Freemium, Ad-Supported Books?

The time for ads in books has come, according to an editorial in yesterday’s WSJ. Why now?

In short, physical books can’t compete with other print media for advertisers. Digital books can. With an integrated system, an advertiser or publisher can place ads across multiple titles to generate a sufficient volume. Timeliness is also possible, since digital readers require users to log in to a central system periodically.

For consumers, the free samples of digital books now available would surely include ads… Seeing ads in the sample may also convince a reader to pay for a premium, non-ad version of the full-length book. The old market segmentation of paperbacks and hardcovers will be replaced by ad-supported or ad-free books.

So books will be ad-supported and freemium. By the way, those two things go together. Why Ben Parr at Mashable thinks that ad-supported and freemium should be pitted against each other is beyond me, unless he was on a really tight deadline for a “web faceoff” post.

I don’t like the idea of ads in my books. But I am used to paying in order to make them my books, so I’d probably pay to get books without ads. And, come to think of it, if I can put up with DRM in books, I can put up with a lot.

The argument that advertisers like ebooks more than pbooks (or whatever we call physical/paper books) is a strong one. But as usual, if you want to see the future, you can go back in time: see Galleycat’s brief history shows that ads in books aren’t new.

Even I Am an eReader Now

I love books, always have, and always will. So what about ebooks? I haven’t used them. I don’t like reading large amounts of text on a computer screen, and eReaders are too expensive for my taste: I like gadgets, but not enough to pay early adopter prices.

Now that eReader prices are moving down towards $99, I’m starting to consider which one to get, or at least to request for a present come December. Here are my main criteria.

  • EPUB format support.
  • Price.
  • Easy enough on the eyes to actually read a book. I’m going to rely on reviews for this, since a quick in-store test-read won’t prove much about prolonged use.

The first criterion rules out a Kindle, tempting though the new Kindle Wi-Fi is at $139 on the price criterion. I don’t want my eShelf to rest on a proprietary format.

Almost everything else on the market does support EPUB, according to Wikipedia’s comparison of e-book formats. So it’s time to do some research on Nook and the like, or at least keep my eyes and feed reader open over the next few months.

I’m hoping for “a sub-$100 device with no connectivity other than a USB port”. The quote is from Joe Wickert, even though he has a Kindle in mind.

Since I’m going EPUB, I’ve installed a software eReader on my Android. I went with Aldiko, after reading Matthew Miller’s comparison of apps. That’ll get its own post soon.

In the meantime, any comments on EPUB readers and content stores are most welcome.

Instructional Design Books

Instructional Design? Some of my initial thoughts on ID (or ISD, with the S standing for System) are in an earlier post. A thought not captured in that post is that I’ll be doing some reading on ISD.

So I was interested to see a list of books for instructional designers, culled by Amit Garg from a LinkedIn discussion. I saw the list via Cammy Bean, who also linked to the reading list she posted a couple of years ago.

I note that both lists start with e-Learning and the Science of Instruction. So I’ll probably get it (after asking why each list links to the first edition, rather than to the second, which came out in 2007). It’s interesting that this book is about e-Learning, rather than about ISD more generally.

Cammy’s list also includes Non-Designer’s Design Book. I was surprised to see it on an ISD list, but I do recommend it highly. It discusses basic design principles, and applies them to flyers, business cards, web sites… almost everything except courses. But then, e-Learning tends to mean learning from a web site.

Books About WordPress (3.0)

Why books about WordPress? There is so much free stuff online about WordPress: the Codex, for example.

An advantage for online is that much of the material there is kept up to date. Books, in contrast, may suffer from bibliolescence: a term I coined to describe a book’s contents becoming obsolete. This risk is particularly acute for books about things that change rapidly or frequently, as WordPress does.

And yet, there’s something about a book: you can read it without having to boot anything up, you can flip through it, etc.

If you’re thinking about getting a book about WordPress, but are concerned about it becoming stale, now is as good a time as any to get one. WordPress 3.0 has just been released, so another major (i.e. deserving of a .0 version number) release is probably a while away.

So how many books are out now, or soon, covering WordPress 3.0? Searching Amazon shows that there are few.

One of them is the forthcoming edition of WordPress For Dummies. As author Lisa Sabin-Wilson posted recently, the 3rd edition, which includes WP 3.0, will soon be shipping. As I wrote in a previous post, the 2nd edition covers a fair amount of ground, despite its title and gentle pace. So I’m inclined to recommend the 3rd edition to those starting from scratch, or don’t mind a book that starts from scratch.

I’d be interested in news and previews and reviews of other WordPress books including the new features that came with 3.0…

The HERO According to Forrester

I was very impressed with Groundswell, the book by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff about the impact of “social technologies” on business. When it came out, two years ago, both authors were with Forrester research.

Josh, along with Forrester colleague Ted Schadler, has a new book out soon: Empowered. Josh recently posted that there’s an article based on the book in Harvard Business Review, and that the article can be read online (it still can at the time of writing).

Now, many business books condense down well to article length, and many articles can be summarized by a single figure, often a 2×2. In some cases, the shorter forms are the best investment of time. In other cases, they serve to whet the appetite for the more substantial fare. If Empowered is anything like its predecessor, it will be pretty substantial.

Anyway, I include a 2×2 from the article. As usual with management 2x2s, the upper right quadrant is the good one. If you feel empowered, and act resourceful, then you are a HERO: a highly empowered and resourceful operative. I’d prefer less drama (HERO?) and more grammar (act resourceful? shouldn’t that be resourcefully?).

