wall street journal on networked books and GAM3R 7H30RY 09.11.2006, 10:55 AM
posted by ben vershbow
The Wall Street Journal has a big story today on networked books (unfortunately, behind a paywall). The article covers three online book experiments, Pulse, The Wealth of Networks, and GAM3R 7H30RY. The coverage is not particularly revelatory. What's notable is that the press, which over the past decade-plus has devoted so much ink and so many pixels to ebooks, is now beginning to take a look at a more interesting idea. ("The meme is launched!" writes McKenzie.) Here's the opening section:
As 'networked' books start to appear, consumers, publishers and authors get a glimpse of publishing to come
"Networked" books -- those written, edited, published and read online -- have been the coming thing since the early days of the Internet. Now a few such books have arrived that, while still taking shape, suggest a clearer view of the possibilities that lie ahead.
In a fairly radical turn, one major publisher has made a networked book available free online at the same time the book is being sold in stores. Other publishers have posted networked titles that invite visitors to read the book and post comments. One author has posted a draft of his book; the final version, he says, will reflect suggestions from his Web readers.
At their core, networked books invite readers online to comment on a written text, and more readers to comment on those comments. Wikipedia, the open-source encyclopedia, is the ultimate networked book. Along the way, some who participate may decide to offer up chapters translated into other languages, while still others launch Web sites where they foster discussion groups centered on essays inspired by the original text.
In that sense, networked books are part of the community-building phenomenon occurring all over the Web. And they reflect a critical issue being debated among publishers and authors alike: Does the widespread distribution of essentially free content help or hinder sales?
If the Journal would make this article available, we might be able to debate the question more freely.
Monica McCormick on September 13, 2006 11:49 AM:
I wish the WSJ would ask more than whether free online content helps or hinders sales. (The evidence from the National Academies Press, who release all their books simultaneously online and in print, suggests that at least it doesn't hurt.)
The network allows engagement that traditional marketing and even free online access don't. What will this mean, both for the business model and the intellectual model of publishing? Farrar, Straus & Giroux need to answer to their corporate owners, but Harvard and Yale UPs have a somewhat different situation -- they are supposed to break even while distributing high-quality scholarship. Can networked scholarship cover its costs, so as to enable Benkler's "wealth of networks" ?
ray on September 13, 2006 3:28 PM:
Answers to those questions would be helpful to know and are important to ask. Although, the results will be temporary. Right now, because giving away free digital copies is new, the act gets extra press and interest. Will the effect change over time, as more examples grow and people the newness factor wears off?
Also, many people prefer to read print over say, pdf for lengthy text. If the digital reading technology and format improve over time, the economic effects of releasing free digital content will most likely change as well.
Pale Rider on September 13, 2006 4:15 PM:
Can you post the full URL to the WSJ article for those of us that subscribe?
ben vershbow on September 13, 2006 5:43 PM:
Try this. I've also added it into the post. It's difficult to locate even the link to a WSJ story if you're not a subscriber.
Antony Van Couvering on September 14, 2006 7:22 PM:
Yes, the WSJ policy is ridiculous. Since we did the Pulse book, I pulled out the relevant sections and excerpted them on my blog at http://www.namesatwork.com/blog/2006/09/11/wall-street-journal-exposes-nameswork/
My post focuses on Pulse and Names@Work, but I have excerpted different content there for any of your readers who are interested but don't have a WSJ subscription.