The concept of content as king was a welcome one upon landing in New York late today, and the Tools of Change for Publishing conference was not a surprising source from which to hear it. Northern California companies Chronicle Books and host O’Reilly (along with Ignite co-founder Brady Forrest) were on hand to talk about e-book and digital publishing and pricing. Printing and distribution negotiations for digital works were among the main themes for the first day of TOC:
Digital Printing: Magellan Media’s Brian O’Leary and Mockingbird Publishing’s Ashley Gordon discussed print-on-demand as an opportunity to save money on limited run or archived titles. Instabooks and those printed on site and on demand may be able to be printed in under four minutes, and while the quick turn-around Espresso Book Machine preferred by university publishers in growing in popularity, I’m more intrigued by the opportunity for people who wouldn’t otherwise get a large print deal to bring their work to the market.First-time and repeat authors alike are taking more advantage than ever of the services of a small but mighty group of publishers that offer specialty services for creators. Indiana’s AuthorHouse is said to help authors retain rights to their printed work while California’s Blurb and Picaboo photo books make self-publishing cost-effective (and for those seeking larger distribution, Amazon’s CreateSpace can help creators looking to make their work available for retail). These non-traditional publishing companies offer design and editorial assistance, and they’ve begun working with royalty publishing companies on product and author development (think of them as serving as baseball farm teams in the upcoming talent growth capacity).
Distribution Discussions: O’Reilly Media legal team’s Cali Bush’s talk about e-book and digital contracts included a strong stance against digital right management as a blanket security tool. As a publisher, her company uses a few key criteria for entering contractual agreements with distributors, to whom they offer up to 20 percent of a piece of work for advance audience preview. According to Bush, O’Reilly’s considerations in advance of signing content agreements include:
- Will some or all works by an author or in a particular category be made available? Is it the publishers’ obligation to make all relevant future works available?
- Does the publisher or distributor have the ability to withdraw available titles from audience access, even if they’ve already paid for them online or via e-readers?
- What rights are being granted to authors, and why? Does one deal guarantee exclusivity for future work?
Helpful criteria not just for publishers but for bloggers and word of mouth agencies as well, no doubt.