The Nook Book Look: Default Settings

About a year ago, a publisher friend went into a tirade about how eBooks weren’t something publishers or consumers wanted but were being forced on the industry by “the tech people.” I was quite puzzled by his comment but knowing that my friend is not prone to hyperbole or paranoia, couldn’t dismiss it. Now I get it. In this thread on MobileRead some eReader developers are pretty down on publishers and book designers:
It’s a discussion about defaults on the Nook:
http://www.mobileread.com/forums/showthread.php?t=165692
With the system upgrade in January to 1.4.1, Nook decided to turn off publishers’ settings on its eBooks by default. They make a reasonable argument. If a reader has carefully set their reading preferences, they shouldn’t have to reset them for each new title.
But, if the publishers’ defaults are off, the reader could well be missing part of the reading experience (even some of the non-English characters) that the writer intended, and never know what they were missing. Okay, I’m a bit ticked off that hours of my thoughtful work on a YA title may never be seen by readers. But I’m not so in love with my work that I’d want to overrule an eReader user.
It comes down to this, do you think most users take the time to adjust their settings, or expect that the book’s producers have made these settings for them? I’m far from convinced that every user thoughtfully selects their book settings, and publishers’ designs have been selling for decades. I think the default should be the publisher’s defaults, the Nook users who are most likely to set their own preferences are the ones who will know where to turn off the defaults.
Another argument for ignoring publisher’s code is that often the code is bloated. I can imagine the issues engineers face when the code vomited out by auto ePub generators is multiplied by thousands of titles.
I see this as an argument for Standards. Better adherence to standards across devices would lead to leaner code in ePubs. I feel like I have to carpet bomb my files with text-align: center; just to get a centered paragraph consistently across devices.
Ultimately, the reading public will show us what they want, buying books, apps and devices that they like best.
So let’s make cool stuff, work together on standards, and respect what we all bring to the table.

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Just start doing what you know how to do and innovate around that.

Greg Bear and Neal Stephenson of Subutai explain the natural progression from hand-to-hand combat to innovative publishing business model.

An interest in antique weaponry and a forgotten tradition of western hand-t0-hand combat led science fiction author Greg Bear to the theme and story line of the Mongoliad project. On the way, he and his partners developed PULP,  the “Personal Ubiquitous Literary Platform.” PULP is is billed as connected publishing, and in their keynote session, Bear and Stephenson contended that content as service is the only viable business model when piracy is ubiquitous: “create an experience that can’t be pirated.”

After finding a funding partner and business mentor, (and fellow antique weapon enthusiast), Bear and Stephenson began creating an online experience with serialized content. Members and fans are encouraged to contribute writing and art, all consistent with the “canon,” the settings and characters originally developed by the writers.

At first the main access to the Mongoliad was on the web, but now, one subscription price allows readers (fans? users? community members? mongols?) to use any device for access.

PULP uses open source components for quicker updates and expansion, and hosts the service in Amazon Cloud the which had a famous failure recently. Even with those efficiencies, Neal Stephenson admitted that “easy to use is hard to do.”

With the PULP platform, it seems Subutai would like us all to make a connected publishing community. The website states: “PULP transforms fiction into franchise by building bridges between publishers, fans, artists, and the stories, characters, and universes that help them define themselves.” Just add a great story, some ads, a wiki, fan fic and fan art. As the Subutai team said, “Each book is a micro business venture.”

Addendum 5/30/11: Paul Biba wrote a great review of this session:
http://www.teleread.com/paul-biba/idpf-annual-meeting-keynote-the-mongoliad-year-one/

It was kind of pointed for a roundtable

A discussion to which Richard Nash (Red Lemonade) was late, snarky, and eventually won me over.

It was billed as “Publishers’ Roundtable: Execs discuss agency and other recent events” on Monday at the Digital Book 2011 Conference put on by the <IDPF>.

Dominique Raccah, of SourceBooks started the discussion with some facts, 42% of books sold are Adult, 25% are Juvenile. (The remainder would be YA, Textbooks? I’m not sure I got the numbers right). How fast, she wondered, can we find a platform for juvi? As pictures and pedagogic tools become part of the platform, we will see more [juvi] integration.

Richard Nash piped up with “Don’t look too hard at the data—in 3 years we’ll see the end of the eBook as a product.” Hmm.

DR: Its about the experience—and we haven’t found a way to enhance the experience—we keep taking readers out of stories, not immersing them.

RN: Enhanced eBooks are a price-protection scheme. We are left with publishers aping video game designers.

DR: Richard, we didn’t do it for that—we are in an exploratory space—we need to blow up the book.

Dominique went on to say that the average POD title sells 200 copies. She expects the next conversation to be “How do self-publishers get what they need?” She explained that artists require fans, people who will evangelize their work and spread the word.

Apps, she said, are a transitional form non-fiction. I cling to this.

Richard Nash’s rallying cry was libraries: “For the 18 million Americans engaged in creative writing each year, libraries can become community centers for discovering tools to connect writers to readers.”  I applauded. So did one other brave soul.

Evan Schnittman of Bloomsbury made a good point about piracy: “Cloud solutions eliminate 90% of the casual piracy—its a good business model. Let’s not punish consumers for us not giving them reasonable ways to access their material.”