The Business of Publishing, presented by Code Meet Print and General Assembly: a 3-Session Seminar Series
Monday September 26th, Monday October 3rd, and Monday October 10th; 2011; from 8:00 to 9:30PM at General Assembly
In this 3-Session Series, students will be presented with a compelling and concise History of Publishing from Gutenberg to Kindle, review the evolution of creative, consumer, and commerce dynamics (and contemplate their future), and learn first-hand both the pitfalls and best practices of current disruptive Publishing ventures across Literary Fiction, Long Form Journalism, and the fast-growing world of Young Adult Fiction from Publishing and Tech innovators and stalwarts of the Code Meet Print NY Community: Richard Nash, Evan Ratliff and Jefferson Rabb, and Jacob Lewis.
Session I: From Gutenberg to PageMaker to Kindle and Beyond
Publishing begins with writing. Writing 1.0: That time in human civilization when story-telling is abundant but literacy is scarce. The commercialization of the printing press radically destabilizes Western civilization by undermining autocratic control of information and spawns the invention of copyright, of the novel, of journalism (and of genius). As the reproduction of culture and rate of literacy increase, the current publishing model of Author-Agent-Publisher-Wholesaler/Distributor-Retailer-Reader takes shape (see: The Advance Model). The digital production revolution begins in 1985 with Aldus PageMaker, the digital consumption revolution follows more than two decades later with the Amazon Kindle. This sends the supply chain model into a slow-motion crash, while a more consumer-driven model slowly emerges.
Observations and Hypotheses for Discussion:
1. Print doesn’t die since consumers still to want it, but like design and fashion, it becomes more bespoke
2. Clayton Christensen’s “Good Enough”-driven innovation disrupts, but also supports, incumbents
3. As barriers to entry fall, individual publishers’ competitive advantage decreases, while competition for marquee authors increases
4. The inability to deliver audience bedevils publishers in all other categories
5. Development of transmedia creates significant complexities as consumer demand is weak and ROI unclear
Richard Nash is VP of Community and Content of Small Demons, Founder of Cursor, and Publisher of Red Lemonade. From 2001-2009 he ran the iconic indie Soft Skull Press, where books he edited and published landed on bestseller lists of the Boston Globe and on Best of the Year lists from The Guardian to the Toronto Globe & Mail to the Los Angeles Times. He edited Lydia Millet’s Love in Infant Monkeys, a 2010 Pulitzer Prize finalist. The Utne Reader named him “One of Fifty Visionaries Changing Your World” and Mashable called him “The #1 Twitter User Changing the Shape of Publishing”.
Session II: Storytelling and its New Toolkit:
The Atavist, a Case Study – The Atavist Co-Founders Evan Ratliff and Jefferson Rabb
The Atavist is a digital publishing house with a dual mission: telling original stories and creating new storytelling tools. Since our launch in January 2011, we’ve produced a number of bestselling short multimedia ebooks for Kindle, Nook, and our iPad/iPhone App; launched a mobile publishing platform that other publishers are licensing for their own works; and combined the two to move from a bootstrapped to a profitable venture—one that pays its writers a living wage.
A year and a half ago, however, The Atavist consisted of a drawing on the back of a beer coaster. In this session we’ll walk back through how we got from there to here, how much we planned versus fell into, and the lessons that (we hope) might help you start your own. We’ll look at what it takes to find readers (and writers), the value of partnerships, the decision over whether to use available tools or build your own, and the ways in which thoughtful tech and design can allow a small outfit to play on the same field with the giants.
Evan Ratliff is the Co-Founder and Editor of The Atavist, a digital publishing house creating bestselling journalism and multimedia nonfiction for mobile devices. His writing also appears in Wired, The New Yorker, National Geographic, Outside, and many other publications. He is a past finalist for the National Magazine Award, and his writing on science, technology, crime, privacy, and terrorism has appeared in numerous anthologies, including “The Best of Technology Writing” 2006 and 2010, “The Best American Magazine Writing 2010,” and “The Best American Nonrequired Writing 2010.”
Jefferson Rabb is the Co-Founder and Creative Director of The Atavist. He is a programmer, Web designer, app developer, and game builder who has been creating innovative Web sites for the publishing world for over a decade. He has created a unique digital presence for best-selling authors Haruki Murakami, Jhumpa Lahiri, Laura Hillenbrand, Joshua Ferris, Gary Shteyngart, and many others. He previously worked on staff at MTV.com, Sephora.com, The Shooting Gallery, and Mutation Labs.
Session III: Endemic Vs. Systemic Problems in Print and The Potential for Success in Digital
Jacob Lewis, Co-Founder/CEO of Figment
Newspapers, magazines, and books are all suffering, but from very distinct Endemic and Systemic problems. Much of the focus over the past few years has been on the rising cost of printing and distribution, ignoring what have been enduring problems: Publishers’ relationships with consumers, a stubborn attitude about what it means to put their content on the internet, and an ignorance about what advertisers want from the products themselves.
Print industries have all made ham-fisted attempts to deal in the digital space, often by applying existing models. Their fear of the internet, borne out of watching newspapers suffer, is misappropriated and has kept them from exploring ways of embracing digital experiences and distribution. We will discuss what each of these industries is suffering from, what mistakes they’ve made along the way, and new solutions for finding success.
Jacob Lewis is the Co-Founder and CEO of Figment, an online community for teens and young-adults to create, discover, and share new reading and writing. Figment enables its users to read amateur and professional content and create their own unfiltered creative writing to share with their peers on web and mobile networks. Figment provides dozens of publishers with a unique marketing and branding tool and hundreds of schools and libraries with a space for individual classroom instruction, as well as a community of more than 60,000 teens who have produced over 150,000 pieces of writing. Jacob is the former Managing Editor of The New Yorker and of Conde Nast Portfolio.