations," the company said. "Print revenues remain challenging but we expect digital revenues to maintain a steady growth rate."

OUGD601 // Dissertation // Digital publishing and ebooks

A recent Wall Street Journal article by Keach Hagey takes a look at trends in digital magazine pricing and finds a number of publishers charging more for tablet editions than print. As ad revenue declines, publishers are turning to digital magazines as a way to “become more leveraged toward consumer revenue and a little less dependent on advertising,” in the words of Hearst president David Carey. And here’s Condé Nast president Bob Sauerberg: “We’re using this new platform and the clear demand for all access to our content as a way to redefine our subscription offerings at a higher price. The industry is trying to take a step forward because we’re all trying to get more money from the consumer.”
But how long will these pricing strategies work? Digital still makes up only a tiny percentage of magazine publishers’ overall revenues: The Alliance for Audited Media (formerly the Audit Bureau of Circulations) reported in August that digital replica editions (which replicate most of a print magazine’s editorial and advertising content, and make up the vast majority of magazines’ digital versions) made up just 1.7 percent of overall circulation. The WSJ story says big magazine publishers think digital won’t hit 10 percent of circulation until 2015.
Pricing strategies that very early adopters appear to be accepting are not likely to work for a general population. Magazine publishers may need to adopt more nuanced digital pricing strategies as tablets take off. And they can look to book publishers — who are a lot further along in the digital revolution, with ebooks now making up over 20 percent of revenues at large publishing houses — for some help. Here are a few things they’ll have to think about:
The advertising conundrum
One of the biggest differences between the magazine and book publishing industries is that magazine publishers rely on advertising for revenue while book publishers don’t and never have. Print magazine subscription prices have plummeted, Hagey writes, because “magazine publishers have guaranteed advertisers their titles will reach a minimum number of readers and, to fulfill that pledge, they have long cut prices sharply for promotional subscriptions.” That’s why you can get an annual print magazine subscription for under $10. In tablet editions, magazine publishers see a chance to charge higher rates. Hagey notes that the average annual price of a digital subscription to a Hearst magazine is $19.99, “twice that of its average introductory print-subscription price of $10.”
At least for now, though, magazines’ digital editions bring the advertising from the print edition along for the ride. So digital readers aren’t getting an ad-free product in exchange for paying a higher price — magazine publishers are just charging more for the novelty of reading on a tablet. That’s a short-sighted strategy that probably won’t work as tablet adoption becomes widespread.
Will readers pay for enhancements?
The bells and whistles that magazine publishers are adding to digital magazines remind me of enhanced ebooks, which book publishers got very excited about a couple of years back. They hoped that by adding video and music to an ebook, they could charge more for it. Fast forward to 2013 and enhanced ebooks are widely considered a flop. So far, readers simply haven’t been interested in paying more for them. Book publishers have scaled efforts back and are no longer trying to charge higher prices for enhanced editions.
Magazines may be better suited to these enhancements than books are: E-commerce fits in well, for example, and videos and music may make more sense. But since a lot of this enhanced material is already available free online, readers may be reluctant to pay extra for it. The benefit for magazine publishers is that they can monetize those enhancements in other ways — through affiliate links to iTunes, for example, as Rolling Stone is doing. And Lucky is about to roll out a major e-commerce component that will likely rely on affiliate links as well.
Promotional pricing can work
Countless self-published authors have found that offering their books at initially very low prices is a great way to gain new readers: When the barrier to entry is low, readers are more likely to take a chance on an unknown name. This strategy is working less well as the ebook revolution progresses (and there’s a sea of self-published books out there), but magazine publishers, in the early stages of their digital era, can take advantage of it.
Magazine publishers already offer print subscribers discounts on other magazines they publish. Why not do the same thing with digital magazines? Or magazine publishers who sell print and digital editions separately could offer print readers a couple free digital issues or a discounted digital subscription for the first year. I also love the New Yorker‘s strategy of giving iPad subscribers free digital extras, like compilations of articles on a given topic and cartoon collections.
The good news for magazine publishers is that, with their digital revolution in the early stages, they can learn from those who came before them. The bad news is that many magazines are more threatened by free online content than most books are. As digital magazine reading moves from early adopters to a larger population, magazine publishers will have to find a way to give readers high-quality, no-substitute content at a reasonable price — or risk losing those readers to the internet.

