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April 18 2011

08:40

Who's New to Net2 Local?

Since November, we've added 2 new NetSquared Local groups to the map, bringing the new official number to 80 groups in 26 cities worldwide! NetSquared Local groups meet to network and learn about using web and mobile technologies to make social change happen. Each one of these groups is volunteer run and community driven, and each one is totally unique and at the mercy of the interests, cultures and expertises of the group members.

New Net2 Local Groups

Below is a list of the groups that have started in the last few months. If you're interested in getting involved either as a co-organizer or a participant in one of these cities, go to the group website and give the organizer a shout!

Just Getting Started

We also have several other groups that are "Just Getting Started". This means that we have at least one person in the city who is interested in helping to get a NetSquared Local group off the ground. Just getting started groups are indicated by yellow markers on the map.

In the last few months we've had interest from people in:

  • Sao Paulo, Brazil
  • Kasese, Uganda
  • Kumbo, Cameroon
  • Bellevue, CA, USA
  • Derby, KS, USA
  • Kalawana, Ratnapura, Sri Lanka
  • Dhaka, Bangladesh
  • Ottawa, Canada
  • Denver, CO, USA
  • Boulder, CO, USA

Are you in one of these cities and want to become a co-organizer to help get the NetSquared group off the ground? Let us know and we'll connect you with the other folks who have expressed interest and provide you with all the resources you need to make it happen!

Are you in another city and want to get involved?

Learn more about NetSquared Local and check the Net2 Local map to see how you can get involved with an existing group, a just getting started group, or to start your own!

March 16 2010

14:00

The Boulder way: A bookstore’s experiment with microdistribution

The “Recommended” section at the Boulder Book Store, an independent bookseller in Colorado, features a mix of titles and genres. And also: a mix of distribution models. Among the traditionally published works on display stand a smattering of print-on-demand titles — many of them being sold on consignment by authors from the Boulder area.

They’ve paid for the privilege. The store charges its consignment authors according to a tiered fee structure: $25 simply to stock a book (five copies at a time, replenished as needed by the author for no additional fee); $75 to feature a book for at least two weeks in the “Recommended” section; and $125 to, in addition to everything else, mention the book in the store’s email newsletter, feature it on the Local Favorites page of the store’s website for at least 60 days, and enable people to buy it online for the time it’s stocked in the store.

And for $255 — essentially, the platinum package — the store will throw in an in-store reading and book-signing event.

“Most people will come in at one of the higher fee amounts,” Arsen Kashkashian, the store’s head buyer and the architect of the program, told me. “That surprised us.” In fact, when the store first began charging its consignment authors back in 2007 (the fee-structure idea emerged when the store’s employees found themselves “inundated with self-published books, and there was a lot of work involved and not much reward”), its staff “thought people would grumble and complain” about the charges. But authors, Kashkashian says, have been generally grateful for the opportunity to sell and promote work that might otherwise be seen and appreciated only by their friends/spouses/moms: “‘I want the marketing, I want the exposure. I worked so hard on this project, and you guys are the only ones who could help me with it.’”

And the books are selling. Not flying off the shelves…but sauntering off, steadily. In the first week in March, Kashkashian told me, the store sold 75 consignment books — which, given the store’s 40-percent cut of those sales, and the authors’ fees, accounted for 3 percent of the store’s total revenues for the week. Part of that number, Kashkashian believes, is attributable to the authors’ efforts at self-promotion, which amplify the store’s own marketing strategy. “Some are blogging, some are on Twitter, some just trying to get out there by word of mouth,” he notes. “They’re working their networks, whether it’s online or offline. They’re kind of learning how to do it.”

The networking takes place offline, as well. The readings and signings are proving particularly popular, says Liesl Freudenstein, a buyer at the store and its consignment coordinator — not only among authors, but among Boulder’s residents more generally. “It’s great community involvement,” she notes. “These are mostly local people, people within 50 or 100 miles, and they bring their family and friends.”

It’s that kind of outside-the-box-store thinking — building and fostering engagement around unique content — that independent booksellers “need to do right now to survive,” Kashkashian says. They need, above all, to find ways “to tie themselves into the community.” Sound familiar?

Indeed, bookstores are like news outlets in more ways than the simple fact of their existential endangerment. The world of book publishing is experiencing a restructuring that is similar — and in some ways parallel — to the power shifts taking place in the world of journalism. Bookstores themselves don’t just facilitate access to information; they also provide an editorial filter for that information. Just as The New York Times is a curator of content as much as it’s a creator of it — assigning significance to news stories via (web)page placement, story length, headline size, etc. — bookstores curate their own content via in-store placement, “Staff Picks” sections, and all the rest.

If you’re an author whose book has been placed on a bottom shelf in the back corner of a store — that sad little no-man’s-land beyond Self Help, right next to the bathrooms, where the lighting is bleak and the odor bleaker — your book, however brilliant it may be, probably won’t be selling too well. You might be better off bypassing the middleman, the bookstore itself, altogether: using print-on-demand and then self-marketing, publishing direct-to-Amazon, embarking on a DIY book tour, etc. In short, taking advantage of the kind of hybrid marketing the Boulder consignment model represents — for bookselling and beyond.

That model hints at something authors often don’t have much of: recourse. Another route to attention/money/impact — an apparatus that bypasses entirely the publishing house’s traditional infrastructure. It suggests, in its way, editorial and distributional independence for book authors — the kind enjoyed by, for example, bloggers. Transform the distribution model, and everything else transforms along with it. In the past, to be a successful author, you generally had to be a published author, with everything that title suggested: an author whose book was determined to be worthy of publication costs (printing, distribution, marketing, etc.) by editors who knew enough about market appetites to make the determination. In publishing’s increasingly DIY world, though, the Boulder model — one that charges authors for, essentially, microdistribution of their books — makes increasing sense. “In the last few years, a professional-looking project has become much more attainable for people,” Kashkashian notes. “And once authors have a professional-looking book to sell, the selling itself becomes more feasible.”

Even published authors, Freudenstein says, are availing themselves of the store’s consignment service. She points to a Boulder-area author who’s signed to a local imprint…and yet, in the DIY style, also sells her books on consignment at the store. “She’s out there hustling,” Freudenstein says, “trying to make it happen — rather than relying on the publisher to make it happen.”

Photo of Boulder Book Store by Jesse Varner used under a Creative Commons license.

January 04 2010

14:50

ROGER FIDLER AND HIS EARLY VISION OF THE NEWSPAPER TABLET

fidler_iLiad-Newsbook_lg

Now that the Apple iTablet is coming, we must give the proper credit to the early vision of our friend Roger Fidler.

I meet Roger in the late 1980’s and since then we have shared the same hope: that one day, print newspaper will migrate to new digital platforms.

My “rubber newspaper” idea was inspired by his concepts and prototypes.

Roger was our host in New York’s Columbia University and at the Boulder’s Knight Ridder Information Design Laboratory, where one of my former students, Alvaro Moncada, had a fantastic summer internship.

Roger Fidler was a journalist and newspaper designer for 34 years and has been on the leading edge of online and digital publishing development since the late 1970s.

As program director for digital publishing at the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI), he coordinates digital publishing research projects and the Digital Publishing Alliance (DPA).

Here you can watch a 1994 video with his first Newspaper Tablet prototype.

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