Ebooks suck for learning

On Twitter earlier I said this here thing:

There’s an implicit assumption in publishing commentary that the trajectory of media evolution (books, ebooks, websites, apps) is a known. That the long-term effects, drawbacks, & benefits of each medium will follow a predetermined path towards its manifest destiny. That ebook apps are as good as they'll ever be and will never integrate what research is discovering about learning and memory. That apps will always play the roles they play today. That websites will never reach beyond their current niche, except maybe into apps.

These assumptions are all unsafe. Ebook apps are a young and unformed species. The future of web and app dev is dynamic and changing.

What's more, the publishing industry isn't in charge of this evolution except insofar as it can sabotage ebooks with its misconceptions.

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This week’s must-read post

Clare Reddington has written this here post (based on a talk she did) on some of the things she has learned from leading the Pervasive Media Studio and working at the Watershed.

I could have quoted almost every paragraph but this particular one describes my personal experience with the publishing industry, in a nutshell:

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So I had to make an ebook cover…

Making ebook covers is a relatively new task for designers and there haven’t exactly been many lengthy discussions on the topic. If there were any lengthy discussions I completely missed them which is entirely unsurprising. (I was probably too busy watching videos on Youtube of dogs running into walls and cats falling off furniture.)

I didn’t think of googling “how to make an ebook cover” until last week and my first advice is don’t buy a book about designing ebook covers if the book in question has an ugly cover. It’s just good sense. Otherwise googling ebook covers is good fun and I highly recommend it.

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So long, Readmill, and thanks for all the fish

I wish it had gone differently. I don’t fault Readmill for selling at this point. They did excellent work.

I’ve previously gone on record about my enthusiasm for their platform. (Which reminds me, I need to do a followup to that post, Kindle for iOS has improved dramatically.) Unlike most other firms designing ebook readers, Readmill understood that all of the typographic variables are interconnected. Unlike others, their defaults were beautiful to read.

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What ebook production problems are self-publishers facing?

Driven by curiosity (as always), I’ve just spend a large part of my lunch break browsing through various forums[1], trying to get a handle on what problems self-publishers are facing when they are creating their ebooks.

My impression is that, unlike what I expected from the work and challenges I face making ebooks for a traditional publisher, styling and formatting isn’t a major issue—formatting problems seem limited to edge cases. I’m assuming this is because most self-publishers are doing novels with very simple style needs.

The problems people seem to be facing, in no particular order:

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Sex, education, readers, and futures: what works, what doesn’t

Now that I’m running down a long queue of mostly ready posts, it’s interesting to see which of them get traction and which don’t. These are posts that were written at varying times and in varying situations over the past year and a half and have received a diverse amount of attention when it comes to rewriting and editing.

Unfortunately, I pretty much nailed the pattern last week in when I wrote that blogging has trained me to assume you’re stupid.

The most popular post this week? Recipe for pundit response to Hugh Howey’s suggestions. Which was little more than a glorified listicle mocking other blog posts. And yet, as simplistic as the post was, it netted three times as much traffic as the next most popular blog post. The discussion it engendered, even on other sites with more of a tradition for discussion, was about as nuanced and detailed as the blog post itself (which is fitting).

(Best thing about the anti-blogging post? The only comment it got proved its point entirely.)

The publishing industry’s new product categories series consistently gets a so so response. Not bad, but not brilliant. Very consistent. These blog posts tend to get almost routinely retweeted even though most of them tend to just state the bloody obvious. The blog post that least fit the formula (state the obvious, explain what it was that was so bloody obvious, state the obvious again) bling it up for education was also the least popular of the series this week.

Some posts generated more noise than traffic (the various types of readers). One post (the unevenly distributed ebook future) in the series did unusually well this week and, if I had to guess, I’d say it was all thanks to Sam Missingham’s retweet.

None of those come close, in my view, to the most interesting blog event of the week: I published the most unpopular blog post I have ever posted. And that’s saying something since I’ve been doing this blogging thing since 2003.

On Wednesday, I published sex, violence, and stílbrot which was a post about writing styles, self-censorship, and sex & violence. And in the comment thread we talked about pseudonyms and the discomfort that comes from writing books your friends and family know about. It had an amazing conversion rate to likes and commenting, but that was because its views can be counted on your digits.

I can’t quite say that this week proved what I’ve said for a long time (a blog post’s popularity is inversely proportional to how fun it was for me to write) because I enjoyed writing the second half of ‘bling it up for education’ and that post did okay. I think that’s because the first half of ‘bling it’ was formulaic enough to generate the retweets while most people ignored the second half.

Other than that blip, this week continues the pattern blogging seems to have devolved into.