GW Cohort 9 Publishing eNewsletter

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Cohort 9 Newletter, Issue 3, September 23


“The Decline of Attention Spans and its Effect on Literature”

By Denise Remy

At the 3rd International E-book Symposium in Mexico City, writer Hernán Casciari expressed his concern over the overall diminished attention span of readers. He blames technology: “The digital era has made us lazy and apathetic, and our stories, our literature, are losing their shine.” He also relayed a story about his daughter. Cascaiari was telling her the “Red Riding Hood” story and his daughter asked why she didn’t just text her grandmother? He asked the audience at the symposium to “think of a well-known story and then put a mobile phone in the pockets of one of the protagonists…” So, what does this mean for literature? For publishing?

Casciari’s observation about the quality of literature is valid. Where are the modern Hemingways and Austens to enlighten and inspire readers? Instead we have post-apocalyptic death matches and sparkly vampires. But what can we as future publishing professionals do about it? There is no way to remove technology from the equation so publishers need to discover the best way to get higher-quality literature into the hands of readers. Maybe it is time to return to the short story, or newspaper serials, so to speak. In a world of decreased attention and increased thirst for quick and easy information, breaking up a heavy-duty story into chunks may grab more attention than a 500-page hardback novel.

Read the full-article here:

“Is EPUB3 the answer to Educational Publishing?”

By Lillian McAnally

As a publishing professional working in the continuing education arena, how our organization delivers content in a digital environment is challenging us to consider alternative delivery methods.

One of our top sellers through the bookstore web page is a textbook on internal auditing. Do a search on Amazon, and it’s the only one of its kind on the topic. So, now the authors and the organization want to create a digital version of it. Aside from the questions of ROI (return on investment) to develop a digital version, protecting the IP, etc., the other big questions are, “does it make sense to use EPUB3 for this textbook?”; “how well has it worked for other textbook publishers?” and “should we sell, rent or both?”

According to an article by Bill McCoy, Executive Director, International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF)[1], The Association of American Publishers is pushing the publishing industry to speed up adoption of EPUB3. For most text-heavy content, the ROI of development may not be worth the time, money, and resources. However, for textbook (or content where interactivity warrants multimedia), there are many benefits to create an EPUB3 version such as rich media, interactivity, and fixed layout support. 

Regarding e-textbooks, McCoy states[2]:

For e-textbooks it’s going to be de rigeur to have integrated assessments, video, rotating 3D models, graphs of equations that are “live,” and other features that will require other parts of HTML5.

And while EPUB3 makes sense for textbook publishers, the rest of the publishing industry may not be so quick to adapt to it.

[1] Bill McCoy,, “Why Publishers Are Making a Push for EPUB3 Now,” (July 25, 2013); accessed September 22, 2013.

[2] Ibid.

“New Kindle App from Amazon”

by Elli Gilbert

The new operating system for iPhones was released Wednesday (9/18) and Amazon took this opportunity to revamp the Kindle app. As I operate on an Android device, I find the average iPhone user a tad overzealous about a simple software update. This past week all I’ve been hearing about is iOS7 from friends, family, and even a couple beta testers! And while an operating system update is hardly news to me, I find Amazon’s attention to their mobile application to be quite impressive. With this huge Apple update, Amazon took the opportunity to revamp their Kindle app and create a better user experience for mobile.

Read the press email here:

Though I am not an Amazon fan, I do have the kindle app downloaded on my phone but I normally use Google Play Books or my Nook app for my e-reading. I have found that Google Play Books has better prices than Nook, but the line editing and coding tends to lead to typos and poor display quality. I prefer using the actual Nook e-reader rather than the application, as Nook segregates and classifies your purchases and recommendations. It’s as though I’m always stuck between reading on my phone and wanting to read on an actual device. And the vast differences between software on a device and a mobile application are normally enough to make you throw up your hands and just go get a paperback.

The new Kindle update is going to incorporate all the best parts of the e-reading experience without the necessity of an e-reading device. The new Kindle app will have an improved viewing experience and more customizable features to organize your library. Kindle is introducing the “Collections” feature with this new update. This will allow you to tag and sort your titles, documents, and newsstand subscriptions into multiple categories and lists. This type of innovation will undoubtedly draw new customers with these new features and improved display. Not only is this a software update, Kindle has redesigned the entire aesthetic experience, opting for a display focused on “deference, clarity, and depth.”

See the new display here:

I would have to say I am impressed with the new display options and versatility of the newest Kindle update. I use my smartphone for everything and I know how a well-designed mobile app can change the entire user experience. When you provide a visceral experience for both the brand’s device AND its mobile application, you are able to gain the trust of your customers which leads to higher retention rates and builds brand loyalty. And it is this type of consumer allegiance that has helped Amazon become a market monopoly.

Check out more articles here:


5 thoughts on “Cohort 9 Newletter, Issue 3, September 23

  1. On decline of attention spans: I don’t think it’s the quality of literature being produced today that is the problem. The blog entry references the Hunger Games and the Twilight are examples of poor literature. I cannot speak for the Twilight books, as I’ve never read them, but I can vouch for the Hunger Games that the books are extremely well written and intellectual.
    There are still many avid readers today, so I do not believe the fear of shorter attentions is a valid one, in that people will stop reading books because they cannot concentrate as long.

  2. Joel: I’ve read both series and I enjoyed them both. My comparison was from what we consider “classics” to today’s bestsellers. Now, that’s not to say that To Kill a Mockingbird was an instant bestseller. I think Hernan Casciari was expressing his opinion that because readers cannot concentrate as long, writers wanting to be successful feel obligated to write a certain way and publishers publish what they think will sell, instead of simply great literature.

  3. I heard this interview on NPR a week or so ago and I believe that Casciari is taking a typical, “back in my day” approach and is perhaps not giving credit to the fact that technology can and does expand our minds in different ways. Perhaps the “classics” of today will not turn out to be War and Peace and require an awe-worthy attention span, but perhaps will be an e-book with various types of multi-media imbedded throughout. Will classics be different? Absolutely? But the judgment regarding “better” or “worse” should be reserved for now. It’s a weird and wild publishing world we live in and Casciari would do well to embrace it.

    • I agree whole-heartedly with you! The younger generations approach to things may be different, but that does not make it “better” or “worse”. The story of reading “Red Riding Hood” should have been a learning experience for the child. Explain why there no cell phones in the story! That is how children learn. An innocent question is just as it appears. For example, I remember being in awe when learning about Manifest Destiny and how hard the pioneers worked just to make a trip that now takes hours on an airplane. It had to be explained. As for attention span, I do see the author’s point, but I don’t see this in the majority of the students I work with in my school. Honestly, about half of my students have to be reminded to put their free-reading books away everyday, so we can begin class. That is one request I don’t mind asking often!

  4. On decline of attention spans: I think we do still have authors of Hemingway and Austen caliber, but the reading pool is being diluted by self publishing by some writers who, under the “old” system of publisher as gatekeeper, wouldn’t be permitted to put out a book. That’s not to say all self-published books are bad; I’m sure they are not, but I’ve had my own reading experiences and have heard similar horror stories of all the junk that’s out there. Crowdsourcing can be great, can be democratic, but it takes much more time to wade through so many more options, resulting in information overload, which leads to short attention spans.

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