C. M. Rubin Writer Producer The Real Alice In Wonderland book and film

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How Will We Read: Textbooks?

"Technology has great potential for improving individual and aggregate performance of the educational system" - Vineet Madan (Photo courtesy of McGraw-Hill Education)

It isn’t my imagination. My children’s backpacks got heavier with the weight of those textbooks over the past few years. And I don’t think the weight of student backpacks are just my concern. I heard a rumor that even tiger moms are advocating for lighter school backpacks.

So what have I tried as a solution to the problem in my home? Purchasing an extra set of textbooks (expensive!). Trying to convince my kids that a rolling backpack is cool and won’t trip up their friends in hallways (no way Mom!). Trying to purchase the superman-strength backpack model available with bottoms that won’t blow out and straps that won’t tear off in one semester (still looking). Trying to understand why we can’t lighten things up a little with some innovative help from technology (I like the sound of this idea).

Three out of four parents with school-age children recognize the McGraw-Hill name in education. How does a leading provider of learning tools plan to help learners worldwide attain the 21st century skills they need to succeed and perhaps lessen their loads in the process? I had the opportunity to discuss this with Vineet Madan, Vice President, McGraw-Hill Higher Education eLabs, where he leads digital strategy across the company.

How will the evolution of technology affect the way students use textbooks in school?

We have been evolving our products and services along with the technology that has been deployed in schools. If we look back at the CD Rom days, we were doing interactive science programs which combined the textbook with media elements such as video and audio clips which came along with the book. That was state of the art in digital education.

Over the past couple of years, as the markets we serve have become equipped with better technology, we have moved a number of those stand-alone resources onto the web. The next steps were to consider what teaching and learning could become, using the tools and content we’d already developed. This meant envisioning experiences that were exclusively web based. We now have science and math products that are completely web delivered. We have personalized learning programs such as The Power of U that can assess each student’s skill level and determine how each can progress through lessons most effectively, i.e. a personalized GPS for a learning experience.

With The Power of U we focused on math instruction. We took our field-tested content, and matched that up against where students are in their learning progression. For example, all students in a third or fourth grade class need to learn the same things by the end of the year, but the reality is that all students don’t learn the same things in the same way and at the same pace. For some students, reading the material and then doing an online tutorial session may be very effective. For another student, a high engagement and retention level may be about working in a teacher facilitated group with four or five students. We are able to track how students are doing in each of these different modalities and understand the skills that they still need to master for a curriculum, which in this case is math. That’s an example of ripping the spine off the book, taking advantage of the data that’s available, and building a new learning experience with what we believe will be significantly better learning outcomes.

"Personalization will help break the performance rut associated with today’s industrial production model of education." - Vineet Madan

(Photo courtesy of Perry Township Metropolitan School District)

What are you doing to help teachers develop the skills to use these new products effectively?

We are looking at the teacher side of this in a couple of different ways. We’re collaborating with some of the schools of education to ensure that future teachers have access to the new products, tools, and training they’ll need before they start using them in the classrooms. The bigger issue concerns teachers who have been teaching for some time. We’re investing a lot of resources in professional development, product training, and product support. As we move further into software based learning tools in school environments, the onus is on us as well as on the school district to ensure we’re providing fully satisfactory levels of product training and product support. You can’t put online products out in the field where teachers don’t have ways of accessing support in real time.

Can you share an example of how technology can enhance a teacher’s experience in the classroom?

We have a new social studies product that officially comes out in January called Networks. It is a mix of a print and digital offering, and can actually be customized to be more print or digitally centric depending on teacher choice. There are tools built into the digital program that help the teacher with lesson planning. It makes sure that the topics teachers choose track against common core standards and the things that the teacher needs to measure. In an offline world, teachers have to do this manually. We are using software to make that a more efficient and supportive process for them.

"We now have science and math products that are completely web delivered." - Vineet Madan (Photo courtesy of The Dwight School)

What are your predictions in terms of the shift from the printed textbook to the online textbook in the next 3 to 5 years?

Let me talk about what I think can happen and then what I think will happen. The availability of tablets and computers here and abroad in schools is still very limited. I think the average number of students to a computer in the US is 3 to 1. First of all, you need to have better computers in schools, you need to have greater bandwidth available, and teachers have to be ready to use technology in their teaching process. Those things must be in place first before the instructional model will change significantly. Children are generally comfortable using technology. The K-12 education market has not quite caught up to where consumers and many of these younger learners already are. So I would say that in the next three years, a significant amount of investment needs to be made in technology infrastructure and training. Some school districts in the US are making those investments now, but it isn’t happening universally.

So what is happening now, and will continue to happen, is the use of interactive whiteboards (nearly ubiquitous in UK classrooms now) and projectors to bring a digital experience into the middle of the classroom. The live integration of audio, video and simulations at point of instruction enhance lesson delivery.

As price points for digital devices drop and they become more widely available in classrooms, we’ll see a shift towards more guided and supported learning where individual students will navigate through a personalized content experience with guidance from teachers and from the software itself. Personalization will help break the performance rut associated with today’s industrial production model of education.

Final thoughts on McGraw-Hill Education’s digital focus going forward?

