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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…

April 02 2013

12:06

August 30 2012

15:44

August 16 2012

08:27

Hyperlocal Voices: Matt Brown, Londonist

The fifth in our new series of Hyperlocal Voices explores the work done by the team behind the Londonist. Despite having a large geographic footprint – Londonist covers the whole of Greater London - the site is full of ultra-local content, as well as featuring stories and themes which span the whole of the capital.

Run by two members of staff and a raft of volunteers, Editor Matt Brown gave Damian Radcliffe an insight into the breadth and depth of the site.

1. Who were the people behind the blog?

Everyone in London! We’re a very open site, involving our readers in the creation of many articles, especially the imagery. But more prosaically, we have an editorial team of 5 or 6 people, plus another 20 or so regular contributors. I act as the main content editor for the site.

We’re more than a website, though, with a weekly podcast (Londonist Out Loud, ably presented and produced by N Quentin Woolf), a separate Facebook presence, a daily e-newsletter, 80,000 Twitter followers, the largest FourSquare following in London (I think), a Flickr pool with 200,000 images, several e-books, occasional exhibitions and live events every few weeks. The web site is just one facet of what we do.

2. What made you decide to set up the blog?

I actually inherited it off someone else, but it was originally set up as a London equivalent of certain sites in the US like Gothamist and Chicagoist, which were riding the early blogging wave, providing news and event tips for citizens. There was nothing quite like it in London, so my predecessor wanted to jump into the gap and have some fun.

3. When did you set up the blog and how did you go about it?

It dates back to 2004, when it was originally called the Big Smoker. Before too long, it joined the Gothamist network, changing its name to Londonist.

We now operate independently of that network, but retain the name. It was originally set up in Movable Type publishing platform, but we moved to WordPress a couple of years ago.

4. What other blogs, bloggers or websites influenced you?

Obviously, the Gothamist sites originally. But we’re now more influenced by the wonderful ecosystem of London blogs out there, all offering their own take on life in the capital.

The best include Diamond Geezer (an incisive and often acerbic look at London), Ian Visits (a mix of unusual site visits and geeky observation) and Spitalfields Life (a daily interview with a local character). These are just three of the dozens of excellent London sites in my RSS reader.

5. How did – and do – you see yourself in relation to a traditional news operation?

Complementary rather than competitors. We cover three or four news stories a day, sometimes journalistically, but our forte in this area is more in commentary, features and reader involvement around the news.

And news is just a small part of what we do — most of the site is event recommendation, unusual historical insights, street art, food and drink, theatre reviews and the like. As an example of our diversity, a few months back we ran a 3,000-word essay on the construction of Hammersmith flyover by an engineering PhD candidate, and the very next item was about a beauty pageant for chubby people in Vauxhall.

6. What have been the key moments in the blog’s development editorially?

I think most of these would be technologically driven. For example, when Google mapping became possible, our free wifi hotspots and V2 rocket maps greatly increased site traffic.

Once Twitter reached critical mass we were able to reach out to tens of thousands of people, both for sourcing information for articles and pushing our finished content.

The other big thing was turning the site into a business a couple of years ago, so we were able to bring a little bit of money in to reinvest in the site. The extra editorial time the money pays for means our output is now bigger and better.

7. What sort of traffic do you get and how has that changed over time?

We’re now seeing about 1.4 million page views a month. It’s pretty much doubling year on year.

8. What is / has been your biggest challenge to date?

Transforming from an amateur site into a business.

We started taking different types of advertising, including advertorial content, and had to make sure we didn’t alienate our readers. It was a tricky tightrope, but I’d hope we’ve done a fairly good job of selecting paid-for content only if it’s of interest to a meaningful portion of our readers, and then making sure we’re open and clear about what is sponsored content and what is editorially driven.

9. What story, feature or series are you most proud of? 

I’m rather enjoying our A-Z pubcrawl at the moment, and not just because of the booze.

Basically, we pick an area of town each month beginning with the next letter of the alphabet (so, Angel, Brixton, City, Dalston, etc.). We then ask our readers to nominate their favourite pubs and bars in the area, via Twitter, Facebook or comments.

We then build a Google map of all the suggestions and arrange a pub crawl around the top 4.

Everyone’s a winner because (a) we get a Google-friendly article called, for example, ‘What’s the best pub in Farringdon?‘, with a map of all the suggestions; (b) we get the chance to use our strong social media channels to involve a large number of people – hundreds of votes every time; (c) the chance to meet some of our readers, who are invited along on the pub crawl, and who get a Londonistbooze badge as a memento; (d) a really fun night out round some very good pubs.

The next part (G for Greenwich) will be announced in early September.

10. What are your plans for the future?

We’re playing around with ebooks at the moment, as a way to sustain the business directly through content. We’ve published a book of London pub crawls (spotting a theme here?), and a history of the London Olympics by noted London author David Long. Our next ebook will be a collection of quiz questions about the capital, drawn from the numerous pub quizzes we’ve ran over the years.

Basically, we’re looking to be the best organisation for finding out about London in any and every medium we can get our hands on.

08:27

Hyperlocal Voices: Matt Brown, Londonist

The fifth in our new series of Hyperlocal Voices explores the work done by the team behind the Londonist. Despite having a large geographic footprint – Londonist covers the whole of Greater London - the site is full of ultra-local content, as well as featuring stories and themes which span the whole of the capital.

Run by two members of staff and a raft of volunteers, Editor Matt Brown gave Damian Radcliffe an insight into the breadth and depth of the site.

1. Who were the people behind the blog?

Everyone in London! We’re a very open site, involving our readers in the creation of many articles, especially the imagery. But more prosaically, we have an editorial team of 5 or 6 people, plus another 20 or so regular contributors. I act as the main content editor for the site.

We’re more than a website, though, with a weekly podcast (Londonist Out Loud, ably presented and produced by N Quentin Woolf), a separate Facebook presence, a daily e-newsletter, 80,000 Twitter followers, the largest FourSquare following in London (I think), a Flickr pool with 200,000 images, several e-books, occasional exhibitions and live events every few weeks. The web site is just one facet of what we do.

2. What made you decide to set up the blog?

I actually inherited it off someone else, but it was originally set up as a London equivalent of certain sites in the US like Gothamist and Chicagoist, which were riding the early blogging wave, providing news and event tips for citizens. There was nothing quite like it in London, so my predecessor wanted to jump into the gap and have some fun.

3. When did you set up the blog and how did you go about it?

It dates back to 2004, when it was originally called the Big Smoker. Before too long, it joined the Gothamist network, changing its name to Londonist.

We now operate independently of that network, but retain the name. It was originally set up in Movable Type publishing platform, but we moved to WordPress a couple of years ago.

4. What other blogs, bloggers or websites influenced you?

Obviously, the Gothamist sites originally. But we’re now more influenced by the wonderful ecosystem of London blogs out there, all offering their own take on life in the capital.

The best include Diamond Geezer (an incisive and often acerbic look at London), Ian Visits (a mix of unusual site visits and geeky observation) and Spitalfields Life (a daily interview with a local character). These are just three of the dozens of excellent London sites in my RSS reader.

5. How did – and do – you see yourself in relation to a traditional news operation?

Complementary rather than competitors. We cover three or four news stories a day, sometimes journalistically, but our forte in this area is more in commentary, features and reader involvement around the news.

And news is just a small part of what we do — most of the site is event recommendation, unusual historical insights, street art, food and drink, theatre reviews and the like. As an example of our diversity, a few months back we ran a 3,000-word essay on the construction of Hammersmith flyover by an engineering PhD candidate, and the very next item was about a beauty pageant for chubby people in Vauxhall.

6. What have been the key moments in the blog’s development editorially?

I think most of these would be technologically driven. For example, when Google mapping became possible, our free wifi hotspots and V2 rocket maps greatly increased site traffic.

Once Twitter reached critical mass we were able to reach out to tens of thousands of people, both for sourcing information for articles and pushing our finished content.

The other big thing was turning the site into a business a couple of years ago, so we were able to bring a little bit of money in to reinvest in the site. The extra editorial time the money pays for means our output is now bigger and better.

7. What sort of traffic do you get and how has that changed over time?

We’re now seeing about 1.4 million page views a month. It’s pretty much doubling year on year.

8. What is / has been your biggest challenge to date?

Transforming from an amateur site into a business.

We started taking different types of advertising, including advertorial content, and had to make sure we didn’t alienate our readers. It was a tricky tightrope, but I’d hope we’ve done a fairly good job of selecting paid-for content only if it’s of interest to a meaningful portion of our readers, and then making sure we’re open and clear about what is sponsored content and what is editorially driven.

9. What story, feature or series are you most proud of? 

I’m rather enjoying our A-Z pubcrawl at the moment, and not just because of the booze.

Basically, we pick an area of town each month beginning with the next letter of the alphabet (so, Angel, Brixton, City, Dalston, etc.). We then ask our readers to nominate their favourite pubs and bars in the area, via Twitter, Facebook or comments.

We then build a Google map of all the suggestions and arrange a pub crawl around the top 4.

Everyone’s a winner because (a) we get a Google-friendly article called, for example, ‘What’s the best pub in Farringdon?‘, with a map of all the suggestions; (b) we get the chance to use our strong social media channels to involve a large number of people – hundreds of votes every time; (c) the chance to meet some of our readers, who are invited along on the pub crawl, and who get a Londonistbooze badge as a memento; (d) a really fun night out round some very good pubs.

The next part (G for Greenwich) will be announced in early September.

