Friday, April 15, 2011
Tech Update for Authors
Hello everyone. And welcome to Self-Publishing Central. I've got something a bit different for you today. Here's what's up . . .
Yesterday I had the rare opportunity to attend the Minnesota High Technology Association's Spring Conference in Minneapolis. I came away with some pretty nifty stuff.
But the coolest think I got wasn't a thumb drive, a USB multiplexer or even a Microsoft T-shirt. In fact, it wasn't a thing at all. It was an idea.
Robert Stephens, founder of the "Geek Squad" and current Chief Technology Officer for Best Buy Company addressed the collection of IT gurus, infrastructure maintainers and tech devotees during the opening session of the conference. He is the reason for the picture of Ramen Noodles - which he called "the international sign for financial distress" - at the top of this post. He remembers the days around 1994 when the Geek Squad was still just an idea, and the number of his meals that consisted of "distress food."
He also remembers the great incentive the "Ramen Noodle effect" provided for him to be innovative and creative. His idea of forming the Geek Squad hadn't been tried before. But what did he have to lose? He was already at the bottom, right? So he pitched it until he got a taker, in Best Buy. Now the Geek Squad is a huge financial and personal success for Robert.
I think the idea of taking risks when you have nothing to lose is a great one. But how many of us truly have "nothing to lose"? Zero? But it can still be a way of thinking. Please read further.
He went on to tell us that it was time to let go of old ways of thinking about computers and communicating, and to embrace 21st century opportunities. One of the most important points he made to this group of tech developers, maintainers and users was to start thinking MOBILE FIRST.
By this, he meant that, instead of downsizing existing computer programs, interfaces, search engines, etc., developers need to start with a blank page - or a bag of Ramen noodles - and re-design everything from the ground up with mobile devices in mind. If you've every tried reading a web page on your SmartPhone, you know what he is talking about. Downsizing to fit mobile devices doesn't always work so well.
So why should self-pubbers care?
If you apply Robert's thinking to books, there are some interesting possibilities/challenges that emerge for the future.
Text. How will book text fit comfortably on a phone-size screen? The answer? It probably never will. Sure, you can read on a SmartPhone for short periods. But you're not going to read your whole library that way. Thinking from the bottom up, what are some possible solutions to this situation?
Audio/Video. Converting text books to audio books, or even hybrid-video books, is certainly one possibility. New technologies are emerging that improve text-to-speech and speech-to-text conversions. Many tech-savvy folks already respond to their emails while they're in the car on the way to work. Their phone reads them their emails and they dictate responses -- all hands-free.
The technology also exists to embed audio or video inside text-based eBooks. This technology isn't a complete fix for tiny text on tiny screens. But it at least offers the "reader" some respite from all-text eye strain.
eCommerce on your phone. Another interesting ramification of the transformation to a mobile-device-centered reading world is the ability to pay for, and to sell, eBooks using just your phone. With "cloud-based" applications beginning to dominate the Mobile App (MoApp) landscape, it becomes necessary to store less and less information and programs on our individual devices. This means that we'll be able to sell - and buyers will be able to buy - our books through our own cloud-based web stores, accessible by SmartPhone.
Sure, Amazon and Nook stores are already cloud-based sales tools. But imagine the ability to conduct business a whole new way, with no Amazon in the middle taking a bite. How might that private cloud look for an author?
It's hard to predict. But it would probably involve much more video marketing than is currently used. Your cloud would be able to tap into other clouds holding databases of helpful customer information so you can more precisely target marketing and promotional efforts. If you and the buyer have the right phones and apps, you can already show the buyer your book on your phone and then sell him/her a copy by just tapping your phones together. Is that cool or what! The possibilities are endless.
What should I do now? For now, I think the key for authors is to remain vigilant for these new MoApp breakthroughs when they happen . . . and that will be soon. When new tech becomes available at reasonable prices (or more likely, for free), be an early adopter. Don't wait for others to try it out first. Become the recognized "expert" in applying to the writing world whatever new tech has become available. Write about it. Use it in your publications. Get a leg up on the other publishers out there. Take advantage of one of the greatest strengths of self- and indie-publishing -be nimble! By the time the Big Six are on board, it's too late for you to take a leadership role.
Here's one other thing you can do right now - BE EXCITED ABOUT THE FUTURE OF PUBLISHING!
Like 'em or not, eBooks are here to stay. You've already adopted that trend ahead of the Big Boys. Now stay ahead by watching for the MoApp opportunities as they arise, and daring to adopt early.
I love the possibilities, even though no one can yet articulate their exact nature. Think "blank slate." Do more with less. Eat your Ramen Noodles and conquer!
That's it for today. Thanks for stopping in.