As a company, we believe technology has great potential for improving individual and aggregate performance of the educational system across all of our markets around the world. We are sharply focused on developing the educational technology that will have greatest impact in the teaching and learning experience. We believe that if the teaching and learning experience is facilitated with technology, student performance will be tracked at a finer level, and as a result, we can tailor more of the instruction to individual student needs. We have documented how our individualized learning tools used in education can result in significant student performance improvement levels — close to a full grade improvement. We are focused on refining our technology and making it broadly available to students and teachers at every level, anywhere in the world.

               Vineet Madan and C. M. Rubin

C. M. Rubin is the author of the widely read online series, “The Global Search for Education,” and is also the author of three bestselling books, including “The Real Alice in Wonderland.”

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Tagged: C. M. RubinDigital LearningDigital TextbooksEbooksEducationEreadersHow Will We Read?K-12 EducationMcGraw-Hill EducationThe Power of UU.S. SchoolsVineet MadanOnline EducationOnline TextbooksThe Future of BooksChildren's Textbooks

How Will We Read? The Book Makers

"We are at a very early stage in imagining the future of the book." — David "Skip" Prichard

The publisher delivers a single file. With that file, Ingram Content Group will deliver the content globally in a variety of ways, whether as a printed book or as a digital file which will ultimately create books for every digital platform around the world. They have the industry’s largest active book inventory (access to 7.5 million titles) and the markets they serve include bookstores, libraries, schools, and specialty retailers.

What do the book makers believe about the future of reading? I had the pleasure of speaking with the charismatic President and CEO of Ingram Content Group, David “Skip” Prichard.

How do you see the growth prospects for books in all forms over the next five to ten years?

I’m bullish on the growth prospects for books. First, the demographics are favorable. We have an aging baby boomer population that should fuel reading. Demand for English-language books is also a positive long-term trend. Second, technology is increasing demand for books whether on digital devices or through the ease of buying books online. Enhanced e-books are only in their infancy, allowing authors to add alternative endings or interviews. Down the road, who knows what’s possible? Maybe we will have biometric devices that can sense your pulse and body temperature and change the plot based on your feelings — and you think Stephen King is scary now. Third, the very definition of a book is evolving. The information in books is fast becoming linked to other content in various forms, blending into articles, research, and other media. As books become part of the larger information landscape, they become both more relevant and more important.

Are there enhanced books available this holiday season that have already changed the definition of a book?

Yes, for example, a biography can to come to life in many ways. Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy has all of the interview audios, videos, photographs, text, and transcripts available. Even classics — Penguin has updated Pride & Prejudice with clips from the movie and even instructions on dancing. For the 75th anniversary of The Hobbit, HarperCollins released an e-version with exclusives including J.R.R Tolkien’s book illustrations and recently discovered Tolkien recordings. Publishers are still learning what added value readers will or won’t pay for. I expect we’ll continue to see lots of experimentation in this arena.

Does this mean authors will require different skill sets to create books?

Yes, there is definitely a demand for new and emerging skill sets. Publishing is full of creative types, including talent that is savvy about the new tools becoming available. The challenge is less about talent and more about the need to find the right business model. For example, you don’t want to create a book that’s very cool but too expensive for the average reader. There’s no limit to what can be done, but there is a limit to what consumers will pay for.

"We are able to print a book on demand within hours and deliver it the next day." - Skip Prichard

How do you see the playing field for books evolving in the next five to ten years?

Three powerful trends in the last few years have been the growth of online retail, the rise of the e-book, and the explosion in the number of titles available. These will continue for some time. It doesn’t mean that all bookstores will close. And it doesn’t mean that the printed book is dead. What it does mean is that traditional bookstores will need to continue to be creative — change inventory, add more events, and make the local experience unique. Large print runs will diminish as e-book sales increase. Today, many printed books are created through the technology of print-on-demand, arriving in stores, libraries, or at home the day after printing. Finally, authors are finding new ways to reach markets directly. All of these potentially threaten players not adept at staying ahead of the changes. Fortunately, many publishers are ahead of the curve and already anticipating the next phase of growth. We are at a very early stage in imagining the future of the book.

What will be the effect on brick and mortar outlets? What recommendations do you have for these outlets?

Physical stores are redefining their role for the future by finding unique and compelling ways to differentiate the experience from online. Just as print and digital will find a balance, so too, will online and physical retail. My recommendation is, “Find your niche, your unique value proposition, and lock in your customer relationship experience.” The challenges ahead for brick and mortar outlets are not unique to bookstores. Almost all physical retailers are confronting these same challenges.

What will be the effect on publishing companies and what opportunities will this provide to authors for self-publishing?

Publishers are making changes and developing new models for the future. The publishing house of yesterday is being replaced as visionary publishers adapt to new ways to reach readers. Content creation will extend past the current definition of the book. With the explosive growth of books in recent years, the role of the publisher to select, edit and promote content is more valuable than ever. And the prestige of getting published remains for all authors and potential authors.

There are also more opportunities than ever for self-published authors as the barriers to publishing are lower than ever. Self-published titles are increasing in both print and digital formats. We’ve seen some self-published authors break into the bestseller lists. Interestingly, these same authors generally end up accepting lucrative publishing deals when they are approached.