This figure, with 20% HEROs, reflects the data from Forrester’s survey of 5,000 information workers. The article breaks out the data a little, and I assume that the book breaks it out a lot. The article also highlights relationships between HEROs, managers, and information technology, and I assume the book discusses these relationships in more detail.

Meanwhile, Josh’s Groundswell co-author, Charlene Li, has her own firm, Altimeter, and her own book: Open Leadership. I should get hold of a copy…

Networked Nonprofit Virtual Book Launch

The Networked Nonprofit, the book by Beth Kanter and Allison Fine, will be released on July 6. There’s a closer, and more important, date: Beth posts about the June 21 virtual book launch party date. She aims to concentrate (pre-)orders around that date, so that The Networked Nonprofit becomes a bestseller.

There are a bunch of things that Beth conspicuously doesn’t specify, at least not prominently enough for me to notice:

  • A real world book launch event/signing here in the DC area, or anywhere else.
  • Any reference to any real world stores or sales. I picture Beth and Allison descending on bookstores to hide copies of their book so that people will buy it at Amazon, thus keeping it high on the Amazon business bestseller list.
  • A widget for the use of people who want to blog about the book and the virtual launch party.
  • A hashtag for tweets and a tag for posts (I’m using networkednonprofit here).

Anyway, the books sounds great, and I intend to be at the virtual launch party.

Music Books: Top Ones, According to MOG

MOG blogs about top music books. I’m surprised that my favorite got listed, let alone as high at number 5.

MOG’s number 1 was predicable, but not, I think wrong. High Fidelity might seem let down by the movie, and let down even more by some of Hornby’s other work, but it is a great novel about people of a certain inclination. Try to (re)read it for itself.

A Couple of Good Reads

It’s interesting to keep track of what one reads, and to see what others are reading and what they think of those books. Yes, I said books, thus consigning this post and its author to the dustbin of pre-postliterate history.

I’ve used a few different what-am-I-reading web services, and have settled on Goodreads. My profile/history shows mainly fiction. It excludes much of the nonfiction I pick up, because I refer to it rather than read it. It also excludes most of the books I read to my kids (6 and 3) because they are my kids’ “reading” rather than mine.

I have recently made a couple of exceptions to this policy. One is for Stink and the World’s Worst Super-Stinky Sneakers. As those of you versed in the classics will know, Stink is the younger brother of Judy Moody.

In Stinky Sneakers, we find out that Stink is a discriminating sniffer as well as a smelly-sneakered source of scent. We also find out how he got the nickname Stink. This is not a book for the faint of heart or nose, but it is my favorite of the half-dozen or so Megan McDonald books we’ve read.

The other exceptional book is WordPress For Dummies. I admit that it’s not the first For Dummies book I’ve read, or considered good. Then again, I didn’t really read it.

As usual with tech books, I scanned it rather than read it, I was aware of the danger that it might already be out of date, and I know that a lot of the information is available online anyway. But if you want a book on WordPress, this one is pretty good. It sets a fairly gentle pace. At the same time, it covers a lot of ground: for example, there are chapters on setting up WordPress MU (multi-user).

I see that a new edition of WordPress For Dummies is due out later this year. I presume that’ll cover WordPress 3.0, which is due out soon.

Book Chapter on WordPress as Mass Customization

A couple of years ago, I submitted a paper about WordPress to a conference on Mass Customization. The paper was accepted and, in October 2007, I presented it at the conference at MIT.

A book based on the conference has just been published. I’m posting my chapter, A Mass of Customizers: The WordPress Software Ecosystem, here. I hope you find it interesting.

The fact that the book has just come out is a comment on the slowness of the traditional publishing system. There is a danger of bibliolescence: the book becoming obsolete. Indeed, I note that the chapter refers to Version 2.3 of WordPress, and we’re now on 2.9.

That said, the point of the chapter has become sharper, rather than duller, with time. WordPress is now a better example of mass customization. There’s more mass, in that there are millions more WordPress blogs. And there’s more customization, in that there are many more themes, plugins, etc.

Indeed, Table 2 of the chapter is a rather handy summary of the means by which WordPress can be customized. Take a look, and feel free to leave comments on the chapter at this post.

GK Chesterton and YA Fiction

The Quote of the Day gadget today shows me this one from G.K. Chesterton.

There is a great deal of difference between an eager man who wants to read a book and the tired man who wants a book to read.

Then I saw (via Largehearted Boy) an LA Times article about adults reading young adult fiction.

Attracted by well-written, fast-paced and engaging stories that span the gamut of genres and subjects, such [adult] readers have mainstreamed a niche long derided as just for kids… Where adult hardcover sales were down 17.8% for the first half of 2009 versus the same period in 2008, children’s/young adult hardcovers were up 30.7%.

The same passage provides four examples of YA lit. I read The Book Thief a while ago. I recently finished The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1) and have started on the sequel.

So I’m a pretty good example of a YA-reading adult, especially since The Hunger Games is on my wishlist. I won’t mention the fourth example from the LAT article: you can probably guess, and I won’t be reading it.

There are several links between the GK quote and the LAT article. First, the quote is an explanation of the article. But it’s only a partial explanation. The tired grownup who reads the first Percy Jackson often turns into the grownup who’s eager for the second – and possibly even more tired, having stayed up late to finish the first.

Even leaving aside the sequel syndrome, some YA novels are good enough to deserve eager readers.

A second link between GK and YA is that some YA writers are fans of GK: Neil Gaiman, for example. There are many more links, and much more to be written: but not by me, at least not right now.