10. What are your plans for the future?

We’re playing around with ebooks at the moment, as a way to sustain the business directly through content. We’ve published a book of London pub crawls (spotting a theme here?), and a history of the London Olympics by noted London author David Long. Our next ebook will be a collection of quiz questions about the capital, drawn from the numerous pub quizzes we’ve ran over the years.

Basically, we’re looking to be the best organisation for finding out about London in any and every medium we can get our hands on.

August 07 2012

11:51

A case study in online journalism part 3: ebooks (investigating the Olympic torch relay)

8000 Holes - book cover

In part one I outlined some of the data journalism processes involved in the Olympic torch relay investigation, in part 2 I explained how verification, SEO and ‘passive aggressive newsgathering’ played a role. This final part looks at how ebooks offered a new opportunity to tell the story in depth – and publish while the story was still topical.

Ebooks – publishing before the event has even finished

After a number of stories from a variety of angles I reached a fork in the road. It felt like we had been looking at this story from every angle. More than one editor, when presented with an update, said that they’d already ‘done the torch story’. I would have done the same.

But I thought of a quote on persistence from Ian Hislop that I’d published on the Help Me Investigate blog previously. “It is saying the same true thing again and again and again and again until the penny drops.”

Although it sometimes felt like we might be boring people with our insistence on continuing to dig we needed, I felt, to say the same thing again. Not the story of ‘Executive carries the torch’ but how that executive and so many others came to carry it, why that mattered, and what the impact was. A longform report.

Traditionally there would have been so space for this story. It would be too long for a newspaper or magazine, far too short for a book – where the production timescale would have missed any topicality anyway.

But we didn’t have to worry about that – because we had e-publishing.

It still seems incredible to me that we could write up and publish a book on the missed promises of the Olympic torch relay before the relay had even finished. Indeed: to also publish the day before the book’s main case study was likely to run.

But if we wanted to do that, we had about a week to hit that deadline, with important holes in our narrative, and working largely in our spare time.

First, we needed a case study to represent the human impact of the corporate torchbearers and open our book. Quite a few had been mentioned in local newspapers when they discovered that less-than-inspirational individuals had taken their place, but HMI contributor Carol Miers found one who couldn’t have been more deserving: Jack Binstead had received the maximum number of nominations; he was just 15 (half of torchbearer places were supposed to go to young people – they didn’t); and he was tipped to go to the next Paralympics.

We also needed to find out if there was an impact on the genuinely inspirational people who did get to carry the torch – I had been chasing a couple when Geoff Holt came through the site’s comments (see above). That was our ending.

For the middle we needed to pin down some of the numbers around the relay. Comments from earlier stories had indicated that some people didn’t see why it was important that executives were carrying the torches – unaware, perhaps, that promises had been made about where places would go, and what sort of stories torchbearers should have.

In particular, the organisers had promised that 90% of places would be available to the general public and that 50% of places would go to young people aged 12-24. I had to nail down where each chunk of tickets had gone - and at how many points they had been taken away from availability to the ‘general public’. Ultimately, the middle of the book would describe how that 90% got chipped away until it was more like 75%.

That middle would then be fleshed out with the themes around what happened to the other 25%: essentially some of the stories we’d already told, plus some others that filled out the picture.

Writing in this way allowed us to go beyond the normal way of writing – shock at a revelation – to identifying where things went wrong and how. For all the anger at corporate sponsors for their allocation of torch relay places, it was ultimately LOCOG’s responsibility to approve nominations, to publish 8,000 “inspirational” nomination stories, and to meet the promises that they had made about how they would be allocated. The buck stopped there.

Thanks to the iterative way we had worked so far – publishing each story as it came, asking questions in public, building an online ‘footprint’ that others could find, establishing collaborative relationships and bookmarking to create an archive – we met our deadline.

It was a timescale which allowed us to tap into interest in the relay while it was still topical, and while executive torchbearers were still carrying the torch.

8,000 Holes: How the 2012 Olympic Torch Relay Lost its Way was published on day 66 of the 70-day Olympic torch relay. All proceeds went to the Brittle Bone Society, of which Jack is an ambassador. The publishers – Leanpub – agreed to give their commission on the book to the charity as well. This was all organised over email in 24 hours a couple days before the book went live.

We organised an interview with Jack Binstead which was published in The Guardian the day after – the day that the torch was to go through his home town and the day that he would be flying out of the country to avoid it. An interview with Journalism.co.uk on the ebook itself – Help Me Investigate’s first – was published the same day.

We published data on where torchbearer places went in The Guardian’s datablog two days after that, and serialised the book throughout the week, along with some additional pieces – for example, on how LOCOG missed their target of 50% of places going to young people by other 1,000 places. A lengthier interview with Jack and his mother was published at the end of the week.

In theory this should have captured interest in the torch relay at just the right time – but I think we misjudged two factors.

The first was beyond our control: the weather changed.

Until now, the weather had been awful. When it changed, the mood of the country changed, and there was less interest in the missed promises of the Olympic torch relay. But it also coincided with another change: the final week of the torch relay was also the last few days before the opening ceremony – and as the weather changed, attention shifted to the Olympic Games itself.

The torch relay, which had been squeezed dry of every possible angle for nine weeks, was – finally – yesterday’s news. It was no longer about who was carrying the torch, but about where that torch was going, and who might carry the last one.

Still, the book raised money for a deserving charity, and its story is not over. When the next torch relay comes around, I wonder, will it benefit from a resurgence of interest?

Get the free ebook for the full story: 8,000 Holes: How the 2012 Olympic Torch Relay Lost its Way - Leanpub.com/8000holes

 

11:51

A case study in online journalism part 3: ebooks (investigating the Olympic torch relay)

8000 Holes - book cover

In part one I outlined some of the data journalism processes involved in the Olympic torch relay investigation, in part 2 I explained how verification, SEO and ‘passive aggressive newsgathering’ played a role. This final part looks at how ebooks offered a new opportunity to tell the story in depth – and publish while the story was still topical.

Ebooks – publishing before the event has even finished

After a number of stories from a variety of angles I reached a fork in the road. It felt like we had been looking at this story from every angle. More than one editor, when presented with an update, said that they’d already ‘done the torch story’. I would have done the same.

But I thought of a quote on persistence from Ian Hislop that I’d published on the Help Me Investigate blog previously. “It is saying the same true thing again and again and again and again until the penny drops.”

Although it sometimes felt like we might be boring people with our insistence on continuing to dig we needed, I felt, to say the same thing again. Not the story of ‘Executive carries the torch’ but how that executive and so many others came to carry it, why that mattered, and what the impact was. A longform report.

Traditionally there would have been so space for this story. It would be too long for a newspaper or magazine, far too short for a book – where the production timescale would have missed any topicality anyway.

But we didn’t have to worry about that – because we had e-publishing.

It still seems incredible to me that we could write up and publish a book on the missed promises of the Olympic torch relay before the relay had even finished. Indeed: to also publish the day before the book’s main case study was likely to run.

But if we wanted to do that, we had about a week to hit that deadline, with important holes in our narrative, and working largely in our spare time.

First, we needed a case study to represent the human impact of the corporate torchbearers and open our book. Quite a few had been mentioned in local newspapers when they discovered that less-than-inspirational individuals had taken their place, but HMI contributor Carol Miers found one who couldn’t have been more deserving: Jack Binstead had received the maximum number of nominations; he was just 15 (half of torchbearer places were supposed to go to young people – they didn’t); and he was tipped to go to the next Paralympics.

We also needed to find out if there was an impact on the genuinely inspirational people who did get to carry the torch – I had been chasing a couple when Geoff Holt came through the site’s comments (see above). That was our ending.

For the middle we needed to pin down some of the numbers around the relay. Comments from earlier stories had indicated that some people didn’t see why it was important that executives were carrying the torches – unaware, perhaps, that promises had been made about where places would go, and what sort of stories torchbearers should have.

In particular, the organisers had promised that 90% of places would be available to the general public and that 50% of places would go to young people aged 12-24. I had to nail down where each chunk of tickets had gone - and at how many points they had been taken away from availability to the ‘general public’. Ultimately, the middle of the book would describe how that 90% got chipped away until it was more like 75%.

That middle would then be fleshed out with the themes around what happened to the other 25%: essentially some of the stories we’d already told, plus some others that filled out the picture.

Writing in this way allowed us to go beyond the normal way of writing – shock at a revelation – to identifying where things went wrong and how. For all the anger at corporate sponsors for their allocation of torch relay places, it was ultimately LOCOG’s responsibility to approve nominations, to publish 8,000 “inspirational” nomination stories, and to meet the promises that they had made about how they would be allocated. The buck stopped there.

Thanks to the iterative way we had worked so far – publishing each story as it came, asking questions in public, building an online ‘footprint’ that others could find, establishing collaborative relationships and bookmarking to create an archive – we met our deadline.

It was a timescale which allowed us to tap into interest in the relay while it was still topical, and while executive torchbearers were still carrying the torch.

8,000 Holes: How the 2012 Olympic Torch Relay Lost its Way was published on day 66 of the 70-day Olympic torch relay. All proceeds went to the Brittle Bone Society, of which Jack is an ambassador. The publishers – Leanpub – agreed to give their commission on the book to the charity as well. This was all organised over email in 24 hours a couple days before the book went live.

We organised an interview with Jack Binstead which was published in The Guardian the day after – the day that the torch was to go through his home town and the day that he would be flying out of the country to avoid it. An interview with Journalism.co.uk on the ebook itself – Help Me Investigate’s first – was published the same day.

We published data on where torchbearer places went in The Guardian’s datablog two days after that, and serialised the book throughout the week, along with some additional pieces – for example, on how LOCOG missed their target of 50% of places going to young people by other 1,000 places. A lengthier interview with Jack and his mother was published at the end of the week.