"Three powerful trends in the last few years have been the growth of online retail, the rise of the e-book, and the explosion in the number of titles available." - Skip Prichard

How can the book industry protect itself from piracy?

Piracy isn’t a new issue. In fact, the majority of pirated copies are from print books being photocopied and distributed rather than from the distribution of digital copies. Keep in mind that what separates books from other forms of entertainment: for those who can’t or don’t want to pay for books, they’ve always been available for free from libraries. The key is to continue to make books not only an engaging experience but also an affordable and easy-to-access experience. We need to make it easy for consumers to find and purchase books legally, meaning publishers must package and share e-content with consumers in formats they want to read without unreasonable restrictions.

Why should a book be your number one gift purchase this holiday season and what are your recommendations?

Books educate, inform and inspire. They cultivate curiosity, nurture the imagination, and promote a sense of wonder. Books are also terrific conversation starters. In addition, books keep on giving well beyond the day they are received whether to the original recipient or to someone else.

How is Ingram changing its culture to embrace the digital age?

We have been early adopters of a number of different technologies. Our print on demand business, Lightning Source, started fifteen years ago. As more books go digital, publishers will have to cut print runs. We are able to print a book on demand within hours and deliver it the next day. Last year we expanded to France. This year we expanded to Australia.

Ingram was an early investor in digital. We’ve had experience in digital for many years and expanded these services to include things like CoreSource, a digital warehouse for publishers. We can send an e-book to all the sources for digital devices, so a publisher does not have to worry about the logistics of file conversions, the bibliographic data about the book, and the security of delivery to consumer channels.

Ingram also purchased VitalSource, an electronic textbook platform that is our fastest growing business. We now have 2 million students using the platform worldwide. It’s transforming the way students interact with educational material. Textbooks come alive using video, audio, and text, and allow students to share notes. It has technology that allows us to tell a publisher: “Nobody is reading Chapter 8.” Or, “People like these three chapters best so you might want to expand them.” It helps the students learn better by engaging with the material in the way that they learn best.

We are watching the digital space carefully. We’re an active participant behind the scenes in this transformation. We embrace it and will continue to be a central part of it. Ingram sits as the center hub between the publisher and libraries and retailers. We get a wide view of what’s happening in the marketplace.

      C. M. Rubin and David “Skip” Prichard

Photos courtesy of Ingram Content Group, Inc.

Visit Skip Prichard’s blog:

C. M. Rubin is the author of the widely read online series, The Global Search for Education, and is also the author of three bestselling books, including The Real Alice in Wonderland.


Follow C. M. Rubin on Twitter:

Tagged: Book PublishingC. N. RubinContent CreationDavid Skip PrichardDecline of Brick and Mortar StoresDigital MediaDigital PiracyEbooksElectronic DistributionEnhanced EbooksEreadersPrint on DemandSelf PublishingThe Future of BooksHow Will We Read?Online RetailLightning SourceIngram Content Group

How Will We Read: On Main Street?

 “Independent book stores create interest by selecting a mix of products that the community is interested in seeing.” – Oren Teicher

Main Street is off to a promising holiday season, with online and in-store results indicating that sales in independent bookstores are well up for 2011 over 2010. Nielsen BookScan for Thanksgiving week showed an increase of 15.5% over the same week in 2010, and in-store websites powered by ABA IndieCommerce increased by 60% for Thanksgiving weekend (Black Friday through Cyber Monday) over 2010.

The challenges that independent book stores face this holiday season are the same challenges that most brick and mortar retailers will face.  The good news is that independent book stores can always be relied upon for extraordinary entrepreneurship.  As a result, many are already redefining their role for the future by finding new and compelling ways to differentiate themselves from online retailers.  I had the pleasure of chatting with Oren Teicher, CEO of the American Booksellers Association, to talk about the key factors responsible for the resurgence of the main street bookstore, among other things.

How will we read in the future?

First of all, I absolutely believe that with all of the changes we are seeing in publishing, we will grow the number of readers.  What we know about book buyers is that they behave differently at different times.  They buy books in different places.  They read different titles.  If you’re a reader, you don’t read one kind of book nor do you buy your book from only one retailer.  The anxiety that exists in certain circles about the book business that the digital format is going to make print books obsolete is nonsense.   We think the formats are going to complement each other.  In fact, we believe the formats will not only complement each other but will help each other grow and become stronger.  An analogy that is often used is the movie business.  Back in the 1950’s, people thought that television was going to put movies out of business.  Why would anyone go to the movies when you could watch television in your living room?  Fast forward sixty years, it’s clear there’s a pretty strong movie business in America and a pretty strong TV business.  These are different formats, and they do complement each other.

What trends are you seeing in terms of categories of books moving more quickly towards the digital format?