OUGD601 // Dissertation // Digital world and publishing

Your feature article conveyed an inaccurate picture of the publishing industry experiencing a crisis of "digital storm clouds gathering overhead", and which is about to be "swamped by idea whose time has come" ('No one's said the word crisis': book world struggles to adapt to new lines, 19 April).
In fact, while digital technology most certainly is changing the face of publishing, this is a process which is as much being done by publishers as being done to them. What is more, the role of publishers will become more, not less, important as the digital marketplace expands.
With ebook sales increasing by more than 300% for the second year, publishers delivering new revenue streams through ebook apps, and academic publishers long having derived some 90% of their revenue online, it is a travesty to describe all this as the publishing world being "in denial" about digital.
Your article ignores the fact that, as well as delivering to reader-consumers, publishers will continue to provide creative support to ambitious authors. As author Val McDermid told MPs recently: "To say that you can just send your books into the marketplace without any mediation is a colossal arrogance".
Publishers will also continue to provide financial support to authors, paying advances so they can dedicate their lives to writing before the royalties come rolling in (and incidentally never asking for the money back if they don't). And, as the digital world increases access to a global audience, publishers can use their expertise to assist with the negotiation of rights contracts with international publishers and translators.
In the online world, the marketing and distribution role of publishers will become even more important: with more than 100,000 titles published each year, successful works will be those that cut through the online clutter. Again, some authors will be able to achieve prominence through their own efforts, but for many, a publisher's expertise will be a welcome alternative.
The defective vision of this article was also evident in your recent leader column (Academic journals: an open and shut case, 11 April). This argued that scientific publishing is operating a "very silly system" because the chief costs involved are the "raw material" of research, and that the academics themselves did "the graft of the editing". Again, this ignores the vital role that publishers play in developing and sustaining the digital platforms which allow the research to be hyperlinked and accessed, not to mention the management of the peer review process.
The piece also presumes that "copy editing and admin" can be funded "through direct grants". But from whom? The "gold" open access model works for well-healed funders like the Wellcome Trust, with its new (and welcome) eLife journal, but such publication grants are not readily available outside the biomedical sector, so for now a subscription model is necessary to cover publication costs.
It seems the Guardian would have its readers believe that publishing is unnecessary, that copyright is outdated and that digital is going to blow it all away. The converse is true. Whilst transformation will not be straightforward, pPublishers are going to be at the forefront of the knowledge and creative economy in the digital future.

OUGD601 // Dissertation // Digital Alternatives

A desktop that publishes.
Graphic designer Peter Chadwick and Chelsea College of Arts graduate Jonny Holmes have designed an analogue take on desktop publishing, creating a desk with a built-in manual printing press.

The printing press prints up to four colours at a time and plates are interchangeable so any design – or combination of designs – can be used.
“The phrase 'desktop publishing' was often used when I took my first steps into the design industry in the early nineties, and conjures up images of poorly designed, mass-produced print literature. The table provides an antidote to this, delivering well-crafted, bespoke hand-printed posters,” explains Chadwick.
“The original idea was for a one-off concept piece, but I see the potential in mass production – it could be used as an educational tool in schools and colleges or even as furniture in the home,” he adds. 

An associate graphic design and communications lecturer at Chelsea, Chadwick came up with the idea around two years ago but struggled to find time to work on the project until he met Holmes, who was a student on the course.

“I approached Jonny and briefed him on the project, and he produced some visuals in response. He was invaluable in its development, sourcing materials and assisting me throughout. From briefing to manufacture, the project took around three months,” he says.

Chadwick is now in talks with a Dalston gallery about using the table for live poster printing to coincide with the launch of a new exhibition, and hopes it can be used for future design and illustration projects.
Also a Chelsea College of Arts graduate, Chadwick started out designing record sleeves for Williams & Phoa – including Primal Scream's Screamadelica – before setting up his own design studio, Popular, in 2007.
The desktop that publishes is the first in a series of projects he has planned under experimental Popular offshoot A Popular Project.
“APP will be a platform to showcase personal and studio generated ideas, including collaborations with other creatives,” he says. Follow-up projects under consideration include one involving customised musical instruments and another involving Dekotora, a Japanese decorated truck.

Popular has also released a promotional newspaper about the project featuring photographs by David Ryle (below).

