Extending The Publishing Paradigm: Book As Souvenir

Innovation guru John Wolpert is always pushing the envelope. And so it comes as little surprise to learn that he is innovating again.

This time his innovation is within the publishing arena with the release of his first novel, The Hidden Stage.

Set in a civic theatre not unlike the one in John’s hometown, he was inspired to write this story by a trip to his local theatre in 4th grade. He recalls how he had to go to a play there, and thought he was too cool to go.  He remembers having a serious attitude about it.  But half-way into the show, he became totally mesmerized.  The end of the first chaper of The Hidden Stage has a moment for the main character, Alex Cole,  that is not dissimilar to something that happened to him – and it changed his life.

John believes that a lot of professional writers are starting to wake up to the notion that you don’t have to print heaps of dead tree in advance in order to publish.

The new way – and while the concept of this isn’t new, the practicality of it is very, very new – is to focus on your maven market (in the case of The Hidden Stage, the 100,000 volunteers and professionals at civic theaters in the US), go viral with them, and give them the ability to order the book on Amazon.

He found that using Scribd.com was also a huge bonus.  He is able to tell exactly how the book is doing online.   In ten minutes, he had the whole book – all 450 pages – online and embedded for reading on both his own site and on Scribd.com.

John’s strategy was to first write a compelling book that was a page-turner and then to really lower the barrier to reading that first page.  As reading any book is a serious investment of time, the cover and the site were fundamental to getting that first page read.

He scripted a Flash website to give potential readers a really good sense of what they would be getting if they embarked on reading the story.  Then he gave them a simple one-click path to reading the whole book online, and finally there is the link to Amazon.

John also points out that there is an alternative through Amazon, which is not self-publishing, but simple print-on-demand through BookSurge.  Instead of authors having to put up $$ to do mini print-runs, finally print-on-demand is here.  He says it costs a little more for the book buyer, but it is great that we can finally get books into readers’ hands without having to line the pockets of publishers…all the rest is tapping the market and knowing your audience.

What he’s seen so far from feedback is that people start by reading the first page just to see what it is about.  Then they read a bit more, because the story is exciting.  If the whole story was not available for free online, he suspects that he would not be getting readers to even try the first few pages…it’s psychological.   But then they decide they want the printed book, and can get it from Amazon.

As they say:  “If your idea isn’t good, you lose.  If your idea isn’t viral, you lose.  If people don’t want to buy your souvenir, you lose.”


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Broadband To Leapfrog Australia To Head Of The Tech Pack?

I’m writing this from my Sydney home, being back in the country for a few weeks over the summer. My wireless is running on iinet, which draws from the Telstra backbone and despite support calls it’s as patchy and slow as can be. I am comparing this to the speeds I get back in Silicon Valley, of course, and by no means would I even think to add South Korea into the mix.

Yet, I am reading in Fortune about Australia’s broadband savior, Sol Trujillo. If you are to believe this article, this white knight has single handedly changed the course of the country’s “tech scene” by “shaking up” Telstra, the dominant telco and steering it to invest in a next generation network.

I like what he is saying about “high-speed, near ubiquitous wireless broadband” being a game changer, but remain sceptical that we are talking about the same playing board.

Telstra totally dominates the telco arena in Australia. Their pricing is not globally competitive – before moving to Woodside, I was paying US$25 a month for all you can eat ultra high speed broadband in Palo Alto. “Broadband” in Sydney costs easily 3x as much and it’s capped. I cannot begin to compare what it would cost to run an iPhone in Australia!

It’s great to see companies like Momentum, which is mentioned in the Fortune piece, continuing to build their business in the country, but I wonder how much stronger they would be today were they playing on a more level playing field. [Disclosure, I was an investor in Momentum]

I’d love to hear from Australians what they think about this article – truth or a pr job…is Telstra helping or hindering your company’s business?


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Succeeding In Liew Of The Recession: 5 Tips For Internet Companies

Lightspeed Ventures partner, Jeremy Liew has written a great piece as his first Wall Street Journal guest column entry in which he explores a number of trends that will emerge in the new year.

His first point is that “even in a recession, people still want to be entertained”. I’d ratchet that statement up a notch – “especially in a recession, people need to be entertained”. Humans have a wonderful ability to side channel their consciousness to avoid discomforting things and escapism is rampant when times are tough.

He goes on to make some great points that are well worth reading. I look forward to reading more of his thoughts in further columns.

iPhone Emerges As Clear Cameraphone Leader

Back in August I posted a chart from Flickr showing the most popular cameraphones being used to post photos. It’s instructive to compare these charts again some four months later. The iPhone has torn open a huge chunk of white space from other cameraphones. It will, however, be interesting to see how the slight dip in the last week trends.

DeWolfe Talks Up MySpace

Speaking at the Reuters Media Summit, MySpace CEO Chris DeWolfe forecast advertising revenue growth in 2009. While advertising in general has slowed, he points to a continued switching trend form off to online media.

Still one of the world’s largest social networks, MySpace enjoyed an 18% year on year growth in revenue last quarter. It will indeed be impressive if they are able to keep this up.

There is growing speculation that MySpace may move towards a subscription model, something that DeWolfe does not corroborate nor does he rule it out.

He further points out that now is a good time to be contemplating acquisitions for cashed up companies (and private equity players looking to put their funds to work) as valuations are dropping off significantly.


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Yahoo Dips Into Single Digit Territory

This morning YHOO dipped to 9.83. This is a major inflection point for a company that could’ve sold itself to Microsoft a few weeks ago for at least three times that price per share.

Kara Swisher has weighed in asking questions regarding the company’s board. After Jerry Yang’s deer in the headlights performance at the Web 2.0 Summit last week, you’ve gotta wonder – where to from here guys?