There are obvious categories that lend themselves to the digital format.  I think genre fiction (mystery, romance, and science fiction) lends itself to the electronic format because people are much more interested in immediate access to the latest titles and far less concerned about having a physical copy of the title on their shelves.   In non- fiction you’ve got travel books, which is another example of a category for which there is a real advantage to having the content in an electronic format.  However, I think we should be careful about drawing too many conclusions from the current trends. We don’t have enough data to really know what is going to happen.  Last holiday season, millions of readers got  iPads, Kindles, and Nooks.   In January and February 2011, we saw a significant decline in sales in bookstores.  Time passed and some people still loved their new devices, but in addition, after playing with them for a while, others decided e-readers weren’t for them, and now those devices are collecting dust in their drawers.  We expect this holiday season there will be another avalanche of e-readers.  And a certain number of people are going to consume books in a digital format, but I think it is too early to know how many. In the end, I think a very large number of readers will end up reading books in both formats.

How will the ABA participate in the Ebook revenue opportunity?

For almost a year we have had a partnership with Google.  There are around 350 member stores that use our e-commerce platform to sell digital content, and we are selling Google eBooks across the network of participating indie bookstores.  What we have learned is that it’s a lot more about the device than we originally thought.  We’re aggressively in the process of trying to develop a device that our members can sell as well.  There are of course many devices, and we will work with anyone who can assist our stores to sell digital content.  As you know, the major publishers have adopted the Agency Model (i.e. in the agency model the publishers set the price and designate an agent—in this case the bookseller—who will then sell the book and receive a  commission on that sale).  With regard to the sales of digital content, under the agency model the publishers are setting the price.  If you search for an e-book title on an ABA member’s website and then you search for the same title on another retailer’s website, you will find in very many cases that the price for content is the same.  The agency model has leveled the playing field. 

“A growing number of Americans understand that supporting their local businesses is good for the local economy.” – Oren Teicher

How did the loss of Borders affect your members?

There are millions of customers who were shopping in Borders who don’t have a store today.  Clearly for our members that was an opportunity.  And despite all the quantum leaps forward with technology, nothing beats a physical bricks-and-mortar store to browse and discover new titles.  Independent book stores pride themselves on being interesting and exciting places to shop, where you can meet knowledgeable and passionate booksellers.  It’s an environment people like to come and hang out in.  Independent book stores create interest by selecting a mix of products that the community is interested in seeing.  They also are very active in hosting in-store events, which attract people to the stores.  In addition, they may form associations with local coffee shops, restaurants and art galleries.  These are the things that bookstores do to connect to their customers.  Also, a growing number of Americans understand that supporting their local businesses is good for the local economy.

What do you believe are the major challenges facing a large chain of bookstores such as a Barnes & Noble?

I think it always makes more sense to talk about one’s own strategy, but I think that does speak to your question. In today’s world, bigger is not necessarily better.  The advantages that our members have are that they are able to be nimble and can adapt quickly to change. They are not saddled with massive square footage of stores that are expensive to operate.  In this area I think we have a competitive advantage.  Also, technology 20 years ago was a problem for independent booksellers. The large national chains could afford systems and we couldn’t.  However the cost of technology has come down dramatically. We now operate websites for 350 stores.  We use state of-the-art point of sale systems and tracking systems.  We’re able to get books to our customers within 48 hours.  The book business is changing so fast.  Being smaller allows you to adapt quickly and change more easily.

            Oren Teicher and C. M. Rubin

(Photos courtesy of American Booksellers Association) 

How Will We Read? Community Page

C.M. Rubin has more than two decades of professional experience in development, marketing, and art direction for a diverse range of media businesses. She is the author of the widely read on-line series, The Global Search for Education, and is also the author of three bestselling books, including The Real Alice in Wonderland.

Follow C. M. Rubin on Twitter:

Tagged: ABA IndieCommerceAmerican Booksellers AssociationC. M. RubinEbook Agency ModelEreadersEbooksGoogle EbooksHow Will We Read?Independent BooksellersIndie BookstoresIndieboundOren TeicherThe ABAThe Future of BooksThe Real Alice in Wonderland Book

How Will We Read: A Book by You?

  “There’s never been a better time for an author to publish a book.” — Kevin Weiss

Write, edit, design, publish, market, sell your own book and book rights with highly experienced publishing staff assisting you?  The self-publishing opportunity has changed significantly.

Book formats and channels of distribution will continue to evolve, but one thing remains constant in book publishing – it’s a hit or miss business.  Even the most experienced editors and publishers agree you often can’t predict where the next hit is going to come from.  The high risk of book publishing – the advances, promotion and printing in a market where brick and mortar chains are disappearing and thousands of new products are released every month — explains why fewer new authors and even established authors are simply not getting book deals anymore.  But everyone has a story to tell and everyone should have the chance to have his voice heard.  

Kevin Weiss, CEO of Author Solutions, is one of the major game changers helping to spur the fastest growing segment in the publishing industry today — the self-published author.   I had the pleasure to talk with him about the new technologies and services that are helping more authors achieve their personal publishing goals, as well as helping traditional publishers and passionate readers discover new talent.

How large is the self-publishing business in the US market today?  Can you break it into print books and ebooks?