A twist on a traditionally printed magazine.
An intriguing polystyrene box of artefacts, Container is the latest project from Artomatic's Tim Milne. It has contributors, a theme, content and ambitions to be produced regularly - so that does that make it a magazine? asks Jeremy Leslie

However many times you try to replace it with ‘publication' or ‘periodical', the word ‘magazine' remains the most pertinent, direct word for what I spend most of my days thinking about. Those other words just don't hack it, and remain only as useful secondary alternatives along with adjectives like ‘annual', ‘biannual', ‘quarterly', ‘monthly' and ‘weekly'. You can sometimes get away with the abbreviation ‘mag' but even that's best saved for deeper into the article, once the full word has set the scene.

Container #1: Hot & Cold

So what happens when you're developing a magazine that is consciously unlike others? At one level we find ridiculous made-up words such as bookazine and mook, words that exaggerate the difference between magazine and book. But what if your publication is really different? This was the challenge facing Artomatic's Tim Milne when planning his new project Container, a box of objects created by a group of invited contributors in response to a theme.
Expressed like that, the metaphorical link with the traditional form of printed magazine appears obvious. Milne has set a theme, invited contributors to respond, and is publishing the resulting collection as a set. Not so different to the copy of CR you're reading now? The finished item, though, could hardly be more different to CR, and calls into question the very nature of what a magazine is.
When talking to Milne, the conversation is littered with phrases such as "a magazine that's not a magazine", as he struggles to define Container in relation to traditional print publications. Yet Container is an ingenious name, as it describes the physical reality of the project as a box of objects, while also referring to the origins of the word ‘magazine'.

"It's actually close to the original definition in its meaning of warehouse or repository to hold things in," Milne explains. "It's a colloquialistic stretch that we think a magazine can only be a printed book."
There have of course been other magazines that have resisted the bound, printed format. Last year the 1960s art magazine Aspen was exhibited at the Whitechapel Art Gallery to much excitement (as reviewed in this column at the time). "What struck me about Aspen was that it didn't deviate that much from the printed format," says Milne. "Most issues were really just a handful of printed pieces presented in a box." What caught his attention was that even without stepping so far from the traditional format, Aspen was powerfully different to most magazines. "With Aspen you got something a lot richer and more fragmented, you got the sense that each individual item is the product of that contributor. The relationship is with the individual contributors and not with Aspen."

David Hieatt's contribution to Container – a bundle of pitch pine twigs

Milne has taken this a stage further by pushing the contributions to Container beyond print. "The brief was to make an object based around the theme ‘Hot & Cold'. It could be both Hot and Cold, or just Hot or just Cold. We said the objects would be put in a box determined by the things you make - implied in that was that the things had to be of a hand-held scale."
The ten contributors encompass a rounded selection of different creative areas: graphic design (Malcolm Garrett), advertising (Mother), art (Daniel Eatock), product design (Nic Roope and Violetta Boxill), entrepreneurship (David Hieatt), writing (Leila Johnston). For future issues, Milne would like to broaden that out. "An object is a fundamental human language. Artists and designers shouldn't have a monopoly," he says, listing economists and scientists as possible future contributors.

For his Container contribution, James Bridle created a 3D printed model of the GPS system

So what can you expect from issue one? Under the name Artomatic, Milne has been sourcing creative print and production for clients since 1982 so it's no surprise that the attention to detail across the whole project is remarkable. Milne has collaborated closely with his selected contributors, helping them execute their ideas in the most authentic manner.

Design studio Accept & Proceed's diagrammatic etching of routes across the North and South Poles

The objects arrive packed in a polystyrene box, perfect for keeping the contents hot or cold, and inside, the ten objects range from a small hardback book to a length of heat-sensitive till receipt paper via a bundle of wood and a 3D-printed object. Most contributors have been seduced by the opposition of Hot and Cold, and only one, Accept & Proceed, went for Cold alone, with a diagrammatic etching of routes across the North and South Poles.
"I don't think it's a coincidence we had so few cold ideas," says Milne, "Hot gets people excited, cold has a numbing effect."

Hot and cold together: lolly stick jokes are transferred to chip forks by Violetta Boxill and Nicolas Roope

Violetta Boxill and Nic Roope have added lolly stick jokes to wooden chip forks, the surface humour strengthened by the subtle reference to their respective Caribbean and Scandinavian heritages; advertising duo Rebecca and Mike have swapped CDs with their opposites (eg The Very Best of Donna Summer and The Best Of Johnny Winter), recalling a time when music meant physical objects and CDs and their jewel cases could get muddled (see below).

