Crunch time for educational publishers

It’s rare that a national industry is confronted with a single threat to its future. That just happened to South African publishing. A few days ago, the South African department of basic education (DBE) released a policy document, for public comment, that explains how the DBE would like to handle textbooks going forward. (If you’re…

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Oops, you just gave your invention to Telkom

“UPDATE, 8 Nov 2013: Telkom have now changed the rules of the competition, and no longer require entrants to cede or licence their IP. Here’s the media release [] It’s not clear yet whether Telkom will cede IP back to entrants where they’ve already ceded IP to Telkom. I’d encourage anyone who entered the competition…

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Woman gives birth to child

When my wife Michelle gave birth to our first child, Aidan, last year, I learned some things about the world. I learned that nature doesn’t take prisoners. That labour wards are only pragmatic places, designed to extract one human being from another. And that every news headline, every day, should read ”Woman gives birth to…

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Tech spreads slowly

This is a story of how my ego taught me a hard lesson in entrepreneurship. I used to work for some really big publishing companies, till in 2006 I left them to co-found an ebook production company. I thought ebook technology was moving fast, and that I was just in time to catch the ebook…

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Amazon’s e-book disappearing act

If you haven’t heard, in an Orwellian faux pas Amazon recently deleted (and refunded) purchased copies of 1984 and Animal Farm from its customers’ Kindle e-readers. It was the wake-up call the anti-DRM lobby was probably hoping for, and it’s raised a storm of discussion (and confusion) about the evil that is digital rights management….

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Tools of change: News from ebooks’ biggest conference

The annual O’Reilly Tools of Change for Publishing conference has just closed in New York and as usual it was a digital-publishing feast. Though I didn’t get to go myself, the flood of blogging and tweeting that came from the conference kept me happy right until my brain exploded. Though more time would improve my…

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How to stay in publishing in a digital world

As more and more of our world is digitised — sales, maps, encyclopaedias, books, music, phone calls, radio, TV, you name it, it travels digitally — companies constantly have to choose what to automate and what has to be done by human beings. In other words, what can be templated, and what requires project-specific creative…

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Ebook distribution and the problems of aggregation

The internet, and particularly the ebook industry, is littered with debates about aggregation and monopoly, and in many of those debates the two concepts are confused. Let’s be clear: aggregation is good, monopoly is bad. For instance, a serious discussion is finally emerging over the Google Books settlement, a discussion that recognises the value of…

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Is there such a thing as an ebook designer?

Here in the ebook-making world there’s a lot of to and fro about how much design matters when text is getting reflowed in different screens and applications, from tiny phones to 22-inch LCDs. Will book designers have jobs in a publishing world dominated by ebooks? A few years ago when Mobipocket dominated the ebook market,…

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Interstitial reading: The new cereal-box moment

What do you do with those wasted minutes in a queue, waiting for a train or a meeting, or staring at the cereal box wishing there was something new to read there? I usually reach for my phone to read, in an activity that’s come to be called “interstitial reading”. Over at Tools of Change,…

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