In theory this should have captured interest in the torch relay at just the right time – but I think we misjudged two factors.

The first was beyond our control: the weather changed.

Until now, the weather had been awful. When it changed, the mood of the country changed, and there was less interest in the missed promises of the Olympic torch relay. But it also coincided with another change: the final week of the torch relay was also the last few days before the opening ceremony – and as the weather changed, attention shifted to the Olympic Games itself.

The torch relay, which had been squeezed dry of every possible angle for nine weeks, was – finally – yesterday’s news. It was no longer about who was carrying the torch, but about where that torch was going, and who might carry the last one.

Still, the book raised money for a deserving charity, and its story is not over. When the next torch relay comes around, I wonder, will it benefit from a resurgence of interest?

Get the free ebook for the full story: 8,000 Holes: How the 2012 Olympic Torch Relay Lost its Way - Leanpub.com/8000holes

 

August 02 2012

18:49

The Future of News As We Know It, July 2012: A new ebook collection from Nieman Lab

It’s the start of a new month, which means it’s time to reflect on what we learned in July. And that means it’s time for our second ebook collection, The Future of News As We Know It (*as of July 2012).

Just as we did last month, we swept up our most interesting stories from July into one easy-to-download package for e-readers. It’s designed to look best in Apple’s iBooks, on iPads and iPhones, but it’ll also work well on Kindles, Android phones, or desktop or laptop computers.

This was another good month at the Lab, with a nice mix of breaking news, analysis, and commentary, from our own staff and from outside contributors. (It’s a little bit shorter than June’s ebook — 263 iPad pages vs. 376 for June — but hey, we took a couple days off around July 4, okay? Stop pressuring us.)

As with last month, it’s available in two formats, EPUB and MOBI. EPUB is the best choice for everyone unless you want to read it on a Kindle — then you’ll need the MOBI. (Amazon’s stubbornly refused to get on the EPUB-as-standard bandwagon.)

Q: How do I install this ebook in my ereader?

A: For iBooks on your iPad or iPhone, any of these methods will work:

— Visit this webpage on your iDevice, tap the EPUB download link above, then select Open in iBooks.

— Email the EPUB to yourself and open that email attachment on your iPad or iPhone.

— Move the EPUB into your Dropbox folder and then open it from the Dropbox app on your iDevice.

For other EPUB readers (Nook, Sony Reader, etc.), follow the directions that came with it. You can probably load it via email or USB. If your device has a web browser, downloading it from this web page might work too.

For Kindle, you can load it onto a device by USB or by emailing it to yourself at your Kindle email address. All the options for iBooks will also work for the Kindle app on your iPhone or iPad.

Q: I don’t have an ereader, iPhone, or iPad. Can I read this?

A: Yes! There are a number of good EPUB readers for other devices.

Desktop/laptop computers: There’s the cross-platform Calibre, which is available for Macs, Windows, and Linux. Barnes & Noble’s Nook has apps for Mac, Windows, and Android that will read the EPUB file just fine. Adobe Digital Editions works on Windows and Mac.

For readers interested in sharing: I rather like Readmill, which bills itself as “a curious community of readers, sharing and highlighting the books they love.” It lets you read share highlights within and comments about your EPUB books with other readers. It’s built around an iPad app and stores your books in the cloud.

In browser: You can also read .epubs directly in your web browser, using EPUBReader for Firefox or MagicScroll for Chrome. I’m sure there are others.

Android: There are also a number of EPUB apps for Android. I’ve heard the best is Aldiko.

Kindle apps: The MOBI version of our ebook will open in any of the various Kindle apps, including for Mac, Windows, iPad, iPhone, Android, Windows Phone 7, Android, and BlackBerry — or on the web via the Kindle Cloud Reader.

Note that ebook readers are still a growing field, and different platforms choose to display books in different ways. If you do have an Apple device, iBooks will give you the best results.

July 25 2012

17:25

Ars Technica fights through hassles to sell John Siracusa’s OS X review as an ebook

Mountain Lion review

Almost exactly a year ago, when Apple released Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion), Ars Technica put a spin on a time-honored tradition: The website published John Siracusa’s epic review of the software free of charge, as always, but also sold the tome as a $4.99 ebook. (Siracusa’s reviews are legendary among Mac nerds for their depth, precision, and length.) After 24 hours, Ars had sold 3,000 copies.

With the release of Apple’s OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion) today, Ars is trying out the hybrid free-paid model again for Siracusa’s 26,000-word review. “The ebook format proved rather popular last year, so we’ve taken extra care this year to make the ebook version every bit as good as the web version,” said Ken Fisher, Ars Technica’s founder and editor, in an email.

Fisher said Ars sold “several thousand” paid copies of the Lion review in total, but he wouldn’t provide a specific number. Siracusa did not share in those profits, because Ars had negotiated a one-time fee with Siracusa upfront; they’d never done this before, and no one was sure how well it would go. “This time we were careful to structure an agreement that would explicitly compensate John for each purchase,” Fisher said.

Unfortunately, the process of producing and selling an ebook, like the initial release of a major operating system, is still a little buggy. The utopian vision of ebook publishing — instantaneous publishing across platforms, bug-free production — is still a ways away. Siracusa’s review went live a few hours ago, but the ebook is nowhere to be found on what would seem to be the two most important ebook stores for it: Apple’s iBookstore and Amazon’s Kindle.

Amazon has a simpler and quicker process for publishing an ebook than Apple, but Ars “incorrectly predicted the publication lag time,” meaning Ars is missing out on the critical first wave of nerdy excitement. As for an iBookstore version, Ars wouldn’t have been able to even submit the book to Apple for review if it wanted to until today, because the content was protected by NDA until Mountain Lion’s public release. Apple’s review process could take two weeks. (That’s what happens when the same company controls the content and the distribution.) Siracusa says an iBookstore version probably isn’t in the cards, irony of ironies.

At the moment, only paying Ars Premier subscribers can download ebook versions, in unrestricted .epub (for iBooks, Nook, and more) and .mobi (for Kindle) versions of the book. (Premier membership is $5 per month, which just happens to be the same price as the ebook itself.)

Of course, being on the major ebook sales platforms also means giving them a piece of the pie. Ars Technica had considered selling the ebook at a lower price, but Amazon’s tiered pricing incentivizes slightly higher prices. By my math, according to this complicated pricing page, Ars will take in somewhere around $2.70 for every ebook sold in the U.S. store once it’s posted. And Siracusa takes an undisclosed percentage of that.

Unfortunately for Siracusa’s sanity, there are still severe limitations on both the creation and reading sides of ebooks. User experiences vary widely. From Siracusa’s blog today:

For the best ebook reading experience, use a device or application that supports Kindle Format 8. KF8-capable readers support amazing new technologies like text that flows around images and the ability to tie a caption to an image. Yes, that was sarcasm.

Unfortunately, many Kindle reading devices and application don’t support Kindle Format 8 — most notably, the iOS Kindle app. The Mac version does support KF8, however, as does the Kindle Fire.

The Kindle ebook is a single file that contains two versions of the content: one in Kindle Format 8 and one in the older Kindle format. Open the same ebook file in both the Mac and iOS Kindle reader applications and you’ll see two very different appearances.

You could read Siracusa’s Twitter feed on any given day in the last few weeks to see what a trial it has been.

It seems like a hell of a lot of work for a lousy ebook, but there is money in that banana stand. We’ve written before about the value in repurposing otherwise free content into paid ebooks. Consumers are willing to pay for the convenience, simplicity, and uncluttered design of a single file. (We’ve even tried it ourselves with a free ebook featuring past work; more to come there.)

The success of Siracusa’s last ebook might have inspired another well-known Mac blogger, Federico Viticci of MacStories, to release a similar ebook for Mountain Lion. Viticci is selling a PDF version of his Mountain Lion review (apparently eschewing the iBooks and Kindle stores) and bundling other feature stories from the website. That edition sells for $6.99, with 30 percent of proceeds going to the American Cancer Society.

Viticci wrote on his personal blog that a paid ebook is a way for fans to support his work, many of whom have been asking for a way to give him money. Likewise, Siracusa wrote that his paid ebook is the best way for people to say “thanks” and get something in return.

Siracusa has said before he worries his nerdy, niche audience is a shrinking piece of a growing pie, as Apple products now reach a mainstream audience. “But the web traffic and ebook sales from last year’s Lion review showed me that, at the very least, my audience is still growing in absolute numbers even as it may be shrinking as a percentage of the whole,” he wrote.

Fisher told me the web — mature, open, free — remains the primary platform for Ars Technica content, while ebooks are a new frontier.

“The overwhelming majority of readers will read the review online, and that’s our primary way to share the review with the world,” he said. “Those who want to buy the ebook can, and we love it when they do, but the web is still our home and its the force that is driving readers to the review, in whatever format they consume it in.”

April 20 2012

13:58

This Week in Review: Digital journalism’s big Pulitzer win, and ebook concerns shift to Amazon

The Pulitzers and HuffPo’s arrival: The Pulitzer Prizes were awarded this week, accompanied as usual by tears and impromptu speeches in newsrooms around the country (documented well by Jeff Sonderman on Storify). On the meta-level, the Washington Post’s Erik Wemple criticized the awards’ secrecy, but Dean Starkman of the Columbia Journalism Review offered a defense of having such publicly celebrated industry awards in the first place, arguing that during an era when news organizations have become so adept at measuring journalism quantity, the Pulitzers are one of the few barometers left for journalism quality.