The links between the ten objects and their stories might easily have been made explicit in a printed addition to Container, but Milne has wisely avoided putting written editorial inside the box as that would be a distraction from the objects, almost a "magazine of the magazine," he says. "We can write about it in much more depth online, so that's where the back stories will appear." The polystyrene box will just contain the objects and a signed authentication sheet.

Writer Leila Johnston's contribution uses heat-sensitive till receipt paper

While Milne avoids the use of the M word, for me Container is everything a magazine should be. It has wit and intelligence, great stories expressed visually, and makes the most of both the physical and digital. As a relatively expensive limited edition of 200 it'll be beyond the reach of most but we should celebrate its existence and look forward to it inspiring people in future exhibitions. I can see it at the Design Museum rather than the Whitechapel Gallery, a record of an era when the balance between the analogue and digital is tipping.

OUGD601 // Dissertation // Interview with Alan Gutherie

You’ve already enjoyed some success with the printed word, so what led you down the electronic route?
As well as being a writer and, more recently, a digital publisher, I’m also a literary agent with Jenny Brown Associates.
One of my clients, John Rector, self-published a novel on the Kindle in the early days — 2009, I think. It was a huge success, and introduced me to the idea that ebooks had arrived.
The first opportunity I had to self-publish anything of my own came after a novella I’d written for a local publisher had its publication date put back from 2010 to 2013. So I self-published an ebook edition in August 2010, intended as a stop-gap until the paperback arrived. Sales of the ebook turned out to be astonishingly slow to begin with, but picked up over Christmas and finally got into the top 10 in the Amazon charts, where it stayed for most of February 2011.
Because I’d had a bit of success with ebooks, I was sought by someone from a social media background with a view to working out how to help authors in the digital arena. That gentleman was Kyle MacRae, and the end results of our discussions about how to assist authors, was that what they needed most was a publisher that operated in the digital arena first and foremost, and that didn’t have to worry about print sales. So we formed the digital-only publisher Blasted Heath in November 2011, and have published 50 books by 13 different authors since then.
More writers seem to be turning to e-publishing as a first resort rather than opting for the more conventional book route. Is that something you would advise?
That’s a question that I think can only be answered on a case by case basis. So much depends on the author — their publishing credentials, their platform, their expectations. And the book, too, of course.
I’d certainly advise looking at self-publishing as an option, but it won’t be the solution for everyone.
Is it too easy to self-publish electronically and too hard to see a return?
There’s a pervasive view that a lot of self-published books are rubbish and that having the publishing industry act as gatekeepers succeeds in keeping very bad books away from the reading public.
There’s possibly an element of truth in that, but it’s my opinion that it takes a traditional publisher to sell a really bad book in significant quantities, which means that, by and large, the reading public aren’t going to be inundated with poor-quality self-published books because, without a traditional publisher behind them, those books will almost certainly sink without a trace.
I’d guess that about 1 per cent of writers pursuing a traditional deal with one of the big London publishers is going to be lucky enough to get an offer. For them, depending on the size of the offer, it may well be that they’d see less of a return from self-publishing. However, for the 99 per cent of writers who won’t get offered any kind of publishing deal, self-publishing is almost certainly going to provide a better return, no matter how small.
There are some initial costs involved in e-publishing, but they can be extremely low if you’re on a budget. It’s possible to keep the costs down to zero, if you’re confident enough to design your own book cover.
What can writers here do to get themselves on line and get noticed on the world wide web?
I’m going out on a limb here, but I think there’s far too much focus on this.
My experience is that the impact of social media has had precious little effect on book sales for about 18 months or so now, unless those books are by high-profile authors. There’s way too much noise out there and, as a result, everybody’s gone deaf.
For the vast majority of non-bestselling writers (ie, almost all of us), the best marketing you can do — especially if your time is limited — is to write another book.
Tweet and Facebook and blog by all means if you enjoy it, but the best way to get noticed is to write a good book in a popular genre that makes an emotional connection with readers.
And then write another book.
 And another.
 And another.
Keep at it until you can no longer be ignored.
Price promotions can also be effective, and don’t take up much writing time.
There was much debate at the Harrogate Festival a couple of years ago about ebooks being sold for less than the price of a coffee and undercutting conventional authors. Is this something to be concerned about?
Indeed it is. Coffee should definitely be cheaper!
To be serious, though, I think low prices may well be perceived as a threat to conventional authors, even though low pricing has been a key tactic in most traditional publishers’ marketing strategies for many years.
