thursday january 18 2007
UnBound: My notes from the Event
...because giving it away for free feeds appetites and doesn't cannibalize business.

Stephen J. Dubner, Josh Kilmer-Purcell, J.A. Konrath, Cory Doctorow
UnBound, was a Google-hosted event on the topic of advancing publishing in a digital age.
Google Books wants Publishers to get it and participate, to make their content accessible online via Google Books, and to help and to help Google fulfill their mission of orgainzing the information of the world and making it universally accessible..
Chris Anderson author of The Long tail and Editor-in-Chief of Wired Magazine, Seth Godin, marketing author, Cory Doctorow, sci-fi and Wired author, and co-edtitor of Boing Boing, Stephen J. Dubner, Freakonomics, Tim O'Reilly, and lots of other folks, including Dan Weiss, Publisher, SparkNotes/Barnes & Noble
The New York Public Library
January 18, 2006
My Notes, bulleted:
People, facts, topics, and notions mentioned by the event's speakers
  • Moore's Law

  • Kryder's Law, from which, in terms of capacity, one can deduce that by the year 2020, an iPod will be able to hold all the content ever created in the world

  • Ted Nelson, the inventor of hypertext

  • The average book sells 500 copies/year.

  • Free distribution stimulates, doesn't cannibalize, sales

  • blurb.com, online self-publishing tool

  • Fact: There are one billion people online

  • There's a 1 Gigapixel camera out there

  • Someone said "follow the user" and that sounded like a good antidote to "follow the money" (but doesn't mean the opposite thing)

  • Consumers (which was later announced to be a bad word; you can't argue, it's is unispiring compared to 'readers') spend equal times online as watching TV today, in general

  • Students, when shopping online, purchase Clothes the most, Books second most. (Not in dollars spent, probably in numbers of transactions or items purchased.)

  • The Long Tail, the long tail, the long tail...

  • Print-on-demand can offer other unique personalisation tools like print my book in large type, please

  • Several quoted Tim O'Reilly's sentiment that books search should work like web search

  • Search | Community (peers, trading) | Workflow (mashups!)

  • "It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive (adaptive) to change" —Charles Darwin

    • Maintained a blog on an economic theory for the 2 years between writing his article on 'The Long Tail' and publishing his book on the same topic.)

    • Own the meme

    • Feed the meme

    • Tap distributed intelligence

    • Beta test, peer review

    • Generate authentic, organized conversation, and "buzz"

    • Readers contribute to the book, through contests!

    • Fed a free copy of his book to any blogger/reviewer who asked for it (gave away 1,000 books; got 900 reviews.)

    • Had book-topic Meetups instead of book signings

    • Ask nicely (Please buy my book.)

    • Q:Blogs vs. books: When, Why?
      A: Blogs are appropriate for external context, distributed idea, background is out there and you have an idea which needs to be sahred in context of an external conversation

    • Commodity information wants to be free...

    • Customized, special information wants to be really expensive (Anderson gives the books away, charges six figures for public speaking gigs)

    • e.g. The free book markets the expensive service


    • ...It's not the publisher's goal to sell paper!

    • This doesn't mean he thinks the paper book is going to go away

    • He's pointing out that the medium isn't the inspiration, the idea is.

    • e.g. Publishers are in the idea-selling business

    • Someone named Kevin Kelly wrote a book on independent film and released it in 5 formats!

    • Lulu self publishing website/tool: Currently over 68,000 titles. You now own your press (show ye olde powerpoint slide of Guttenberg).


    • Scott Adams (Dilbert) published his email address on his cartoons, because he's smart and lazy, in hopes of getting jokes emailed to him. He did. He writes his cartoon from these user-submissions, now! And he said to these people who emailed him Do you want to hear from me sometimes via my e-newsletter?, And thereby got their permission for him to contact them. Now, when he publishes a new book, he hits one button on his keyboard and wa la, his book goes #1 on the NYT best seller list. This is called "Permission Asset". Gaining permission to talk to the people who want to be talked to about your thing.

    • Give poele the tool to talk to other poeple about the idea: Megaphone.

    • The paper book is a souvenir. Book sellers are, when they print a book, in the souvenir business. They sell a souvenir of the idea.

    • The idea is free.

    • His book is free: The souvenir is $40: hit #5 in sales on Amazon

    • Don't put barriers on the spreading of ideas, make connections and start communities around the ideas.


    • His Creative Commons licensed book distributed 30,000 copies in 24 hours

    • His next book he released it (CC) but with a 'Developing nations can whatever you want with my book just don't bring the remix back to the Developed world' license

    • 'give it away as much as you can'

    • Cory's podcast of him reading his book: "Intimate!"

    • Copyrights are of no use to readers

    • Before the internet, we called it culture

    • We're in a Leisure Surplus!

    • Two clicks away from anything is an 'anti fitness' factor. There are 50 other things competeing for attention every second, nobody will ever have the time, not in a whole lifetime, to click it all.

    • Don't call users Consumers. Call them Readers.

    • A consumer is an ambulatory wallett. Reference to some armless legless hippo who can only change channels on the TV to express itself... (mental note, need to read more sci fi)

    • Copying is inherently social. You don't copy for yourself only. You copy to share.

    • Social connections make information spread.

    • The future composts the past, to quote Bruce Sterling

    • Attention Conservation Notice: You should know from reading the headline if you want to read the intro. You should know from reading the intro if you want to read the post/article.

    • No one has ever succeeded by telling audience or readers they were wrong.