As for this year’s awards themselves, the American Journalism Review’s Rem Rieder pointed out that while the Pulitzers are usually dominated by a few heavy hitters, this year brought several feel-good stories. One of those was the Pulitzer won by the Philadelphia Inquirer, the once-great paper that has had an extremely rough last several years and was sold yet again for a bargain-basement price just a few weeks ago. Poynter’s Steve Myers reported on the award’s impact, which one reporter called “a wonderful burst of hope.”

Another remarkable Pulitzer winner was Sara Ganim of the Patriot News of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, who at 24 became one of the youngest Pulitzer winners ever for her reporting on the Penn State sex abuse scandal. Poynter’s Mallary Tenore explained how she took the lead on the story at two different papers. Not all the news was heartwarming, though — there was no prize for editorial writing. Erik Wemple explained why (nothing personal!), but Gawker’s Hamilton Nolan loved the decision, calling editorials “a worthless anachronism in this modern media age.”

But the biggest theme in this year’s Pulitzers was the prominence of online journalism: The online-only Huffington Post and the very online-centric Politico both won prizes, which the Lab’s Adrienne LaFrance called a victory for their fast-paced, aggressive editorial models. Additionally, Twitter played a big role in the tornado coverage that earned Alabama’s Tuscaloosa News a Pulitzer, as Poynter’s Jeff Sonderman detailed.

Of those online-oriented Pulitzers, the Huffington Post’s drew the bulk of the attention. HuffPo’s Michael Calderone and Poynter’s Mallary Tenore both told the story behind HuffPo’s award-winning story, and in an AP story, Ken Doctor called it an arrival of sorts for HuffPo, while VentureBeat’s Jolie O’Dell called it a win for quality blogs everywhere. PaidContent’s Staci Kramer said HuffPo’s win shows the old guard has finally learned that the work, not the medium, is the message. Both GigaOM’s Mathew Ingram and NYU prof Jay Rosen (in Calderone’s article) pointed out that this isn’t as much of a “new media vs. old media” win as people might think; traditional news orgs and digital outfits have been looking more and more alike for quite some time now.

There was also quite a bit of other talk about HuffPo’s model this week, though most of it wasn’t directly related to the Pulitzers. Media blogger Andrew Nusca expressed his frustration with the parade of “awful posts and shameless slideshows” that populates most of HuffPo and its competitors, and the Columbia Journalism Review published an in-depth story on how HuffPo developed its distinctive model and why it works. Meanwhile, the Lab’s Justin Ellis wrote on HuffPo’s refusal to employ false balance when covering climate change and Folio reported on its coming magazine iPad app.

Amazon under fire: A week after the U.S. Justice Department sued Apple and five major book publishers for antitrust violations (paidContent’s Laura Hazard Owen has a good description of what it means for readers), most of the attention shifted to the biggest ebook player not involved in the lawsuit: Amazon. The New York Times reported on a small publisher that has removed its titles from Amazon out of frustration that the retailer’s low prices were undercutting its own booksellers.

CNET’s Greg Sandoval talked to other small publishers who see Amazon as a much bigger threat than Apple, and at the Daily, Timothy Lee urged the U.S. government to change copyright law to allow Amazon’s competitors to convert Kindle books to be compatible with other devices. The New York Times’ David Carr gave the most ominous warning of Amazon’s below-cost ebook pricing’s effect on the publishing industry, saying that with the suit, “Now Amazon has the Justice Department as an ally to rebuild its monopoly and wipe out other players.”

Novelist Charlie Stross went into the economics of Amazon’s ebook strategy, comparing it to big-box retailers that wipe out mom-and-pop stores with their extremely low pricing: “Amazon has the potential to be like that predatory big box retailer on a global scale. And it’s well on the way to doing so in the ebook sector.” Forbes’ Tim Worstall pushed back against Stross’ characterization, arguing that Amazon doesn’t have a monopoly on the ebook market because it’s still extremely easy to put ebooks on a server, achieve some scale and contest Amazon’s dominance.

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, for his part, released a letter to shareholders last Friday that asserted that “even well-meaning gatekeepers slow innovation.” Techcrunch’s John Biggs said this philosophy makes sense in the world of networked information, but Wired’s Tim Carmody said Amazon is really trying to draw a contrast between its own infrastructure-based model and the product-based “gatekeeping” model of its chief competitor, Apple.

Google’s open web warning: A few nuggets regarding Google: In an interview with the Guardian, Google co-founder Sergey Brin warned of “very powerful forces” lining up against the open web around the world, referring both to oppressive governments like China and Iran and to Google’s competitors, like Facebook and Apple. Tech blogger John Gruber noted that Brin seems to be assuming that the open web is “only what Google can index and sell ads against,” and Wired’s Tim Carmody took that point deeper, arguing that Google is part of the continuum of control and closure of the Internet between governments and corporations, not separate from it.

Elsewhere, Ross Douthat of the New York Times used Google’s recently unveiled Project Glass, which would bring all the information of a smartphone in front of our eyes in the form of glasses, as a warning against the possibility of a sort of hyper-surveillance techno-tyranny. Web philosopher Stowe Boyd ripped Douthat’s assertion that Google’s glasses are a reflection of our growing loneliness. (Slate’s Eric Klinenberg wrote a more thorough takedown of the “we’re getting lonelier” hypothesis, targeting Atlantic’s recent article on Facebook.) And late last week, Google’s news products chief, Richard Gingras wrote at the Lab about the questions that will define the future of journalism.

Reading roundup: It’s been a fairly slow week, but there are still a few interesting items to keep an eye on:

— Facebook has begun testing “trending articles” as a way to get more people to use its social news apps, though ReadWriteWeb’s Jon Mitchell said those apps, and the “frictionless sharing” they depend on, aren’t working. Meanwhile, the Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal said it’s time to get past the Facebook mentality of social networking and figure out what’s next for the Internet.

— NYU prof Jay Rosen wrote about a fascinating question that’s been puzzling him for years — Why does the American public trust the press so much less than it used to? — positing a few possible explanations and asking for more ideas. You can also hear Rosen talking about the state of the media and the public in this Radio Open Source podcast.

— Two more intriguing entries on the ongoing series of posts on how people get their news, these from News.me: Digital media researcher danah boyd, who talked about young people’s news consumption, and former New York Times digital chief Martin Nisenholtz, who talked about the Times’ transition into a digital world.

— Finally, the Times’ Brian Stelter wrote a thoughtful piece on the fleeting nature of today’s information environment, and the ephemeral, hyperactive common conversation it gives us.

April 13 2012

15:40

This Week in Review: The fallout from Facebook and Instagram’s deal, and e-books’ unclear future

Facebook scoops up Instagram: There were two billion-dollar deals in the tech world this week, and by far the bigger of the two was Facebook’s purchase of the photo-sharing app Instagram. Mathew Ingram of GigaOM has a good, quick roundup of initial reaction to the deal, but I’ll try to sort through each of the angles to the story, including what this means for Facebook, Instagram, and the tech world in general.

The first big question was why Facebook bought Instagram, especially for so much money. The most common answer, voiced most persuasively by GigaOM’s Om Malik, was that Facebook felt threatened by Instagram’s ascendance in mobile photo sharing, one area in which Facebook has struggled. Business Insider’s Nicholas Carlson explained why Instagram does mobile photos so much better than Facebook, and Fortune’s Dan Primack suggested that Facebook panicked at all the money Instagram has raised recently.

The New York Times also characterized the deal as a big move by Facebook into mobile media, but there were other key aspects at work, too: Ingram said Instagram’s value lay in its network, and Wired’s Tim Carmody said what matters to Facebook is Instagram’s personal data. Rackspace’s Robert Scoble outlined some of the specifics of that data, and All Things Digital’s Lauren Goode focused on Instagram’s location data. New York’s Paul Ford said Facebook is attempting to buy Instagram’s sincerity: “Remember what the iPod was to Apple? That’s how Instagram might look to Facebook: an artfully designed product that does one thing perfectly.”

So what does this mean for Instagram? TechCrunch detailed the company’s rise, and the big concern was, as CNN’s John Sutter put it, whether Facebook would “ruin” Instagram. Mashable’s Christina Warren urged Facebook to keep Instagram mobile-only and keep it separate from Facebook logins, and Jolie O’Dell of VentureBeat pointed out some of the good things Facebook’s developers could do for Instagram. TechCrunch noted that Facebook’s statement that it would keep Instagram as a separate product is a big departure from Facebook’s unified approach.

That concern over Facebook ruining Instagram indicates a certain revulsion for Facebook among Instagram users, something Om Malik took note of. Forbes’ John McQuaid said the sentiments reveal our uneasiness with the utility-like role tech giants like Facebook are playing in our new social world, and The Next Web’s Courtney Boyd Myers reminded Instagram users that the fact that they loved it so much was a big part of the reason it got bought in the first place.

The next question was for the tech industry as a whole: Does Instagram’s massive purchase price signal another tech market bubble? The Atlantic’s Rebecca Greenfield said it’s just time to accept the existence of a social media bubble, and the Guardian’s Charles Arthur said we may not be at the peak of inflated valuations, though also at the Guardian, Dan Gillmor said we could be near the end of the bubble. But Wired’s Andy Baio crunched the numbers and said Instagram wasn’t overvalued, and if anything, the tech market is rewarding efficiency. Forbes’ Robert Hof, meanwhile, looked at whether we’ll see more social media purchases soon, coming up with some reasons for a slowdown.

Finally, Poynter’s Jeff Sonderman looked at some of the ways journalists have used Instagram, and Reuters’ Jack Shafer put the deal in the context of the larger cultural shift from voice to text to images. “So, Instagram is here,” he said. “What I want to know is: Where is it going to take us?”

