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May 24 2013

11:01

My next ebook: the Data Journalism Heist

Data Journalism Heist data journalism ebook

In the next couple of months I will begin publishing my next ebook: Data Journalism Heist.

Data Journalism Heist is designed to be a relatively short introduction to data journalism skills, demonstrating basic techniques for finding data, spotting possible stories and turning them around to a deadline.

Based on a workshop, the emphasis is on building confidence through speed and brevity, rather than headline-grabbing spectacular investigations or difficult datasets (I’m hoping to write a separate ebook on the latter at some point).

If you’re interested in finding out about the book, please sign up on the book’s Leanpub page.

Meanwhile, I’m looking for translators for Scraping for Journalists – get in touch if you’re interested.

 


Filed under: online journalism Tagged: Data Journalism Heist, ebook, Scraping for Journalists
11:01

My next ebook: the Data Journalism Heist

Data Journalism Heist data journalism ebook

In the next couple of months I will begin publishing my next ebook: Data Journalism Heist.

Data Journalism Heist is designed to be a relatively short introduction to data journalism skills, demonstrating basic techniques for finding data, spotting possible stories and turning them around to a deadline.

Based on a workshop, the emphasis is on building confidence through speed and brevity, rather than headline-grabbing spectacular investigations or difficult datasets (I’m hoping to write a separate ebook on the latter at some point).

If you’re interested in finding out about the book, please sign up on the book’s Leanpub page.

Meanwhile, I’m looking for translators for Scraping for Journalists – get in touch if you’re interested.

 

11:01

My next ebook: the Data Journalism Heist

Data Journalism Heist data journalism ebook

In the next couple of months I will begin publishing my next ebook: Data Journalism Heist.

Data Journalism Heist is designed to be a relatively short introduction to data journalism skills, demonstrating basic techniques for finding data, spotting possible stories and turning them around to a deadline.

Based on a workshop, the emphasis is on building confidence through speed and brevity, rather than headline-grabbing spectacular investigations or difficult datasets (I’m hoping to write a separate ebook on the latter at some point).

If you’re interested in finding out about the book, please sign up on the book’s Leanpub page.

Meanwhile, I’m looking for translators for Scraping for Journalists – get in touch if you’re interested.

 


Filed under: online journalism Tagged: Data Journalism Heist, ebook, Scraping for Journalists

May 18 2013

08:13

Why I stopped working with print publishers (for a while)

Scraping for Journalists book

This was first published on the BBC College of Journalism website:

I have just spent 10 months publishing an ebook. Not ‘writing’, or ‘producing’, but 10 months publishing. Just as the internet helped flatten the news industry – making reporters into publishers and distributors – it has done the same to the book industry. The question I wanted to ask was: how does that change the book?

Having written books for traditional publishers before, my plunge into self-publishing was prompted when I decided I wanted to write a book for journalists about scraping: the technique of grabbing and combining information from online documents.

There was a time when self-publishing was for those who couldn’t get themselves printed. Increasingly, however, it’s for those who cannot wait to. This was just such a case, with classic symptoms: a timely subject that is prone to change; a small market (or so I thought) and a dispersed and knowledgeable audience.

To carry it through I turned to the self-publishing website Leanpub, having seen what my Birmingham City University colleague Andrew Dubber had been doing with the service. Most ebook services offer the timeliness of ebook publishing, but Leanpub had something else: agility.

‘Agile development’ is a popular concept in technology development: it is the idea that, rather than launching a ‘finished’ product upon the world, you should instead launch something part-finished and develop it in response to user feedback.

In other words, it is better to see how people actually use something and respond to that, than to assume you know what they will use it for. My ebook was designed to be used – but would people use it how I imagined?

So, in July 2012 I put up a page announcing the imminent publication of the book. Users could suggest how much they might be prepared to pay. Immediately, I had some indication of suitable pricing. Free market research.

When the first two chapters were published, I started with a cheap price: readers were, after all, taking a gamble on the content that followed. You might also argue that these ‘early adopters’ of the book would be key to its continued success. Why discount a book that has grown old, when you can discount one that isn’t even finished yet?

I published a new chapter every week for the first few months. People who had bought the book would receive an email alerting them to the new content to download. An accompanying Facebook page, and my own Twitter account, helped provide other platforms for announcements, but also reader feedback.

One reader told me about idiosyncrasies in how tools worked in different countries: I added additional notes in the books. Others told me how they used links: I changed the way that I formatted them. Readers suggested alternative solutions to problems outlined in one chapter – and I added those at the end of that chapter.

The book evolved out of that call-and-response, including usage data: which formats were most popular; how pricing affected buying behaviour; what languages might be best for future translations. It has combined the best elements of blogging (readers as editors; iterative writing; analytics) with the best of books (comprehensiveness; structure).

When I set out to write it, I thought there might be barely 100 people in the world who would want to buy it. As I began that final chapter, it had sold five times that – the rate of a mildly successful textbook. This has genuinely shocked me. No publisher would have guessed that market existed. Even if they wanted to bet on it, they couldn’t have distributed the books effectively enough.

So this is the book industry in the internet age: not only publishing without delays for typesetting, printing, or distribution – but before a book is even finished. And is it finished? Not quite: I have the Kindle Store edition and the print on demand version to do now…

08:13

Why I stopped working with print publishers (for a while)

Scraping for Journalists book

This was first published on the BBC College of Journalism website:

I have just spent 10 months publishing an ebook. Not ‘writing’, or ‘producing’, but 10 months publishing. Just as the internet helped flatten the news industry – making reporters into publishers and distributors – it has done the same to the book industry. The question I wanted to ask was: how does that change the book?