For instance, I remember Jeffrey Deaver hitting it big in the UK in the early 2000s after Hodder released a few of his books as dirt-cheap paperbacks. In 2006, my publisher sold over 10,000 copies of a limited edition of my debut novel Two-Way Split at an RRP of £1 at one of the chain stores. And of course supermarket deals are very much sought after, and those (like most promotions) are deep discount deals that overrule authors’ royalty rates, earning them a pittance, enabling the supermarket to sell the books as a loss leader to entice folk into the shop. 
I don’t think cheap ebooks are cause for concern, though.
If you’re a successful author, readers will pay more money to read you than if you’re an unknown, and they won’t stop reading you because someone they’ve never heard of is selling a novel for 99p.
For those who aren’t bestsellers already, offering your books at an impulse-purchase price is often an effective way to start to build a readership. And once you have a sufficient number of people wanting to read more of your work, you can increase the price.
Is epublishing changing our reading habits?
My bestselling book by far is a 15,000-word novella, Bye Bye Baby, which has outsold my five novels combined.Without question. The market for decently paid shorter fiction has been depressed for a long time. It’s now burgeoning in the digital marketplace
It’s also likely to change our writing habits, of course (and in many cases has already done so). For example, it’s now possible to test-market shorter pieces as potential series ideas to see how readers respond. If they don’t buy the short piece or they do buy it but leave bad reviews, it’s probably not a good idea to write more books in that series and you’ve saved yourself the time and effort of writing an entire novel (or two or three, as might be the case traditionally, given the long lead-time from manuscript acceptance to publication) just to find that out.
Hopefully readers will go crazy for it, of course, and you can carry on writing that series with confidence.
Are established publishers leading the electronic revolution or playing catch up? There are now several examples of writers who have had success on line before being snapped up by conventional publishers, most famously E.L. James’Fifty Shades of Grey.
I think it’s worth remembering that the majority of book sales — by far — are still print, not digital. For the crime genre, it’s about 80/20 in favour of print. So for most publishers, print is their bread and butter. Some publishers have taken to the digital challenge and experimented with varying degrees of success, while others haven’t been quite so keen to embrace it. Or perhaps they haven’t had the resources because they have thousands of backlist titles to digitise.
It’s very much the case that one of the easiest ways to get the attention of a traditional publisher is to self-publish successfully. As you say, there are a large number of self-published authors who have gone on to get picked up by traditional publishers. What’s interesting is that in many case, those authors have quite a bit of leverage when it comes to negotiating deals, and there have been some remarkable concessions as a result — quite a few print-only deals, for instance, where the authors have retained their ebook rights, something that would never happen ordinarily. There are also plenty of self-published authors turning down deals from traditional publishers. And there’s also the third kind of author, which will almost certainly become the norm, who is both traditionally published and also self-publishes.
What of the future? Are we going to say goodbye to the physical book and the conventional publisher?
I can’t see the physical book disappearing. I can see certain formats becoming obsolete, though. To my mind, if we’re looking at fiction, then the ebook is a direct replacement for the mass market paperback, so I suspect we’ll see fewer and fewer of those – possibly it’ll become a format for bestselling authors only. Books that are currently published in hardcover won’t be so badly affected, since they’re already fairly exclusive. And I suspect we’ll see a lot more luxury editions, emphasis being put on the physical book as an aesthetic object.
Publishers may not strictly speaking be necessary, in that writers will be able to hire editors, designers, publicists, etc., and organise the production and distribution of their own books But some authors won’t want to spend their time doing that. They’d rather write, and who can blame them! So publishers will always be required, and in a very similar role to current ones. It’s inevitable that "conventional" will have a different meaning over time, but publishers aren’t going anywhere. They’re very much here to stay.

OUGD601 // Dissertation // Is mobile advertising becoming bigger thanprint?

Digital media market research portal eMarketer have just released their latest insight into mobile advertising investment in the UK, unleashing the prediction that mobile expenditure will comprise 44.4% of total digital adspend by 2017 - an increase of 27.9% from this year.

As Britain extends its arm into the multi-screen spectrum, advertisers are sprinting towards the £1billion mark, with eMarketer forecasting total mobile spend in 2013 to total £999million, almost doubling the £526million splashed out in 2012. The staggering acceleration of the UK digital market is highlighted by the fact that the nation is expected to hit a cost of £127 per internet user for 2013, which is four times that of the United States.