Apple, publishers, Amazon, and ebooks’ future: The ebook industry absorbed a blow this week when the U.S. Department of Justice sued Apple and five of the largest book publishers for antitrust violations involving price-fixing for ebooks. (Sixteen states also filed a lawsuit of their own.) Three of the publishers — Hachette, Simon & Schuster, and HarperCollins — immediately settled with the DOJ, and Wired’s Tim Carmody explained the terms of the settlement, which will undermine the model that the publishers created with Apple, though not kill it outright. Apple, Penguin, and Macmillan have decided not to settle, and the latter’s CEO issued a defiant letter in response to the suit.

PaidContent’s Laura Hazard Owen wrote a fantastic explanation of what the case is about, but in short, the issue centers on what’s called agency pricing, in which the publishers set book prices, rather than the retailers, and the books must be at the same price across retailers. In 2010, Apple negotiated an agency pricing model with the big book publishers for the rollout of its iPad’s iBookstore, and the DOJ objected to that as price-fixing.

The Verge’s Nilay Patel dug through more of the details from the lawsuit of the alleged price-fixing process, particularly its response to Amazon’s perceived ebook dominance. At the same time, however, as Peter Kafka of All Things Digital noted, Apple was allegedly considering a deal to divide and share rulership over online content with Amazon. A few people said the DOJ wasn’t likely to win the suit: Law prof Richard Epstein said the agency pricing arrangement has more social and consumer benefits than a classic collusion case, and CNET concluded that Apple should be able to win its case, too. Adam Thierer of the Technology Liberation Front put the strategy in the context of copyright challenges, coming out against the suit in the process.

Also this week, we found out that several of the big publishers have refused to sign their annual contracts with Amazon, as Salon’s Alexander Zaitchik reported and Laura Hazard Owen explained. The Seattle Times has been running a critical series on Amazon, which, as the Los Angeles Times pointed out, includes some real concern about Amazon behaving anti-competitively by selling ebooks for too little.

Publishers have argued that that’s why agency pricing is necessary: It’s the best chance to keep Amazon from undercutting publishers and laying waste to the book industry. Web thinker Tim O’Reilly said the government should be watching Amazon more closely than the five companies it just sued, but Nate Hoffelder of The Digital Reader defended Amazon, arguing that it’s helping enable an entirely new publishing model in its stead.

Christopher Mims of Technology Review said it doesn’t matter if Amazon becomes a monopoly. And GigaOM’s Mathew Ingram also said Amazon’s practices have been good for consumers and good for innovation, unlike those of the publishers: “They seem to have spent most of their time dragging their feet and throwing up roadblocks to any kind of innovation … Their defense of the agency-pricing model feels like yet another attempt to stave off the forces of disruption. Why not try to adapt instead?”

Microsoft’s big patent purchase: The other billion-dollar deal drew less attention, but could be an important one beneath the tech industry’s surface: Microsoft paid just more than $1 billion for more than 800 AOL patents, outbidding Amazon, eBay, Google, and Facebook for the intellectual property trove. The patents involve advertising, search, mobile media, and e-commerce, and includes the patents underpinning Netscape, as All Things D reported.

CNET’s Jay Greene and Stephen Shankland described a few of the more interesting patents potentially involved in the deal and pointed out that Microsoft’s work may have been closer to AOL’s than any other potential buyer. Dealbook’s Michael de la Merced characterized the deal as part of a “gold rush” on patents in the tech world. On AOL’s end, The New Yorker’s Nicholas Thompson worried that the money from the deal will go to appease shareholders rather than create new products, and ZDNet’s Andrew Nusca was also skeptical of the sale’s value for AOL, wondering why the company couldn’t take advantage of the patents itself. “To me, AOL’s decision to sell this part of the portfolio shows a lack of confidence in its ability to execute in these areas,” he wrote.

Remembering Mike Wallace: One of the most legendary figures in the news industry died last weekend — Mike Wallace, longtime journalist for CBS and 60 Minutes in particular. The New York Times has a definitive obituary, and CBS has some more personal remembrances. The Times also collected responses to Wallace’s death, in which he was remembered as a tough-minded reporter: The New Yorker’s Ken Auletta described him as a pioneer of investigative journalism on television. Likewise, New York’s Matt Zoller Seitz gave a thoughtful appreciation of Wallace’s “informed showmanship”: “He was our stand-in, asking the questions that we might have asked if we were there and had his skill and nerve.”

Others had more personal stories: The legendary investigative reporter Seymour Hersh, longtime Philly television columnist Gail Shister, j-prof Dan Kennedy, and The Wrap’s Sharon Waxman. As Kennedy wrote: “I really do think there was a golden age of television news, and Wallace was right in the middle of it.”

Reading roundup: Plenty of other interesting pieces to keep up with this week:

— A few more takes on last week’s purchase of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News by a group of local investors: The New York Times’ David Carr mused on the return of the newspaper baron, the American Journalism Review’s John Morton examined the recent spree of newspaper purchases in a downtime for the industry, and Penn prof Victor Pickard argued for more systemic solutions to save papers like Philly’s.

— A couple of interesting pieces from the academic view of journalism: NYU’s Jay Rosen and MIT’s Ethan Zuckerman talked about trends in journalism at an MIT forum (summarized well by Matt Stempeck), and CUNY’s C.W. Anderson talked a bit about his research on data journalism to Tyler Dukes of Reporters’ Lab.

— The debate over the value of online commenting continues: Animal’s Joel Johnson proposed that comments are worth far less than publishers think, because they don’t draw many readers and don’t make money, but GigaOM’s Mathew Ingram countered that comments are an important check on online authority and that not allowing them tells readers to “go away.”

— News analyst Alan Mutter made the age-old argument that newspapers are failing in their digital efforts in a brief, potent piece decrying newspapers’ poor digital products and weak competitive response, and urging them to pool their efforts.

— Finally, Digital First Media’s Steve Buttry wrote a gracious but no-nonsense letter to newsroom curmudgeons defending digital journalism practices, then wrote about what he learned from its fallout, then addressed the role of news organizations themselves in enabling curmudgeonhood. The posts and comments are a good glimpse into the current state of newsroom culture and change.

Facebook/Instagram logo by Karl Nilsson, iPad photo by Luiz Filipe Carneiro Machado, and old CBS Radio ad by Nesster all used under a Creative Commons license.

January 23 2012

06:57

Pew Research: Tablet and e-book reader ownership nearly double over the holiday gift-giving period

Pew Research :: The share of adults in the U.S. who own tablet computers nearly doubled from 10% to 19% between mid-December and early January and the same surge in growth also applied to e-book readers, which also jumped from 10% to 19% over the same time period. The number of Americans owning at least one of these digital reading devices jumped from 18% in December to 29% in January. These findings are striking because they come after a period from mid-2011 into the autumn in which there was not much change in the ownership of tablets and e-book readers

Continue to read Lee Rainie, www.pewinternet.org

January 20 2012

19:00

Matthew Battles: It doesn’t take Cupertino to make textbooks interactive

Absent the glamour of the black mock turtleneck, Apple’s Thursday event, held at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, still came bearing flowers of rhetoric, lovingly transplanted from their native soil in Cupertino’s sunny clime. One such rhetorical staple, the feature checklist, made its appearance about nine minutes in. Usually, the checklist is used to contrast Apple’s latest magical object with the feature set of lesser smartphones or other misbegotten tech tchotchkes; it was more than a little eye-popping to see the same rhetoric of invidious comparison used against the book in full — that gadget which, as senior VP Phil Schiller reminded us, was invented (in its print incarnation) back at the end of the Hundred Years’ War.

As Schiller ticked down the list, for feature after feature — portability, durability, interactivity, searchability, and currency — the book earned a big red X. Curiously, Schiller didn’t let his earlier observation of the antiquity of books undermine his critique on the grounds of their durability; not only the technology of the book, but many actual tomes survive from Gutenberg’s era; and when older formats are taken into account, far older books are still with us. It is comparatively difficult to imagine an iPad of today, much less an app designed to run on one, still in use two hundred, five hundred, a thousand years hence.

In a more focused sense, Apple’s critique of the textbook is valid. But the problem with textbooks isn’t that they’re books per se; it’s that they’re overdetermined, baroque in their complexity and ornamentation.

Modern textbooks are monsters — heavy, unwieldy, battened on siloed content. They’re like ’90s-era computers, loaded with bloatware that blunts their processor speed and complicates their interfaces. Already, today’s textbooks rarely come as paper-only devices, but include (for significant extra licensing fees) websites, online editions, networked assessments, and interactive assignments. For the wired child, these electronic ancillaries solve the portability problem; for the less prosperous or fortunate pupil, the backpack is still very heavy.

The major education publishers have become massively efficient inhalers of content, capturing licenses for images and objects held in museums around the globe, hiring phalanxes of MAs and ABDs to craft mazes of matrices, rubrics, and quizzes, and deploying batteries of sales reps to market-test every page, every image, every checklist. It’s a prosperous model — and as Tim Carmody evocatively documented at Wired yesterday, this prosperity has enabled education publishers to leverage their way into trade publishing and other media. It’s no wonder Apple is taking aim at them.

The iPad is an extraordinary device, but it’s hardly the first avenue multimedia has taken to the classroom. The filmstrips and 16mm movies of my childhood could be engaging experiences too — and they could be time-fillers for addled, overstretched teachers as well. Schiller made a sentimental play to this constituency, opening his presentation with a series of excerpted interviews in which teachers sang the sad litany of challenges they face: cratering budgets, overcrowded classrooms, unprepared, disengaged students. The argument that Apple — founded by dropouts and autodidacts — is fundamentally motivated to change this set of conditions is as ludicrous as the notion that the company could ever hope actually to do any such thing.

