- Kevin Gerald: Forces That Form Your Future
- Eight forces that will shape the future consumer
- The 'Future Book' Is Here, but It's Not What We Expected
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Several devices, actually. The iPhone launched in June , the Kindle that November. Then, in , the iPad arrived. And for a brief moment during the early s, it seemed like it might finally be here: the glorious Future Book. Fast forward to The world keeps turning. But maybe by the time you read it. Passed away in I was reading this story—part of his collection The Largesse of the Maiden —on my Kindle, during a many-day hike.
Hiking with a Kindle definitely feels futuristic—an entire library in a device that weighs less than a small book, and rarely needs charging. Reading this same text, feeling the same impulse. Some need to mark those lines. I wanted to stick my cent eulogy between those lines for others to read, and to read what those others had thought.
Purchasing a book is one of the strongest self-selections of community, and damn it, I wanted to engage. For my Kindle Oasis—one of the most svelte, elegant, and expensive digital book containers you can buy in —is about as interactive as a potato. Physical books today look like physical books of last century. And digital books of today look, feel, and function almost identically to digital books of 10 years ago, when the Kindle launched. The digital reading and digital book startup ecosystem that briefly emerged in the early s has shriveled to a nubbin.
Kevin Gerald: Forces That Form Your Future
Amazon won. Trounced, really.
As of the end of , about 45 percent up from 37 percent in of all print sales and 83 percent of all ebook sales happen through Amazon channels. There are few alternatives with meaningful mind- or market share, especially among digital books. Instead, technology changed everything that enables a book, fomenting a quiet revolution. But the books made today, held in our hands, digital or print, are Future Books, unfuturistic and inert may they seem.
Eight forces that will shape the future consumer
Twenty years ago, what did you need to make a book on your own? You needed a pile of words, sure. But you also needed a mountain of cash. Assuming you could get your books printed, you needed a place to store them. You needed someone to ship them. You needed a relationship with a distributor to get them into Barnes and Noble. And you needed a marketing budget to get them on that front table. To publish a digital book today, you still need the words, but you can skip many of the other steps.
From a Pages or Microsoft Word document you can export an. For printed books, a slew of new funding, production, and distribution tools make creating and selling a physical artifact much easier.
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Blurb , Amazon , Lulu , Lightning Source , and Ingram Spark are just a few of the print-on-demand companies we all have access to. Many will handle sales—providing you with a web page to send potential readers to, managing the burdensome tasks of payments and shipping. The improvement in print-on-demand quality in recent decades is astounding. The books look fabulous—with decent paper options, cover types, finishes.
Professional photographers are even offering up monographs in collaboration with companies like Blurb. And Amazon will have the finished books on your doorstep the next day. Today, anyone with a bit of technological know-how and an internet connection can publish—offering digital or physical editions, on the same online retail shelves—alongside Alexander Chee, Rebecca Makkai, or Tom Clancy.
This proliferation of new technology and services has altered author economics. Almost half of author earnings now come from independently published books. For six years in the s I was an art director and producer of printed books with a small indie press and, let me tell you, there were no great models for pre-sales or raising capital.
The 'Future Book' Is Here, but It's Not What We Expected
Then crowdfunding arrived. Kickstarter launched in Kickstarter is not explicit patronage in the classical sense.
At its worst, the platform produces products that feel chintzy and a bit scammy, an unholy union between QVC and SkyMall. I compiled everything I learned in that first campaign into a breakdown called " Kickstartup. This—capital without relinquishment of ownership—is where the latent potential of Kickstarter funding lies.
I wrote that essay in just as crowdfunding was entering the mainstream. Soon after, it seemed everyone was launching books.
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The book went on to sell over 1 million copies around the world. Rebel Girls has become a brand unto itself. Timbuktu was part of a wide-eyed first wave of tablet-focused digital-publishing upstarts that tumbled forth, frothy with venture capital. When Flipboard where I worked from to —which reimagined the beauty of print magazines in digital-first form—went live on the App Store, it proved so popular it had to turn off signups and create a waiting list, one of the first iPad apps to constrain access.
Amid this rush, Timbuktu Labs began winning awards for its magazine app, which was updated daily with new content. Despite the positive press, it never gained the necessary traction to become a sustainable business or justify taking on more capital. I invested a small amount in their angel round in And as an investor, I had a front-row seat: They tried.
They really tried. And so as a last-ditch effort, cofounders Favilli and Francesca Cavallo retreated to LA to rethink their business and life plans. It was there the idea for Rebel Girls was born, and a sustainable business was built around the opposite of an app: a physical book. In , The New York Times had 6. By , that number had doubled. Companies like Mailchimp have been offering newsletter services for nearly two decades, but they were never as popular as they are now. In , users sent about 1 billion emails per day through Mailchimp, a 5,fold increase from , when the service handled only , emails a day.
In response to this email explosion, the startup Substack launched in as a newsletter publishing and monetization platform. Charging for access can be an onerous task.
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Through the Substack system, though, a publisher can easily set up metered access to a newsletter for a subscription fee. Almost every writer or artist I know has a newsletter. One way to understand this boom is that as social media has siloed off chunks of the open web, sucking up attention, the energy that was once put into blogging has now shifted to email. Robin Sloan, in a recent—of course— email newsletter , lays it out thusly:.
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In addition to sending several email newsletters, I subscribe to many, and I talk about them a lot; you might have heard me say this at some point or seen me type it but I think any artist or scholar or person-in-the-world today, if they don't have one already, needs to start an email list immediately. Because we simply cannot trust the social networks, or any centralized commercial platform, with these cliques and crews most vital to our lives, these bands of fellow-travelers who arewho must bethe first to hear about all good things.
see url Email is definitely not ideal, but it is: decentralized, reliable, and not going anywhereand more and more, those feel like quasi-magical properties. We recognize we largely own the mailing lists; they are portable, can be printed out, stored in a safe; they are not governed by unknowable algorithmic tomfoolery. I maintain an email newsletter with more than 10, recipients, and I treat it as the most direct, most intimate, most valuable connection to my audience. In hard economic terms, when I was promoting my Kickstarter campaign for Koya Bound , each time I sent out a newsletter, I had roughly 10, more backer-dollars within an hour.
That first Rebel Girls test email went to 25 recipients; the list snowballed in size and excitement over the six months leading up to the Kickstarter campaign. This exemplifies the amplification voodoo of a platform like Kickstarter: When someone backs a project, it broadcasts the news to their friends, creating a network effect. The bigger the network, the more powerful the effect.
Kickstarter, with more than 15 million patrons, has the biggest network effect game in town. Many people assume that the future is a mystery that we have little or no control over. Some view themselves as victims of fate, dependent on the next lucky break. The truth is that our greatest power is our power to choose. When I was in my late 20s, I recognized how quickly life passes by. I began giving serious thought to my future and I meditated on the ways that it was being formed. As I began to study my life and the lives of successful people ahead of me, I discovered a number of forces at work that create the life we live.
Once I identify the forces that got me where I am, I can use those forces to my advantage to form my future. Here are a few that I found: Force of Beliefs Changing your belief system can change your life. You can have something right in your heart, but wrong in your mind and no amount of good intentions or right motives will compensate for self-sabotaging beliefs. Do you think you got the short end of the stick? Do you believe you have insurmountable adversity?