Theodore Gray, the co-founder of Wolfram Research, said at the O-Reilly Media Tools of Change for Publishing conference that “next-generation book publishers will need multiple disciplines—programming, writing and video—to be successful.” They need to be very high-quality, and textbooks in particular need to embrace the digital age. One example of what Gray has in mind is Touch Press’ Elements iPad app and the Solar System tool, both of which are very enhanced. Gray said, “I don’t think there’s a future in paying for ordinary textbooks. No one will pay for simple textbooks. People will pay for interactivity.”
So it seems in order to be successful, publishers will need to recruit programmers and television producers. This means the cost of making these enhanced e-books will be more expensive, so how will publishers price these new products?
On Tuesday, Apple “released the official details regarding App Store subscriptions.” Apple’s terms are that publishers “must now offer subscriptions for purchase within their apps if they intend to have a subscription option at all.” And of course, Apple gets 30 percent of purchased subscriptions. Publishers are able to offer subscriptions outside of their apps (on their websites, etc.), but if they do so, they must also have in-app subscriptions. Apple will also not allow publishers to have in-app links to their websites or subscriptions, which means that pretty much all customers will subscribe through in-app purchases, guaranteeing Apple that 30 percent cut. But, to make publishers feel better, Apple will now provide data about customers. This seems a little controlling of Apple, but we’ll have to wait and see how publishers feel about it.
After about a century, the serial novel is making a comeback. Thanks to e-books and the Web, novels can easily be any length, and publishers have been experimenting with serial novels again. In 2000, Stephen King posted chapters of his story, “The Plant” for $1 each on his website—unfortunately hackers ended up shutting it down. But two weeks ago, The Huffington Post starting posting serial novels. The first one is called “Seeing Red,” by Claudia Ricci, and it is free. Additionally, this week Jeopardy champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter are competing against the IBM supercomputer, Watson. Stephen Baker has written a book entitled “Final Jeopardy: Man vs. Machine and the Quest to Know Everything,” and all but the final chapter, which will come out after the three-day tournament, has been posted online.
I guess the takeaway here is that print may be dying, but the Internet is reviving old literary forms and inspiring new types of writing.