The textbooks demonstrated in yesterday’s event were lovely and compelling — and they looked strikingly like current textbooks. Roger Rosner, who heads productivity software for Apple, gave a tour of Life on Earth, a title created in conjunction with E. O. Wilson’s Encyclopedia of Life project; after playing the book’s cinematic introductory sequence, he swiped through pages featuring familiar modalities of intertextual braiding and layering: things like tables, block capitals, and callout boxes, which derive from mid-20th-century rotogravure magazine production — only sprinkled with videos, animations, and interactive images, in Apple-controlled formats, subject to development cycles originating in Cupertino (and routed through Shenzhen). At one point, he dove into a microphotograph of a cell to pop out a rendering of a strand of DNA. The helix shimmered invitingly, but disclosed none of its secrets.

Here’s the thing: Interactivity doesn’t exist. More properly, everything is interactive. We use the catch-all term “interactivity” to brand as novel the qualities exhibited by digital objects striving to be like real-world objects. But chairs, raindrops, sandwiches, and envelopes are also interactive — in their own evolved ways. Books in fact exhibit rich interactive habits, evolved to engage us in peculiar ways (and increasingly, these very features are counted as bugs).

Digital objects, too, evolve their own ways of reaching out to meet us halfway. The spell of the real makes us strive for a specious virtuality, to try fashioning uncanny appendages for objects that live in databases and go to work in networks. Tellingly, it’s at those uncanny intersections where digital objects most strenuously try to emulate objects in the real world — books, shelves, desk blotters, gaming tables — that Apple’s legitimately vaunted design sensibility breaks down. For its part, a pop-up animation of a lipid molecule might be enlightening — or it might merely be twisty and pretty. That’s why I almost want to say that, those heartfelt teacher testimonials at the start of yesterday’s show notwithstanding, it’s not the book Apple is trying to replace — it’s teaching.

Tools exist — they’re getting more powerful everyday — that allow us to treat digital objects as digital objects: to collect and organize them, to fashion stories from them, to turn them into bespoke devices uniquely tuned to unlocking the world’s mysteries. Apple wants to offer us those tools as well. Yesterday’s event also introduced iBooks Author, a free app for building iPad-native textbooks like Life on Earth. But increasingly, such vital aggregates can be engineered in classrooms, hacked together on the fly by teachers and students learning and teaching collaboratively. I’m thinking in particular of Zeega, an open-source toolkit for collecting media and telling stories, which is in the midst of development in association with metaLAB, the research/design group I work with at Harvard — but a host of other such tools exist or are on the way.

We can never count Apple out — the company’s visions have an implacable way of turning into givens — but the future is undoubtedly more complex. There will still be overcrowded classrooms, overworked teachers, and shrinking budgets in an education world animated by Apple. But I prefer to think of teachers and students finding ways to hack knowledge and make their own beautiful stories to envisioning ranks of students spellbound by magical tablets.

Matthew Battles is the author of Library: An Unquiet History and cofounder of HiLobrow. He is a program fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, where he works for metaLAB, a research and design group investigating the arts and humanities in a time of networks.

January 19 2012

10:52

20 free ebooks on journalism (for your Xmas Kindle) {updated to 38}

As many readers of this blog will have received a Kindle for Christmas I thought I should share my list of the free ebooks that I recommend stocking up on.

Online journalism and multimedia ebooks

Starting with more general books, Mark Briggs‘s book Journalism 2.0 (PDF*) is now 4 years old but still provides a good overview of online journalism to have by your side. Mindy McAdams‘s 42-page Reporter’s Guide to Multimedia Proficiency (PDF) adds some more on that front, and Adam Westbrook‘s Ideas on Digital Storytelling and Publishing (PDF) provides a larger focus on narrative, editing and other elements.

After the first version of this post, MA Online Journalism student Franzi Baehrle suggested this free book on DSLR Cinematography, as well as Adam Westbrook on multimedia production (PDF). And Guy Degen recommends the free ebook on news and documentary filmmaking from ImageJunkies.com.

A free ebook on blogging can be downloaded from Guardian Students when you register with the site, and Swedish Radio have produced this guide to Social Media for Journalists (in English).

Computer assisted reporting ebooks

The Society of Professional Journalists‘s Digital Media Handbook Part 1 (PDF) and Part 2 cover more multimedia, but also provide a pot-pourri of extra bits and pieces including computer assisted reporting (CAR).

For more on CAR, the first edition of Philip Meyer‘s classic The New Precision Journalism is available in full online, although you’ll have to download each chapter in Word format and email it to your Kindle for conversion. It’s worth it: 20 years on, his advice is still excellent.

You’ll also have to download each chapter of the Data Journalism Handbook separately, or you can pay for a single-download ebook or physical version.

For a walkthrough on using some data techniques in the health field, this ebook on reporting health gives some excellent advice. Although it uses US data which is rather more accessible and structured than in most other countries, the principles are illustrative for readers anywhere.

If you want to explore statistics or programming further, Think Stats (via Adrian Short) covers both. The Bastards Book of Regular Expressions is a useful introduction to more programming – it’s free if you choose a zero price, but you can also pay whatever you want.

On visualisation, here’s Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 from a book by Alberto Cairo (from a free course at the Knight Center).

On advanced search, Untangling The Web: A Guide to Internet Research is a whopping 643-page document released by the US National Security Agency following an FOIA request (thanks Neurobonkers). Sadly it’s scanned so you won’t be able to convert this to another format.

Community management ebooks

Jono Bacon‘s The Art of Community (PDF), comes in at over 360 pages and is a thorough exploration – told largely through his own experiences – of an area that too few journalists understand.

The Proven Path (PDF) by Richard Millington is a more concise overview by one of the field’s leading voices (via Jan Kampmann).

A useful complement to these is Yochai Benkler‘s landmark book on how networked individuals operate, The Wealth of Networks, which is available to download in full or part online from his page at Harvard University’s Berkman Center. And each chapter of Dan Gillmor’s We The Media is available in PDF format on O’Reilly’s site.

More recently, New Forms of Collaborative Innovation and Production on the Internet (PDF) is a free ebook from the University of Gottingen with a collection of chapters covering practices such as consumer co-creation, trust management in online communities, and “coordination and motivation of consumer contribution”.

Staying savvy in the information war

Simply dealing with the flood of information and work deserves a book itself – and one free option is SmarterEveryday: Design Your Day - Adam Tinworth is among the contributors.

If you’re reporting on health issues – or ever expect to deal with a press release from a health company – Testing Treatments (PDF) is well worth a read, providing an insight into how medicines and treatments are tested, and popular misconceptions to avoid. It’s littered with examples from reporting on health in the media, and well written. And if you need persuading why you should care, read this post (all of it) by Dr Petra Boynton on what happens when journalists fail to scrutinise press releases from health companies.

More broadly on the subject of keeping your wits about you, Dan Gillmor‘s latest book on media literacy, Mediactive, is published under a Creative Commons licence as a PDF. And The American Copy Editors Society has published a 50-page ebook on attribution and plagiarism which includes social media and other emerging platforms.

Ebooks on culture, copyright and code

Lawrence Lessig has written quite a few books about law and how it relates to the media when content becomes digitised, as well as code more generally. Most of his work is available online for free download, including The Future of Ideas (PDF), Code 2.0 (PDF), Remix, and Free Culture.

Matt Mason‘s book on how media culture is changed by “pirates” gives you a choice: you can download The Pirate’s Dilemma for whatever price you choose to pay, including nothing.

Investigative Journalism

Mark Lee Hunter has written 2 great free ebooks which strip away the mystique that surrounds investigative journalism and persuades so many journalists that it’s something ‘other people do’.

The first, Story-Based Inquiry (PDF), is an extremely useful guide to organising and focusing an investigation, demonstrating that investigative journalism is more about being systematic than about meeting strangers in underground car parks.

The second, The Global Casebook (PDF), is brilliant: a collection of investigative journalism – but with added commentary by each journalist explaining their methods and techniques. Where Story-Based Inquiry provides an over-arching framework; The Global Casebook demonstrates how different approaches can work for different stories and contexts.

He’s also worked with Luuk Sengers to produce Nine Steps from Idea to Story (PDF), which puts the story-based method into step-by-step form.

For more tips on investigative journalism the Investigative Journalism Manual (you’ll have to download each chapter separately) provides guidance from an African perspective which still applies whatever country you practise journalism.

And if you’re particularly interested in corruption you may also want to download Paul Radu‘s 50-page ebook Follow The Money: A Digital Guide for Tracking Corruption (PDF).

The CPJ have also published the Journalist Security Guide, a free ebook for anyone who needs to protect sources or work in dangerous environments. Scroll down to the bottom to find links to PDF, Kindle, ePub and iPad versions.

Related subjects: design, programming

That’s 17 18 so many books I’m losing count, but if you want to explore design or programming there are dozens more out there. In particular, How to Think Like a Computer Scientistis a HTML ebook, but the Kindle deals with HTML pages too. Also in HTML is Probabilistic Programming and Bayesian Methods for Hackers (more statistics), and Digital Foundations: Introduction to Media Design (h/t Jon Hickman).

Have I missed anything?

Those are just the books that spring to mind or that I’ve previously bookmarked. Are there others I’ve missed?

