Solving problems

Helping readers, not just selling them things

I'm in Austin today, attending South by Southwest Interactive and presenting "The opportunity in abundance" as part of O'Reilly Media's one-day Tools of Change for Publishing event here. O'Reilly has hosted similar one-day events in Frankfurt, Bologna and Portland (Oregon), but this is the first "mini-TOC" in Austin.

Walking up to the event, Jenn Webb interviewed me about the ideas included in "abundance".  The interview, which was posted yesterday on O'Reily's Radar blog, gave me a chance to return to several themes of particular interest. Among these:

  • the roles of editors and publishers are changing (have changed, really)
  • readers need publishers to help them solve problems, not just sell them printed or digital objects
  • the publishing supply chain is being transformed by the growth of digital capacity, and
  • publishing can take advantage of this moment by redefining itself as the engine of the engagement economy

If it is of interest, Webb's post includes links to the full text or screencast of prior talks. I greatly appreciate her work condensing a longer set of responses into something more manageable (and a post that hopefully helps its readers solve problems).

Updated during the day to add: O'Reilly is streaming the content of this event. There are several good speakers, and the program agenda is available at the link provided in the first paragraph.


Posted by bowerbird
Mar 09, 2012  at  01:55 PM

except corporate publishing today is
_creating_ problems, not solving them.

making sure it works, and works together?

yeah, right.  e-books work _smoothly_,
today, thanks to corporate leadership.

and reducing customer time and hassle?

again, yeah, right.  things like d.r.m.
—especially in multiple variants—
are a great way to reduce time and hassle,
and we have corporate publishers to thank.

and no matter what dimension we consider,
we find that corporate publishing is the
locus of the _problem_, not the _solution_.

you say that corporate publishing needs to
“redefine itself”, as something it is not.

has it occurred to you, brian, that that’s
not just unlikely, but outright impossible?

taken in this light, the _correct_ light,
your prescription for corporate publishing
sounds more like the surgeon in the o.r.
pronouncing the patient’s time of death.


Posted by Brian O'Leary
Mar 09, 2012  at  02:07 PM

I spend time on both sides of the discussion. I’m not blind to the damage done by corporate interests, particularly larger publishers, who do things like insist on the use of DRM without understanding or accepting the role they are playing in enabling market dominance by Amazon.

But when I wrote “abundance”, I was thinking as much or more about institutions like libraries and smaller booksellers, both of whom depend (at least for the moment) on a set of industry structures that are under significant pressure.

Maybe it’s best, or inevitable, that the dinosaurs among us meet a swift and timely end.  I just worry that the comets that do the deed will create an ice age that costs us stuff we really care about, as well.

We may not come to a place where we agree on that, but I start most days thinking you’re right, that this is not a winnable proposition.  To this point, I’ve ended most of those convincing myself otherwise.  Then, I get up again smile

Posted by bowerbird
Mar 10, 2012  at  04:33 AM

brian said:
>  I start most days thinking
>  you’re right, that this is
>  not a winnable proposition.

i am right, i’m absolutely right, and
my side—the good guys—_will_ win.

you might “spend time on both sides”,
but you’re rooting for the wrong side,
a.k.a. the greedy corporate bastards…

the only question is whether your boys
will poison the well on their way out.
they are the mean and vindictive type.
they’ve already proven they’ll pollute
the planet to play their poker game, and
rob the till to reward themselves rich.
so what’s a little cultural sabotage?


Posted by Brian O'Leary
Mar 10, 2012  at  09:49 AM

You have a unique gift for clarifying smile  I hope our paths cross sooner rather than later, and we can kick this (and me!) around over a drink or two.

There’s plenty of evidence that companies on the edge of a cliff act in ways that are detrimental to almost everyone around them (I use Anderson News as an example in the presentation I gave yesterday). I don’t think that failing publishers would be immune from that.

Posted by fairuse
Mar 11, 2012  at  02:03 AM

Thanks for the stream.  Yep, 01:54 eastern and just catching up.

My mobile still needs the ustream setup—Yes, wifi plenty quick—Yes, I am plenty slow getting #SXSW event set.

Have Fun & all.

Posted by Brian O'Leary
Mar 11, 2012  at  10:07 AM

I’m not sure if the stream was only real-time or if it was also archived. If there is an archive, I recommend the presentations by Todd Sattersten and Josh Clark. There were many good talks and panels; I just found those two particularly helpful.

Commenting is no longer available for this article.