Having written books for traditional publishers before, my plunge into self-publishing was prompted when I decided I wanted to write a book for journalists about scraping: the technique of grabbing and combining information from online documents.

There was a time when self-publishing was for those who couldn’t get themselves printed. Increasingly, however, it’s for those who cannot wait to. This was just such a case, with classic symptoms: a timely subject that is prone to change; a small market (or so I thought) and a dispersed and knowledgeable audience.

To carry it through I turned to the self-publishing website Leanpub, having seen what my Birmingham City University colleague Andrew Dubber had been doing with the service. Most ebook services offer the timeliness of ebook publishing, but Leanpub had something else: agility.

‘Agile development’ is a popular concept in technology development: it is the idea that, rather than launching a ‘finished’ product upon the world, you should instead launch something part-finished and develop it in response to user feedback.

In other words, it is better to see how people actually use something and respond to that, than to assume you know what they will use it for. My ebook was designed to be used – but would people use it how I imagined?

So, in July 2012 I put up a page announcing the imminent publication of the book. Users could suggest how much they might be prepared to pay. Immediately, I had some indication of suitable pricing. Free market research.

When the first two chapters were published, I started with a cheap price: readers were, after all, taking a gamble on the content that followed. You might also argue that these ‘early adopters’ of the book would be key to its continued success. Why discount a book that has grown old, when you can discount one that isn’t even finished yet?

I published a new chapter every week for the first few months. People who had bought the book would receive an email alerting them to the new content to download. An accompanying Facebook page, and my own Twitter account, helped provide other platforms for announcements, but also reader feedback.

One reader told me about idiosyncrasies in how tools worked in different countries: I added additional notes in the books. Others told me how they used links: I changed the way that I formatted them. Readers suggested alternative solutions to problems outlined in one chapter – and I added those at the end of that chapter.

The book evolved out of that call-and-response, including usage data: which formats were most popular; how pricing affected buying behaviour; what languages might be best for future translations. It has combined the best elements of blogging (readers as editors; iterative writing; analytics) with the best of books (comprehensiveness; structure).

When I set out to write it, I thought there might be barely 100 people in the world who would want to buy it. As I began that final chapter, it had sold five times that – the rate of a mildly successful textbook. This has genuinely shocked me. No publisher would have guessed that market existed. Even if they wanted to bet on it, they couldn’t have distributed the books effectively enough.

So this is the book industry in the internet age: not only publishing without delays for typesetting, printing, or distribution – but before a book is even finished. And is it finished? Not quite: I have the Kindle Store edition and the print on demand version to do now…

May 02 2013

11:04

It’s finished! Scraping for Journalists now complete (for now)

Scraping for Journalists book

Last night I published the final chapter of my first ebook: Scraping for Journalists. Since I started publishing it in July, over 40 ‘versions’ of the book have been uploaded to Leanpub, a platform that allows users to receive updates as a book develops – but more importantly, to input into its development.

I’ve been amazed at the consistent interest in the book – last week it passed 500 readers: 400 more than I ever expected to download it. Their comments have directly shaped, and in some cases been reproduced in, the book – something I expect to continue (I plan to continue to update it).

As a result I’ve become a huge fan of this form of ebook publishing, and plan to do a lot more with it (some hints here and here). The format combines the best qualities of traditional book publishing with those of blogging and social media (there’s a Facebook page too).

Meanwhile, there’s still more to do with Scraping for Journalists: publishing to other platforms and in other languages for starters… If you’re interested in translating the book into another language, please get in touch.

 


Filed under: online journalism Tagged: leanpub, scraping, Scraping for Journalists
11:04

It’s finished! Scraping for Journalists now complete (for now)

Scraping for Journalists book

Last night I published the final chapter of my first ebook: Scraping for Journalists. Since I started publishing it in July, over 40 ‘versions’ of the book have been uploaded to Leanpub, a platform that allows users to receive updates as a book develops – but more importantly, to input into its development.

I’ve been amazed at the consistent interest in the book – last week it passed 500 readers: 400 more than I ever expected to download it. Their comments have directly shaped, and in some cases been reproduced in, the book – something I expect to continue (I plan to continue to update it).

As a result I’ve become a huge fan of this form of ebook publishing, and plan to do a lot more with it (some hints here and here). The format combines the best qualities of traditional book publishing with those of blogging and social media (there’s a Facebook page too).

Meanwhile, there’s still more to do with Scraping for Journalists: publishing to other platforms and in other languages for starters… If you’re interested in translating the book into another language, please get in touch.

 

11:04

It’s finished! Scraping for Journalists now complete (for now)

Scraping for Journalists book

Last night I published the final chapter of my first ebook: Scraping for Journalists. Since I started publishing it in July, over 40 ‘versions’ of the book have been uploaded to Leanpub, a platform that allows users to receive updates as a book develops – but more importantly, to input into its development.

I’ve been amazed at the consistent interest in the book – last week it passed 500 readers: 400 more than I ever expected to download it. Their comments have directly shaped, and in some cases been reproduced in, the book – something I expect to continue (I plan to continue to update it).

As a result I’ve become a huge fan of this form of ebook publishing, and plan to do a lot more with it (some hints here and here). The format combines the best qualities of traditional book publishing with those of blogging and social media (there’s a Facebook page too).

Meanwhile, there’s still more to do with Scraping for Journalists: publishing to other platforms and in other languages for starters… If you’re interested in translating the book into another language, please get in touch.

 


Filed under: online journalism Tagged: leanpub, scraping, Scraping for Journalists
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