I’ll give you a few numbers, and then I’ll discuss them in more detail.  Last year, there were approximately 225,000 ISBNs created for traditionally published books.  In addition, there were approximately 2 million ISBNs created for non-traditionally published books (including ebooks) that found their way into the distribution channels.  Many of those ISBNs were issued to authors who were bringing books back into print.  Because of that, we can’t say for sure what the actual new self-published book numbers were, but it is safe to say that number has likely increased significantly over the past few years.   Also, the current industry tracking doesn’t enable you to identify the split between new print and ebooks.  However, I estimate the self-published book market is probably around 150,000 titles in total per year.  Of those titles, Author Solutions will publish about 30,000 titles this year, and all of our titles will be published as paper and electronic books for all platforms. The other main players are Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes &Noble, and Lulu. 

What’s your forecast for ebooks over the next few years? 

Ebooks will eclipse print books.  Our authors’ revenue from ebooks is up tenfold from last year.  I would expect that to go up another fourfold during the next twelve months.  I would not be shocked if in the next couple of years we will see ebooks at 40% of the entire market.  Look at all of the ereaders and tablets that we are seeing in the market today, plus the fact that the prices are starting to drop on ebooks. In addition, this Christmas, there are going to be millions more devices given as gifts. What’s the first thing you do when you have one?  You buy a couple of books.  

"We hire editors from traditional publishers, and they are very good at what they do." — Kevin Weiss

Why should authors choose to publish their print or ebooks with Author Solutions?

There’s never been a better time for an author to publish a book.  There are so many options available today, starting at publishing for free, using assisted self-publishing, and even getting picked up by traditional publishers, although that market is shrinking.  Where Author Solutions fits in the continuum is we are an assisted self-publishing company.  

Have you ever tried to upload Word documents to some of the ebook platforms that are out there?  In many cases, it is a back-and-forth process. This can be very frustrating.  In addition, some authors need help with cover design or creation of the galley.  In other words, they want the added services that we bring to the table.  

We also offer every form of editorial service currently on the market, including content and developmental editing.  We have twenty people on staff in our editorial group, but we also have an extensive freelance editing group.  We hire editors from traditional publishers, and they are very good at what they do.  It’s a service that’s there for our authors if they wish.  

We also offer marketing services for authors that want to build a platform around their book.  Approximately 50% of our authors take advantage of some form of marketing service.  One example is Hollywood. We have built an organization out in California that has deep connections in the film industry.  We created a forum that we call Pitchfest where we teach people how to pitch their concepts to Hollywood executives. We have helped about 300 of our authors pitch their books.  This is one example of a service, but we offer over 200 unique services across the marketing spectrum.

One secret of the industry is that the traditional publishing companies do not extensively market every book they publish.  They expect the author to build the platform and bring it with the book.  No-one is able to sell a book better than the author. The author is expected to invest in marketing.  Self-published authors are no different – they have to invest in marketing. 

Amazon has entered the hit or miss business with its Encore imprint.  Is a traditional imprint in your plans for the future?

My boss asks me that on a regular basis.  I don’t think we are equipped to pick what will be a hit in the marketplace.  I don’t think that’s something we will get into.  I’ll tell you what we do instead.  We have publishing partnerships with six houses: Thomas Nelson, Hay House, Harlequin, B&H Publishing, Writer’s Digest and Guideposts.  With these partnerships, we have created self-publishing imprints where authors make the initial investment, but the publishing partner watches the titles for those that may be worthy of being picked up. A number of them have already been picked up.

What about an author who is selling well?  What capabilities do you have to further increase sales of those titles?

We have pushed some of our authors with increased marketing from time to time. There are a lot of great self-published books out there. When we see them we do our best to get them in front of the right audiences. 

What are the major changes for Author Solutions in the future?

We’re seeing a huge explosion in our international business.  The UK is seeing resurgence in growth.  We launched in Australia and New Zealand about a year ago, are about to launch in Singapore and are currently doing final stages of due diligence for South Korea and Japan.  We’re also seeing a lot of growth in our publishing partnership business.  In the future, you will see us get into ebook-only kinds of imprints.  

A lot of electronic books that come out today are not properly formatted.  We want to come up with a better model for the electronic book that helps authors create better products.  We’re also working on things in the audio area.  I think there’s potential for DIY audio books.  And finally, we want to build tools that help authors get discovered in this new world of eBooks. 

I also believe that we are the largest self-publisher of children’s books in the world.  We’ve done over 24,000.  Children’s books allow you to do fun and interesting things with tablets, including using audio to prerecord parents or grandparents reading the book to a child.  We’ve been able to turn pictures into puzzles, which then enables kids to interact further with the product.  I think all this transforms the reading experience for young children.   What we have also discovered is that kids are more engaged with the book for much longer and even learn new things.  

Any special message to authors for the holidays?

There has never been a better time to be an author.  You have more opportunity and choice than ever before.  If you have been considering writing a book – do it!   As Lisa Genova, author of Still Alice, who published with us because she could not get a traditional publisher to pick her up, said, “It just doesn’t do any good to leave that manuscript in the bottom drawer.” Thank goodness she didn’t because nine months after publishing with us she was picked up by Simon & Schuster and debuted at number 5 on the NY Times Bestseller list. 

Finally, a message to all of the readers out there, support Indie authors. Encourage them through your purchases and comments. You will find some incredible reads out there. 