*Some commenters have suggested I should point out that these are mostly PDFs, which some people don’t like. You can, however, convert a PDF to Kindle’s own mobi format by emailing it to your Kindle email address with ‘convert’ as the subject line (via Leonie in the comments). Christian Payne also recommends the free tool calibre for converting PDFs into the more Kindle-friendly .mobi and other formats.

Alternatively, if you change the orientation to landscape the original PDF can be read with formatting and images intact.

UPDATES [12 Jan 2012]: Now translated into Catalan by Alvaro Martinez. [20 Jan 2012]: Dan Gillmor’s We The Media added to make a round 20. [22 March 2012]: A book on DSLR, another on multimedia, and a third on news and documentary filmmaking added. [27 April 2012]: A book on security for journalists added. [29 April]: the Data Journalism Handbook added. [3 July 2012]: Mark Lee Hunter’s 3rd book added. [4 October 2012]: Adam Westbrook’s book on multimedia added. [5 February 2013]: ebooks on health data journalism and statistics added. [3 April 2013]: Guardian Students’ How to Blog ebook and The Bastards Book of Regular Expressions added. [2 May 2013]: book on plagiarism added. [10 May]: books on productivity and advanced search added. [2 June]: book on social media for journalists added, and Bayesian methods. [12 June]: book added on collaboration and innovation in online publishing.

 

10:52

20 free ebooks on journalism (for your Xmas Kindle) {updated to 38}

As many readers of this blog will have received a Kindle for Christmas I thought I should share my list of the free ebooks that I recommend stocking up on.

Online journalism and multimedia ebooks

Starting with more general books, Mark Briggs‘s book Journalism 2.0 (PDF*) is now 4 years old but still provides a good overview of online journalism to have by your side. Mindy McAdams‘s 42-page Reporter’s Guide to Multimedia Proficiency (PDF) adds some more on that front, and Adam Westbrook‘s Ideas on Digital Storytelling and Publishing (PDF) provides a larger focus on narrative, editing and other elements.

After the first version of this post, MA Online Journalism student Franzi Baehrle suggested this free book on DSLR Cinematography, as well as Adam Westbrook on multimedia production (PDF). And Guy Degen recommends the free ebook on news and documentary filmmaking from ImageJunkies.com.

A free ebook on blogging can be downloaded from Guardian Students when you register with the site, and Swedish Radio have produced this guide to Social Media for Journalists (in English).

Computer assisted reporting ebooks

The Society of Professional Journalists‘s Digital Media Handbook Part 1 (PDF) and Part 2 cover more multimedia, but also provide a pot-pourri of extra bits and pieces including computer assisted reporting (CAR).

For more on CAR, the first edition of Philip Meyer‘s classic The New Precision Journalism is available in full online, although you’ll have to download each chapter in Word format and email it to your Kindle for conversion. It’s worth it: 20 years on, his advice is still excellent.

You’ll also have to download each chapter of the Data Journalism Handbook separately, or you can pay for a single-download ebook or physical version.

For a walkthrough on using some data techniques in the health field, this ebook on reporting health gives some excellent advice. Although it uses US data which is rather more accessible and structured than in most other countries, the principles are illustrative for readers anywhere.

If you want to explore statistics or programming further, Think Stats (via Adrian Short) covers both. The Bastards Book of Regular Expressions is a useful introduction to more programming – it’s free if you choose a zero price, but you can also pay whatever you want.

On visualisation, here’s Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 from a book by Alberto Cairo (from a free course at the Knight Center).

On advanced search, Untangling The Web: A Guide to Internet Research is a whopping 643-page document released by the US National Security Agency following an FOIA request (thanks Neurobonkers). Sadly it’s scanned so you won’t be able to convert this to another format.

Community management ebooks

Jono Bacon‘s The Art of Community (PDF), comes in at over 360 pages and is a thorough exploration – told largely through his own experiences – of an area that too few journalists understand.

The Proven Path (PDF) by Richard Millington is a more concise overview by one of the field’s leading voices (via Jan Kampmann).

A useful complement to these is Yochai Benkler‘s landmark book on how networked individuals operate, The Wealth of Networks, which is available to download in full or part online from his page at Harvard University’s Berkman Center. And each chapter of Dan Gillmor’s We The Media is available in PDF format on O’Reilly’s site.

More recently, New Forms of Collaborative Innovation and Production on the Internet (PDF) is a free ebook from the University of Gottingen with a collection of chapters covering practices such as consumer co-creation, trust management in online communities, and “coordination and motivation of consumer contribution”.

Staying savvy in the information war

Simply dealing with the flood of information and work deserves a book itself – and one free option is SmarterEveryday: Design Your Day - Adam Tinworth is among the contributors.

If you’re reporting on health issues – or ever expect to deal with a press release from a health company – Testing Treatments (PDF) is well worth a read, providing an insight into how medicines and treatments are tested, and popular misconceptions to avoid. It’s littered with examples from reporting on health in the media, and well written. And if you need persuading why you should care, read this post (all of it) by Dr Petra Boynton on what happens when journalists fail to scrutinise press releases from health companies.

More broadly on the subject of keeping your wits about you, Dan Gillmor‘s latest book on media literacy, Mediactive, is published under a Creative Commons licence as a PDF. And The American Copy Editors Society has published a 50-page ebook on attribution and plagiarism which includes social media and other emerging platforms.

Ebooks on culture, copyright and code

Lawrence Lessig has written quite a few books about law and how it relates to the media when content becomes digitised, as well as code more generally. Most of his work is available online for free download, including The Future of Ideas (PDF), Code 2.0 (PDF), Remix, and Free Culture.

Matt Mason‘s book on how media culture is changed by “pirates” gives you a choice: you can download The Pirate’s Dilemma for whatever price you choose to pay, including nothing.

Investigative Journalism

Mark Lee Hunter has written 2 great free ebooks which strip away the mystique that surrounds investigative journalism and persuades so many journalists that it’s something ‘other people do’.

The first, Story-Based Inquiry (PDF), is an extremely useful guide to organising and focusing an investigation, demonstrating that investigative journalism is more about being systematic than about meeting strangers in underground car parks.

The second, The Global Casebook (PDF), is brilliant: a collection of investigative journalism – but with added commentary by each journalist explaining their methods and techniques. Where Story-Based Inquiry provides an over-arching framework; The Global Casebook demonstrates how different approaches can work for different stories and contexts.

He’s also worked with Luuk Sengers to produce Nine Steps from Idea to Story (PDF), which puts the story-based method into step-by-step form.

For more tips on investigative journalism the Investigative Journalism Manual (you’ll have to download each chapter separately) provides guidance from an African perspective which still applies whatever country you practise journalism.

And if you’re particularly interested in corruption you may also want to download Paul Radu‘s 50-page ebook Follow The Money: A Digital Guide for Tracking Corruption (PDF).

The CPJ have also published the Journalist Security Guide, a free ebook for anyone who needs to protect sources or work in dangerous environments. Scroll down to the bottom to find links to PDF, Kindle, ePub and iPad versions.

Related subjects: design, programming

That’s 17 18 so many books I’m losing count, but if you want to explore design or programming there are dozens more out there. In particular, How to Think Like a Computer Scientistis a HTML ebook, but the Kindle deals with HTML pages too. Also in HTML is Probabilistic Programming and Bayesian Methods for Hackers (more statistics), and Digital Foundations: Introduction to Media Design (h/t Jon Hickman).

Have I missed anything?

Those are just the books that spring to mind or that I’ve previously bookmarked. Are there others I’ve missed?

*Some commenters have suggested I should point out that these are mostly PDFs, which some people don’t like. You can, however, convert a PDF to Kindle’s own mobi format by emailing it to your Kindle email address with ‘convert’ as the subject line (via Leonie in the comments). Christian Payne also recommends the free tool calibre for converting PDFs into the more Kindle-friendly .mobi and other formats.

Alternatively, if you change the orientation to landscape the original PDF can be read with formatting and images intact.

UPDATES [12 Jan 2012]: Now translated into Catalan by Alvaro Martinez. [20 Jan 2012]: Dan Gillmor’s We The Media added to make a round 20. [22 March 2012]: A book on DSLR, another on multimedia, and a third on news and documentary filmmaking added. [27 April 2012]: A book on security for journalists added. [29 April]: the Data Journalism Handbook added. [3 July 2012]: Mark Lee Hunter’s 3rd book added. [4 October 2012]: Adam Westbrook’s book on multimedia added. [5 February 2013]: ebooks on health data journalism and statistics added. [3 April 2013]: Guardian Students’ How to Blog ebook and The Bastards Book of Regular Expressions added. [2 May 2013]: book on plagiarism added. [10 May]: books on productivity and advanced search added. [2 June]: book on social media for journalists added, and Bayesian methods. [12 June]: book added on collaboration and innovation in online publishing.

 


Filed under: online journalism Tagged: adam tinworth, adam westbrook, adrian short, bayesian methods, Code 2.0, community management, CPJ, dan gillmor, Data Journalism Handbook, documentary, ebooks, Franzi Baerhle, free culture, global casebook, Guardian Students, Guy Degan, how to blog, imagejunkies, investigative journalism manual, jono bacon, Journalism 2.0, kindle, lawrence lessig, Mark Briggs, Mark Lee Hunter, matt mason, New Forms of Collaborative Innovation and Production on the Internet, nokia, paul radu, philip meyer, productivity, Proven Path, Remix, richard millington, security, SmarterEveryday: Design Your Day, story-based inquiry, Testing Treatments, the art of community, The Future of Ideas, The New Precision Journalism, The Pirate's Dilemma, University of Gottingen
10:52

20 free ebooks on journalism (for your Xmas Kindle) {updated to 38}

As many readers of this blog will have received a Kindle for Christmas I thought I should share my list of the free ebooks that I recommend stocking up on.

