O’Reilly Media’s Programming Scala won’t hit bookstore shelves for a long time. But the entire working manuscript has been posted to their site! Each and every paragraph, sidenote, chart and graph has a comment box underneath it. They are hoping that the community will contribute knowledgeble bits of information and ideas, which the author will vet and toss or incorporate. The idea is that this crowdsourcing filtered through their expert author will produce a more auhtoritative work.
Not too mention the marketing side of things. I guess one side could say “you’ll sell fewer books, because all of your hardcore readers have been reading while it’s been written”. Which might hold true for a few folks. But can you imagine the buzz this would build within the programming community? Or how much of a boost the book might get from folks talking about/buying a book that they were involved in producing? The system has a sign-in for commenters so that they can be credited in the final book, if their contribution is used. O’Reilly also provides RSS feeds for the various sections so that a commenter can keep up with that specific section of the text.
Obviously, this idea wouldn’t work for every type of book and the progamming community is a good place to start. It’s not the first book to be published from crwodsourced information, but it’s the first time, I’m aware of, a major publisher has added a crowdsourced component to the traditional publishing workflow. Which means that it gets checked and balanced by author and editor, which may be enough to sway a few naysayers.
I wonder what Andrew Keen would think of this community/professional mashup? Ha!
I attended my third O’Reilly webinar today. Titled What Publishers Need to Know About Digitization, it was led by the very savvy Liza Daly. They said they’re working to get the session’s recording up on the site, so it should be up there soon. This was, by far, the best webcast I have attended. Though the one on Why Publishers Should Care about SEO was ok too. I do wish Daly and crew had spent a little less time with the 101 intro stuff (how to scan something) and a little more on the monetization part that they flew through. In fact, I’m still unclear on where any of the monetization is coming from in any of Daly’s 3 examples. I’ll have to go back and look. The next webcast is Twitter for Business, in case you’re interested.
But today was really just another session of 100+ people asking questions (and getting the answered!), that showed just how many cool tools publishers have at their disposal. They just have to be creative. I know that the holiday season is predicted to be a slow one for books, but after today’s session I can see the potential and though things may change a little and new formats, distribution channels may emerge, I really think that books and publishing are going to be just fine.
Much to the dismay of Jeff Gomez, whose book I plan on reviewing later this week.
Mac Slocum over on the O-Reilly Tools of Change for Publishing blog offers up a neat twist to the debate of e-books vs. paper books… what if we had all been using e-books for the past few hundred years and paper books were just coming on the market? Would we all laugh at the paperback, or as the new kid on the block, would it capture our attention and spark a movement?
He lists out the benfits of the new unplugged book model: no need to buy batteries, lasts a loooooong time, ultra portable, ultra cheap, etc. All these things almost put the old e-book model to shame, huh?
Slocum calls it the flip test and it sure seems a good way to look at both sides of an equation.