                Kevin Weiss and C. M. Rubin

(Photos courtesy of Author Solutions, Inc.)

How Will We Read? Community Page

C.M. Rubin has more than two decades of professional experience in development, marketing, and art direction for a diverse range of media businesses. She is the author of the widely read on-line series, The Global Search for Education, and is also the author of three bestselling books, including The Real Alice in Wonderland.

Follow C. M. Rubin on Twitter:

Tagged: AmazonAuthor SolutionsBarnes & NobleC. M. RubinDEcline of BookstoresEbooksEreadersFuture of BooksHow Will We Read?Kevin WeissLuluPitchfestSelf-PublishingFlashSmashwords

How Will We Read - In Book Chains?

“Waterstone’s is to the British what Barnes and Noble is to Americans” – C. M. Rubin

British businessman James Daunt gave up a career on New York’s Wall Street at the end of the 1980’s to occupy the world of bookshops —  “the kind of bookshops he would like to visit”  (shops, not stores, as Daunt likes to call them).   If you’ve ever been to one of the 6 extraordinarily  beautiful  Daunt bookshops in London (a tourist attraction in travel guides) you will understand why people call James Daunt one of the all-time great booksellers.  

Waterstone’s is to the British what Barnes and Noble is to Americans — the last of the UK’s major book chains, after Border’s collapse last year.  Founded in 1982 by Tim Waterstone, the chain consists of 296 shops.  In 1993, Waterstone’s was bought by its major competitor, WH Smith, which sold it to HMV Group PLC in 1998.  Billionaire Russian businessman Alexander  Mamut  bought  the struggling chain earlier this year from HMV and installed James Daunt as its Chief Executive.

Can James Daunt achieve success with Waterstone’s in face of its competitors and the evolution in the ways we read?  I had the opportunity to discuss this with him.

James, how will we read in the future?  

I think we will be reading books in all sorts of ways and probably reading the same books in different ways.  You may well own a digital reader and you may be reading a book on a number of different platforms as well as in the paper book format.  I don’t think it’s a question of the paper book disappearing .  I think the paper book will continue to hold its own in some sectors.  However, compared with today, our reading  will transfer to a much greater degree to the digital medium.

How hard will it be for books continue to compete with all the alternative forms of entertainment in the future?

You are talking to the parent of two teenage children, so I know this is a challenge, and it has always been a challenge, even when I was a child.  If the media by which you choose to do a portion of your reading is some form of electronic device, whereby with one swipe you have your entry into many other forms of entertainment, then clearly the challenge is much greater than it was in my day when television was seen as the end of reading.  

For Waterstone’s to continue to be successful you will need to have strong digital sales and strong sales in your brick and mortar outlets.  How do you plan to achieve this?

We are the process of finalizing the launch details of our own digital reader.  The physical environment of our bookshops is very stimulating and that continues to have an enduring appeal to a certain part of the market.  Our shops need to continue to earn their customer’s loyalty and be places of real recreation.  People must choose to visit them because they love them.  While customers are there, they will hopefully select our digital reader or tablet over someone else’s.  Similar to the Barnes and Noble Nook proposition, we in the UK need to be making the same proposition to our customers.  The UK is much smaller than the US and the density of our stores is much greater.  About 87% of the UK population is within a 30 minute drive of a Waterstone’s and is able to visit one of our shops on a regular basis.  So it is about us making the physical environment of our stores utterly compelling and therefore it is completely natural that you will use our devices to download your digital books.

“From a customer’s point of view, having someone who has sensibly and intelligently curated a book for him or her is hugely beneficial” – James Daunt

Prior to joining  Waterstone’s, you ran your own bookshops recognized for their excellence in each community.  Any changes planned based on this experience to the structure you find at Waterstone’s?

And extremely quickly! I am dramatically changing the structure of this business to propel exactly that transformation from which we have homogenous offerings throughout all our shops to one in which we are going to a local and regional selection of books.  This is really to inject individual personality into each of our shops which I believe is essential.  A homogenous offering works well with a limited range of products but the opposite applies with books.  We are offered literally millions of titles and it is about creating a bookshop from amongst that large list that applies to the particular demographics of the store’s location.  Of course, you must bring in the systems and the techniques that allow your booksellers to do this.

How important is the bookseller?

Booksellers are central to all of this.  What are important about them are their individual qualities as well as their skills.  I have now met the booksellers within Waterstone’s and the quality is exceptional.  You are talking about people with a decade or two of experience and dedication to the job of selling books.  Bookselling is a culture that motivated me to come to Waterstone’s.  

Bookshops are part of the cultural fabric of this country.  Bookselling is something you just get better and better at.   From a customer’s point of view, having someone who has sensibly and intelligently curated a book for him or her is  hugely beneficial .  

If only we could lock the experienced bookseller into the ereader.

That happens if you choose your digital reader in a bookstore environment.  I have a digital reader and I also like to own a real copy of the book. I don’t think it’s one or the other.  I do think, however, that selecting a book in a book environment is still one of the most pleasurable places to do it.   

An author no longer needs to go to a traditional publisher.  An author can self-publish with highly experienced professionals guiding the process.  How do you see the evolution of the publishing process with respect to authors and publishing companies?

