The old words

Since 1998, I have worked as a consultant to book, magazine and association publishers. In the early days, magazine publishers would look at my client list and ask, “You work with book publishers?” Similarly, book publishers would ask, “You work with magazine publishers?”

Generally, I’d answer that, at the level of workflow, book and magazine publishers are more alike than they might realize. My response didn’t always settle the question, and on occasion a broader client base has cost me an assignment. I just wasn’t “book” or “magazine” enough.

As digital formats and channels have multiplied, the overlap has extended to much more than workflow alone. Last month, Byliner and Atavist added subscription pricing to the “download this digital book” models they offered at launch. For Atavist, the subscription module had already been developed as a white-label solution powering TED Books.

At Nieman Journalism Labs, Justin Ellis describes this move as “taking a cue from the world of magazines and newspapers by getting into the subscription business.” If so, the world of magazines and newspapers is watching.

Just last week, the New York Times announced a partnership with Byliner and Vook that is expected to draw upon Times content to create and publish a series of eBooks. Although the launch of its first title, "Snow Fall", was pushed back, the cross-platform story on which it is based has gained widespread notice and substantial praise.

As the much-tweeted Mayan calendar ushers in a vaguely defined “new era” (the Mayans would have benefited from an early version of Evernote), maybe it can include a place for content that is no longer demonstrably “book” or “magazine”.  We’ve been straining under the old words for some time now.

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.