    • Free e-books make commercial sense

    • oh, and DRM doesn't work

    • The music industry isn't the music industry, it's a just thugs sucking the life out of musicians who were unfortunate enough to make a bad business deal. This may have been said by Chris Anderson instead.

  • What you have to offer is your key to success. Not what you have to sell.

  • Mentioned: Federated Media

  • FROM J.A.KONRATH, the Newbie's Guide to Publishing

    • In Marketing, try to reach that specific small number of people interested in your book (idea), from identifying that small group, instead of hoping that a small number of the masses to whom you tried to shove it down their throat, will want it. (E.g. bottom-up, not top-down marketing).

    • There are people out there actively looking for what you have to offer.


    • Image of dominatrix as his publicist

    • 43% of people feel as strongly about their online community as about their real-world friends, e.g. we all still play with imaginary friends. Mention of Second Life.

    • Embrace communism for capitalism's sake

    • He found a community on MySpace, by searching for people who liked David Sedaris, and another cross-dresser, to market his his memoir of his life as a cross-dresser, I Am Not Myself These Days into a NYTimes best seller

    • Contests. Lots of contests to engage interested audience and generate buzz.

    • Contests which unwittingly pimped out his editor (as editor), twice, as prize for said contest.

    • Pooled resources with three other authors he met on MySpace to market their memoirs (with more contests) thereby starting The Memoirists Collective

    Cory Doctorow, boing boing, wired

    On a side note, an economomics student at Yale named Keith Chen wanted to study what happened when he gave money to capuchin monkeys, and Stephen J. Dubner and Steven Levitt did a peice on it for their Freakonomics series in the NYTimes Magazine. In addition, they put the videos of Chen's monkey's on the Feakonomics website. But Yale got paranoid and made them take the videos down. Too bad. Monkeys make great video.
  • Turns out the monkeys often used their money to pay one another for sex.

  • One good, obvious idea: Google people who are blogging about your topic that you're writing about. Then contact them and give them free copies of whatever you're marketing. Maybe they'll blog about it and link to it and become one of your tribe. So to speak.


  • Tim O'Reilly showing a chart of activity representing the Wikipedia entry for Evolution
    • He wanted to change the world by spreading the ideas of innovators. That's what publishing meant to him. So, however he did that was acceptable. Not just printing books on paper.

    • (He of course wrote the initial "What is Web 2.0" paper)

    • What is Web 2.0? He gave a powerpoint presentation

      • Of the Killer Aps of the new millenium all were centered around information, such as Google, Amazon, CraigsList, EBay, YouTube...

      • Of these aps, they were software-as-service

      • Of these aps, they were internet as platform...

      • Of these aps, they thrived on user-contribution (google studied the links on other web pages, craigslist and YouTube just is user-content, Amazon embraced reader-reviews and 'others-who-bought this...' data.

      • LJWorld.com - Local Kansas newspaper harnessed user-generated content by creating a web page for anyone who wanted to post their coverage of local events (including Little League games). User-generated content. Provide the tools for information sharing. An early spark of citizen journalism here.

      • O'Reilly: "The skill of programming is to create a context in which other people can share." (or something like this)

    • Ray Kurzweil mention. He said something like "...the invention has to make sense in the world it finishes, not the world in which it started..."

    • The O'Reilly TOC (tools for change) conference

    • tim.oreilly.com

    • Let us not forget make magazine

    • "User generated content doesn't mean no editors, it means different kinds of editing processes"

  • SparkNotes had also beautifully designed powerpoint slides (stealing the show from the old publishing models' powerpoint slides, with their silly sliding-in motion, and their textured backgrounds.)

  • Free Content Doesn't Cannibalize Sales, It Sells Books.

  • Everyone under 25 spends more time online than anywhere else.

  • Duke University gives iPods to incoming freshman, then distributes lectures via PodCast

  • MIT's Opencourseware movement is coming soon! What's that? MIT is giving all of it's courseware away online... For Free.

  • Because sharing content leads to greater knowledge. And they believe it will lead to greater enrollment, too.

  • The democratization of information levels the playing field, and technology can help enable this.

  • Michael Holdsworth from The Cambridge Press (who was almost even more British-distinguished than the English gentleman who spoke in the morning, David Worlock, Chairman, Electronic Publishing Services Ltd., but not quite.) said a lot of interesting things about how they brought old book titles out from their 'out of print' status, and they make them electronically available online, and they sell... whereas before when they were out of print, they weren't selling ... But now they're selling! And it's relatively cheap for them to digitize this and the profit margin is farily high, even if they only sell 1,000 copies. They do this for 10,000 books, and, its the whole Long Tail thing.

  • However, apparently the printing and the paper in a book is only about 10% of the cost of publishing a hard copy of a book. The physical warehousing is only about another 10% of the cost. So says Christoph Chesher, of Taylor and Francis publishing.

  • Authors' royalties still cost the same.

  • Cory Doctorow will have rebuttal later, probably.

  • In the UK, when an e-book sells, it requires a 17.5% VAT (tax), which a hard copy book doesn't!?

  • In Closing: Marissa Mayer, V.P., Search Products & User Experience, Google: When Google builds a product, they like to ignore CPU power questions, storage and bandwidth questions and instead focus on the User. Solve problems for people. Launch, innovate, iterate. Follow the feedback. Revenue will come later.

  • Lastly, Google is like a switchboard between Users, Content Providers and Advertisers (diagram with red, green, blue, and yellow, google in the middle. (Decide to rent Alphaville again).