I think the publishers still have an enormously important role.  Part of it is the physical production of the book as well as warehouse and distribution.  Publishers, in terms of the marketing and support that they can give a book, are important.  Let us also not forget the process of editing the book.  Helping the author who is trying to establish himself to deliver a great book requires genuine skills and these exist within publishing firms.  Once you are established and have gotten the brand name, you see more people saying they can do it by themselves.  

Do you anticipate dealing directly with self-published authors in the future?

I think that is possible.  There are an enormous number of self-published authors out there and if J. K. Rowling decides to produce her own book, we shall certainly deal with her.  I actually think that the big elephant in the room, the game changer in publishing, is much more likely to be Amazon.  There is a clear dynamic within Amazon to dominate its markets.  Then it may push towards the logical conclusion which I see as swallowing up the publishing industry.  However, my money is on the publishing companies for the reasons I have already articulated.  I do think that where the money is made in publishing will shift.  Where there is rare talent, more money will stick to it as it does in most forms of culture.   

Why should the consumer’s first choice of a gift be a book this season?

You give a book because it gives a tremendous amount of enjoyment.  If you give your teenager a beautifully made book now, she will be able to pass it on to future generations.  The literary fiction and non-fiction this year are extraordinarily strong.  We’ve got a new Robert Harris.  There’s a phenomena in the UK that is called Jamie Oliver.  I suspect for us in the UK it will be Claire Tomalin’s Charles Dickens: A Life,  Max Hastings’ Inferno, Simon Jenkins’  A Short History of England, Jeremy Paxman’s Empire, and the list goes on.

What will you be buying your daughter for Christmas?

I am on a highly successful drive with my teenage daughter, whom having gone through a phase of thinking that Facebook and You Tube were the only places to bury herself,  has suddenly discovered Russian literature.  So I am buying her nice editions of the great Russian classics such as Anna Karenina.  I don’t know whether this drive will last but I am certainly going to milk it for all its worth!

James Daunt and C. M. Rubin

(Photos courtesy of Waterstone’s)

How Will We Read? Community Page

C.M. Rubin has more than two decades of professional experience in development, marketing, and art direction for a diverse range of media businesses. She is the author of the widely read on-line series, The Global Search for Education, and is also the author of three bestselling books, including The Real Alice in Wonderland.

Follow C. M. Rubin on Twitter:

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How Will We Read: In Schools?

How must the role of the school library and the school librarian evolve in the 21st century school? Our time is an information age. There are many unique challenges we face related to information such as accuracy, ownership, accessibility and privacy. Lifestyles are more hectic than ever, which means we feel the need to process information faster. It seems more often than ever we hear concerns about the lack of media literacy. Whom or what can we trust? Both formal and informal sources of information have been challenged. What does this mean for our children? Naturally that depends on the kind of society we want to create. However, I think we would all agree that it is essential we help our children navigate and interpret the vast complex pool of material they are exposed to so as to make informed judgments both as users of information and as future creators of information. Has there ever been a time in our history more crucial for kids to have the right kind of support?

I had the pleasure to chat with Carl Harvey, President of the American Association of School Librarians about the SKILLS Act (Strengthening Kids’ Interest in Learning and Libraries) among other things related to the impact of 21st century school libraries on the educational process as well as college and career preparedness.

Carl, what are the issues facing 21st century school libraries?

I think the biggest issues facing school libraries are the same issues facing education as a whole: budgets and funding. I think schools are grappling with those issues on every level. We are trying to get the funding that we need for collections, staffing and other resources.

I think there is also a perception that if we don’t have the paper books then we don’t need the library or the librarians in schools. I think it’s flawed logic. Information is changing its format; yes, it’s online, it’s an ebook, it’s a book you can download onto an iPad, but it’s still information. Kids need to know how to evaluate it even more so now than before because there is much more of it. Kids need to be able to determine whether it is useful or valid information. Librarians take the lead in helping educate students through the information jungle, and with even more sources and formats, the role of the librarian becomes even more critical. So even though paper books are becoming less prominent, the skills needed are even more advanced than what was needed before. School librarians are critical to helping students navigate through this information explosion.

What are the important changes 21st century school libraries need to make to continue to attract their student audience?

I think school libraries are looking at ways that kids can work in small groups. Libraries are not a quiet place anymore. There are lots of activities and classes going on, including instruction, checking out materials, bringing in special speakers, bringing in the community, letting the kids perform, and setting up a café or a special place like that. Libraries are always looking at services they can provide to their patrons. I think the other thing that is the big draw is that when you come to that library you also have that librarian. You have someone you can quickly go to for help in terms of facilitating your project. If a kid is off somewhere by himself, he may not have that support or service. And so I think all those things combined create a place where kids want to go.

What will 21st century school libraries do as digital books become more and more accessible?