As print advertising falls from this year's £2996million to an estimated £2669million in 2017 and the growth of outdoor, radio and television slackens, the digital market is poised to pick up the pieces as mobile will enjoy a corresponding increase of over 70% across the four year period. Digital currently outperforms all other formats, and in 2016 will alone consume more than their cumulative total.

Businesses are becoming increasingly more willing to invest in search and display advertising, adapting to the flourishing digital climate. Video marketing is also predicted to skyrocket, leaping from a 4% share in total digital spend this year to 12.4% in 2017.


Wednesday, 28 August 2013

OUGD601 // Dissertation // Print influences digital design

The web isn't print.
The way we publish on the web — our process and workflow — is mostly derived from what we know about putting ink on paper. Which makes sense, because for most of human history, print was all we had. In a world of connected devices, we need to publish digital content onto all kinds of different devices, screen sizes, and form factors. Right now, our challenge is dealing with PCs, smartphones, and tablets. Tomorrow, who knows where our content will need to go? As we adapt to a world of connected devices, the way we think about our content publishing process and workflow must adapt too.
Watches and glasses and fridges, oh my
A majority of Americans now own a smartphone. While mobile phones are currently the most common new device type — and the most limiting form factor — it doesn't take a futurist (or a fortune-teller) to know that smartphones are just the start of our problems. Tablets are poised to overtake PCs in sales. Handheld devices span a range of screen sizes and resolutions, forcing us to figure out how to take web pages and adapt them for different form factors.
Beyond smartphones and tablets, we know we'll continue to invent new devices. Smart TVs may be the next major wave of new devices in the home (and you can't talk about the future without mentioning the long-rumored yet never-quite-primetime internet refrigerator.) Wearable devices, like internet watches or Google Glass, offer wildly different interfaces for interacting with digital content. At some point, speech-based interfaces, like Siri or in-car audio systems, will offer up content without a visual presentation layer. Who knows? The next innovation in web content might be something we haven't even dreamed up yet.
Whether you think any one of these new devices is the future, a fad, or a flop doesn't get around the reality of the challenge we face in publishing content to these new form factors. We don't even need to predict which one of these new technologies will capture the public's imagination. Some will fail, but certainly some will succeed. Whichever new devices become mainstream, we will need to get our content onto them.
Publishing content to a variety of devices and platforms is fundamentally different from print. This wave of new connected devices means it's time we accept that the web isn't just a glorified print document. The way we think about content needs to change.
The page is dead, long live the chunk
"The page" as a container is so fundamental to how we think about reading, it's hard to break away from thinking about our content that way. On the web, we've repurposed that model, treating all of our content (text, but also graphics, videos, and other interactive elements) as through they "live" on a particular page. Our editorial processes and content management tools encourage us to treat web pages just like the familiar model of a print document.
You don't have to spend too much time thinking about all these new form factors and device types to realize that the very notion of a page doesn't hold up. Content will "live" on many different screens and presentations. The amount and type of content that's appropriate for a PC screen isn't the same as what would work best on a smartphone or a smart TV. The way content gets laid out, styled, and presented must be different for different platforms.
The future of connected devices is content in "chunks," not pages. Smaller, discrete content objects can be dynamically targeted to specific platforms and assembled into new containers on the fly. Which content and how much content appears on a given screen or interface will be defined by a set of rules, informed by metadata. Content will break free of the page and "live" in lots of different places.
Separating content from presentation
When all we had was a print document (or a web page) it was easy to get away with mixing presentation and styling with content. Problem is, decisions made for one platform about what something should look like don't necessarily translate when the content needs to live on multiple platforms. Anyone who's managed a print-to-web workflow knows that styling decisions made for print need to be stripped out and then re-applied to be appropriate for the web. We might have gotten away with that when it was just print and web, but that just won't work in the future.
A world of connected devices means we must start enforcing better separation of content from form. Our content can't have embedded presentation markup that was intended for only one platform. Instead, we need to ensure that styling decisions are made with platform-agnostic semantic metadata.
It's a people problem
We need to change the way we think about our process and workflow. Specific development approaches — whether it's responsive design or another technique — are useful technical solutions, but they don't solve the underlying problem.
As with all major technology innovations, the heart of this challenge is the people side of the problem. People who create and publish content need new tools and new approaches to help them understand how digital publishing is different from print. Our content management technology and workflow need to adapt and evolve too, so that users can envision how their content will be consumed on different devices. We need new ways of thinking about content publishing that make it clear to content creators what it means that the web isn't print.