Online journalism and multimedia ebooks

Starting with more general books, Mark Briggs‘s book Journalism 2.0 (PDF*) is now 4 years old but still provides a good overview of online journalism to have by your side. Mindy McAdams‘s 42-page Reporter’s Guide to Multimedia Proficiency (PDF) adds some more on that front, and Adam Westbrook‘s Ideas on Digital Storytelling and Publishing (PDF) provides a larger focus on narrative, editing and other elements.

After the first version of this post, MA Online Journalism student Franzi Baehrle suggested this free book on DSLR Cinematography, as well as Adam Westbrook on multimedia production (PDF). And Guy Degen recommends the free ebook on news and documentary filmmaking from ImageJunkies.com.

A free ebook on blogging can be downloaded from Guardian Students when you register with the site, and Swedish Radio have produced this guide to Social Media for Journalists (in English).

Computer assisted reporting ebooks

The Society of Professional Journalists‘s Digital Media Handbook Part 1 (PDF) and Part 2 cover more multimedia, but also provide a pot-pourri of extra bits and pieces including computer assisted reporting (CAR).

For more on CAR, the first edition of Philip Meyer‘s classic The New Precision Journalism is available in full online, although you’ll have to download each chapter in Word format and email it to your Kindle for conversion. It’s worth it: 20 years on, his advice is still excellent.

You’ll also have to download each chapter of the Data Journalism Handbook separately, or you can pay for a single-download ebook or physical version.

For a walkthrough on using some data techniques in the health field, this ebook on reporting health gives some excellent advice. Although it uses US data which is rather more accessible and structured than in most other countries, the principles are illustrative for readers anywhere.

If you want to explore statistics or programming further, Think Stats (via Adrian Short) covers both. The Bastards Book of Regular Expressions is a useful introduction to more programming – it’s free if you choose a zero price, but you can also pay whatever you want.

On visualisation, here’s Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 from a book by Alberto Cairo (from a free course at the Knight Center).

On advanced search, Untangling The Web: A Guide to Internet Research is a whopping 643-page document released by the US National Security Agency following an FOIA request (thanks Neurobonkers). Sadly it’s scanned so you won’t be able to convert this to another format.

Community management ebooks

Jono Bacon‘s The Art of Community (PDF), comes in at over 360 pages and is a thorough exploration – told largely through his own experiences – of an area that too few journalists understand.

The Proven Path (PDF) by Richard Millington is a more concise overview by one of the field’s leading voices (via Jan Kampmann).

A useful complement to these is Yochai Benkler‘s landmark book on how networked individuals operate, The Wealth of Networks, which is available to download in full or part online from his page at Harvard University’s Berkman Center. And each chapter of Dan Gillmor’s We The Media is available in PDF format on O’Reilly’s site.

More recently, New Forms of Collaborative Innovation and Production on the Internet (PDF) is a free ebook from the University of Gottingen with a collection of chapters covering practices such as consumer co-creation, trust management in online communities, and “coordination and motivation of consumer contribution”.

Staying savvy in the information war

Simply dealing with the flood of information and work deserves a book itself – and one free option is SmarterEveryday: Design Your Day - Adam Tinworth is among the contributors.

If you’re reporting on health issues – or ever expect to deal with a press release from a health company – Testing Treatments (PDF) is well worth a read, providing an insight into how medicines and treatments are tested, and popular misconceptions to avoid. It’s littered with examples from reporting on health in the media, and well written. And if you need persuading why you should care, read this post (all of it) by Dr Petra Boynton on what happens when journalists fail to scrutinise press releases from health companies.

More broadly on the subject of keeping your wits about you, Dan Gillmor‘s latest book on media literacy, Mediactive, is published under a Creative Commons licence as a PDF. And The American Copy Editors Society has published a 50-page ebook on attribution and plagiarism which includes social media and other emerging platforms.

Ebooks on culture, copyright and code

Lawrence Lessig has written quite a few books about law and how it relates to the media when content becomes digitised, as well as code more generally. Most of his work is available online for free download, including The Future of Ideas (PDF), Code 2.0 (PDF), Remix, and Free Culture.

Matt Mason‘s book on how media culture is changed by “pirates” gives you a choice: you can download The Pirate’s Dilemma for whatever price you choose to pay, including nothing.

Investigative Journalism

Mark Lee Hunter has written 2 great free ebooks which strip away the mystique that surrounds investigative journalism and persuades so many journalists that it’s something ‘other people do’.

The first, Story-Based Inquiry (PDF), is an extremely useful guide to organising and focusing an investigation, demonstrating that investigative journalism is more about being systematic than about meeting strangers in underground car parks.

The second, The Global Casebook (PDF), is brilliant: a collection of investigative journalism – but with added commentary by each journalist explaining their methods and techniques. Where Story-Based Inquiry provides an over-arching framework; The Global Casebook demonstrates how different approaches can work for different stories and contexts.

He’s also worked with Luuk Sengers to produce Nine Steps from Idea to Story (PDF), which puts the story-based method into step-by-step form.

For more tips on investigative journalism the Investigative Journalism Manual (you’ll have to download each chapter separately) provides guidance from an African perspective which still applies whatever country you practise journalism.

And if you’re particularly interested in corruption you may also want to download Paul Radu‘s 50-page ebook Follow The Money: A Digital Guide for Tracking Corruption (PDF).

The CPJ have also published the Journalist Security Guide, a free ebook for anyone who needs to protect sources or work in dangerous environments. Scroll down to the bottom to find links to PDF, Kindle, ePub and iPad versions.

Related subjects: design, programming

That’s 17 18 so many books I’m losing count, but if you want to explore design or programming there are dozens more out there. In particular, How to Think Like a Computer Scientistis a HTML ebook, but the Kindle deals with HTML pages too. Also in HTML is Probabilistic Programming and Bayesian Methods for Hackers (more statistics), and Digital Foundations: Introduction to Media Design (h/t Jon Hickman).

Have I missed anything?

Those are just the books that spring to mind or that I’ve previously bookmarked. Are there others I’ve missed?

*Some commenters have suggested I should point out that these are mostly PDFs, which some people don’t like. You can, however, convert a PDF to Kindle’s own mobi format by emailing it to your Kindle email address with ‘convert’ as the subject line (via Leonie in the comments). Christian Payne also recommends the free tool calibre for converting PDFs into the more Kindle-friendly .mobi and other formats.

Alternatively, if you change the orientation to landscape the original PDF can be read with formatting and images intact.

UPDATES [12 Jan 2012]: Now translated into Catalan by Alvaro Martinez. [20 Jan 2012]: Dan Gillmor’s We The Media added to make a round 20. [22 March 2012]: A book on DSLR, another on multimedia, and a third on news and documentary filmmaking added. [27 April 2012]: A book on security for journalists added. [29 April]: the Data Journalism Handbook added. [3 July 2012]: Mark Lee Hunter’s 3rd book added. [4 October 2012]: Adam Westbrook’s book on multimedia added. [5 February 2013]: ebooks on health data journalism and statistics added. [3 April 2013]: Guardian Students’ How to Blog ebook and The Bastards Book of Regular Expressions added. [2 May 2013]: book on plagiarism added. [10 May]: books on productivity and advanced search added. [2 June]: book on social media for journalists added, and Bayesian methods. [12 June]: book added on collaboration and innovation in online publishing.

 


Filed under: online journalism Tagged: adam tinworth, adam westbrook, adrian short, bayesian methods, Code 2.0, community management, CPJ, dan gillmor, Data Journalism Handbook, documentary, ebooks, Franzi Baerhle, free culture, global casebook, Guardian Students, Guy Degan, how to blog, imagejunkies, investigative journalism manual, jono bacon, Journalism 2.0, kindle, lawrence lessig, Mark Briggs, Mark Lee Hunter, matt mason, New Forms of Collaborative Innovation and Production on the Internet, nokia, paul radu, philip meyer, productivity, Proven Path, Remix, richard millington, security, SmarterEveryday: Design Your Day, story-based inquiry, Testing Treatments, the art of community, The Future of Ideas, The New Precision Journalism, The Pirate's Dilemma, University of Gottingen
06:51

No more new Penguin digital audiobooks for libraries, either

paidContent :: Hoping to skirt Penguin’s library e-book restrictions by checking out a hot new title as a digital audiobook instead? Sorry, that strategy will no longer work as Penguin changed its library policies again. The latest restrictions come about two months after Penguin announced that it would no longer offer any new e-books through libraries.

Continue to read Laura Hazard Owen, paidcontent.org

Tags: ebooks

January 18 2012

21:06

Longreads: When a web community becomes a book publisher

The Atlantic :: At the end of last year, Longreads, one of the curators of lengthy, magazine-y stories that has sprung up to help fans of long-form journalism find great stuff online, released a list highlighting the top ten longreads of 2011.Today, the list is taking a new form -- as an ebook, which is available for $6.99 on Amazon.

[Megan Garber:] This is the new publishing economy in action: fast and flexible and revolving around products whose logic is responsive, rather than predictive. 

Continue to read Megan Garber, www.theatlantic.com

10:25

Confessions of a publisher: “We’re in Amazon’s sights and they’re going to kill us”

PandoDaily :: When you see Snooki’s book on the New York Times Best Seller List, you know publishing is in trouble. You can blame readers and say publishing is just giving the public what they want. But that’s only half the problem. The rest is a lazy publishing industry that does far too little of the work that got them here: Discovering new authors and giving them a shot.

Continue to read Sarah Lacy, pandodaily.com

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