I think we will do what we’ve always done each time we got a new format, such as audio books and video tapes. We figure out what is the best way to provide those types of resources for our patrons. What is more difficult with ebooks is the vast amount of different readers that are out there. It is therefore a more complicated issue to figure out. Right now you are seeing different pockets of people trying different things to try and figure out what might be the best plan, and I don’t know that the best plan exists yet. We have a product here called myOn Reader which uses ebooks from a library publisher. We also have Playaways. We also have ebooks from other publishers’ catalogs, so there are many different things which we are exploring, trying to see what might be the best system. At this point it’s all still new and people are trying to figure out what the best model is going to be. We have students with many different devices (or no devices), so how do we make sure the resources we’re purchasing can work on a multitude of platforms and devices? How do we provide access for students who don’t have devices? Lots of issues to consider.

So if I asked what is the timetable to opening library doors to a digital library what might your response be?

There are school libraries that are already doing that but there is not a consistent way across the country that this is being done. We’re asking ourselves: what are my patrons asking for? That’s what we need to figure out. It’s in process. Ebooks is a very hot topic in our field at this point.

Why is the Skills Act so important?

(Note: The Skills Act was conceived to help improve student achievement by ensuring more students have access to effective school library programs that will allow them to compete in today’s information age. The Skills Act would provide more funding to enhance library programs such as digital literacy instruction for librarians, increased staffing levels in school libraries, better co-ordination between librarians and teachers, and reducing the “access gap” between schools in wealthy communities versus those where there are high levels of poverty.)

When “No Child Left Behind” was passed, school libraries were not mentioned at all in the legislation. Our hope with the Skills Act is to put school libraries in and be recognized as a vital part of the school ecosystem and as important educators in the school system. The Skills Act asks that government support school library programs so that they support all students. We are trying to paint the picture of what a 21st century school library should look like — a digital collection with digital resources as well as print. We’re trying to get some funding for school libraries targeted from the Federal level. For more information:

Any final thoughts on 21st century school libraries: why are they such an important part of our culture and why must we continue to support them?

I think all libraries in general provide their patrons access to information whether online or print. That access is a core value. School librarians are also teachers. And so their role is to help students figure out how they get through all of the information that is out there. How do I figure out if this is valid? How do I figure out if this is relevant? As information continues to explode, there is a limit as to how much content school is going to be able to cover in K through 12. Therefore, we have to provide our kids with processes and systems to deal with all the information they are going to get beyond the content that they get in school, so that when they leave us, they can find the information they need for their job and figure out how to use it effectively. I think that the school library’s place is to help with that process.

                   Carl Harvey and C. M. Rubin

(Photos courtesy of Carl Harvey and Henmead Enterprises, Inc.)

How Will We Read? Community Page

C.M. Rubin has more than two decades of professional experience in development, marketing, and art direction for a diverse range of media businesses. She is the author of the widely read on-line series, The Global Search for Education, and is also the author of three bestselling books, including The Real Alice in Wonderland.

Follow C. M. Rubin on Twitter:

Tagged: 21st Century LibrariesAmerican Association of School LibrariansAmerican Library AssociationC. M. RubinCarl HarveyDigital Book LibrariesDigital LiteracyEreadersHow Will We ReadEbooksSchool LibrariesThe SKILLS ActLibrarians


Response to Huffington Post Blog about Book Publishing

CM Rubin is the author of two best–selling, award-winning books.  Her third book, The Real Alice in Wonderland, is currently available in retail bookstores nationally. 

I found your article interesting, although a little long and perhaps in need of a little editing, but certainly well written enough for your arguments to be understood and debated by your readers. I do not believe that you adequately understand what is happening in publishing today or the pros and cons of self-publishing today, possibly because you didn’t have enough time to research it before writing your article.  As an author with 20 years of experience in virtually every publishing medium, and who is both traditionally published and self-published, I would like to give you an update on what is happening. Traditional publishing is in decline and fewer books are being produced.  Self-publishing is booming and has come a long way from where it used to be.  There are both traditionally published authors and talented newcomers making use of self-publishing.  The best authors are getting their work edited by publishing professionals.  The editors used by these writers are either freelancers who are out of work due to the enormous cut-backs in traditional publishing, or professionals provided by the better self-publishing companies.  Most of the development staff I know in the good self-publishing companies came from executive positions in the publishing world.  Authors of self-published books are also getting their work reviewed by respected trade and consumer book reviewers because these publications are realizing that there are increasing numbers of great books being self-published.  Authors of self-published books are also getting their books promoted at independent bookstores, online retailers and at national retailers such as Barnes and Noble and Borders, because store buyers are realizing that there are great books being offered to them that their customers want to read.  As regards promotion, authors can get guidance from their self-publishing companies on marketing and promotion, and in many cases, the authors have managed to do a better job themselves than if the traditional publisher had managed the project.  In fairness to the traditional publisher, they don’t have the staff or budget to do effective promotion in every case.  An example is my book, The Real Alice in Wonderland, the true story of my relative Alice Liddell’s life.  My book has achieved all the things I have just described but had to be self published because the traditional publisher couldn’t turn it around fast enough for the release of Tim Burton’s film. I agree that writers should certainly seek perfection in their work.  The focus of the struggle to be published or to self-publish should be about creating the best book that it is within you to write. Progress and technology in the publishing world now make it possible to self-publish when you have your masterpiece so perhaps the most important difference is that no one can ever stop you from having your voice heard again.
Yours most sincerely,
C.M. Rubin

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