Soundview Executive Book Summaries


Handing Over the Reins to the Consumer

For those who have not been keeping up on the big news in the e-book publishing industry, the DOJ (Department of Justice) recently brought a lawsuit against the 5 big publishers and Apple for price-fixing, based on their agreement to use the “agency” price model. The publishers made this move to gain back control of pricing from Amazon and it worked.

This story has quite a lengthy and complex history, which Charles Stross does a great job of explaining in detail in his blog of April 14th. One of Stross’ points is that publishers got themselves into this mess with Amazon by insisting on DRM (digital rights management) protection for their books.

Publishers were concerned about the pirating of their books, but in the process of protecting the content they made it much harder for customers to consume the books they had purchased on the device they preferred. So Amazon gained a monopoly by developing the Kindle and locking books to one device.

Years ago, when Soundview began publishing business book summaries in digital form, we had this discussion about DRM as well. We researched software, devices and customer preferences and came to the conclusion that what’s best for our customers was to provide them with summaries in as many formats as possible to provide them with flexibility. Could someone take advantage of the lack of DRM protection? Certainly, but we believed that what’s best for the customer would also be best for us in the long run.

This has indeed proven to be the case as this flexibility has allowed us to move quickly to provide our book summaries in formats for the latest devices for individuals, and to provide our content in the ways that work for our corporate clients as well.

Let’s hope that publishers learn this lesson soon before they’re put out of business by competitors who are willing to adapt.

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Watching Out for Blind Spots

I’m in the middle of a kitchen renovation. My job is demolition but I’m letting the professionals handle the construction. In order for everything to turn out right I have to depend on the contractor, the counter top installer, the hardware stores, and my volunteer friends to each do their part.

But sometimes people fail to meet our expectations, and when this happens our own plans can be put in jeopardy. If I just move forward as though everything is okay, without making sure everyone is on board and knows the plan and schedule, I may end up with a disaster instead of a finished kitchen.

This is not unlike the situation when a company is trying to compete in the marketplace, and is depending on other services and suppliers to produce and innovate right along with them, and these other companies don’t keep up the pace. Not being aware of this can be a blind spot that will bring a company’s own innovation to a halt.

This is the contention of Ron Adner in his book The Wide Lens. Adner suggests that we take a new perspective – a wide lens – to better assess our strategy. He introduces a new set of tools and frameworks to expose our sources of dependence so that we can make better choices and multiply our chances of success.

Among the examples he gives of companies that have been caught in this innovation blind spot are Philips Electronics with their HDTV and Sony with their e-reader. They were both ahead of their time and the other innovations needed for success were not yet available.

If your company is dependent on others for success then you’ll want to join us on April 10th to hear Ron Adner talk about this wide lens. Sign up for our Soundview Live webinar Avoiding the Innovation Blind Spot and have your questions ready for Ron.



The Advantages of Business Book Summaries

I won’t detail the whole history of Soundview Executive Book Summaries since our beginnings back in 1978, but suffice it to say that we’ve learned a lot about business content summarization over the past 34 years.

While technology has changed; from paper, to cassette tape, to CD, and then on to digital formats like PDF, MP3, EPub and Apps – the two core advantages of concentrated knowledge have not. What all executives need is dependable content they can get through quickly, while retaining the key information.

  • Dependable Content – the proliferation of content on the internet has made it almost impossible to know when information is of high quality and from trustworthy sources. In a recent study by Bersin Research, they concluded that content libraries like Soundview’s “take much of the guesswork out of finding quality on-demand content.”

Our editorial staff reviews the books of all the major business publishers, and many smaller ones as well, to find books to then recommend to our professional review board. They choose the titles that meet our high standards to become among the 30 best business books of the year.

  •  Retaining Key Information – When reading an entire book, it’s difficult to find and retain the key points that can really make a difference to your business. Research done at Carnegie Mellon soon after Soundview began publishing book summaries demonstrated that information gained from reading a summary was more easily retained for a longer period of time then the same information in a book.

Our summaries condense 250 to 600 pages of a typical business book down to an 8 page text and 20 minute audio summary. This enables busy executives to get the key ideas of a book quickly and retain those ideas long enough to do something with them.

Of course time doesn’t stand still, and so now we’ve entered into a period where more business people are choosing to learn from video. To enhance the summarization experience, we’ve added video introductions to our summaries for the iPad format, plus a new video series called Executive Insights which interviews executives that are out in the trenches of American companies practicing what our summaries teach.

If you haven’t already, take a minute to sample one of our summaries for free. Try it on your computer, smartphone, tablet or e-reader and let us know what you think. We’re always working to meet the changing needs of busy executives.



How Businesses Are Using Video

I recently ran across a great article written by Jimm Fox of One Market Media on the many business uses of video. I’ve listed his main categories below, and you can check out the full article for more details.

  1. Customer Reference – video helps with collecting and showing customer testimonials, case studies and interviews.
  2. Product & Service Promotion – companies use video for product presentations, demonstrations and reviews.
  3. Corporate – corporations provide their company overview, executive highlights, facility tours and more with video.
  4. Training & Support – video is the latest thing in employee training, sales presentations and maintenance support.
  5. Internal Communication – video is now being used for business plans, company achievements, event coverage, employee orientation and health & safety education.
  6. Marketing – video promotions can take the form of commercials, viral video, content marketing and landing pages.
  7. PR/Community – video press releases are becoming more popular, along with video PR materials and community relation pieces.
  8. Events – at an event, presentations, roundtable discussions and Q&A with experts can all take place in video.
  9. Other – videos are also being used for recruitment, vlogs (video blogs) and research/surveys.

On the internet search side of the equation, research shows that a webpage with video is 30% more likely to end up on the first page of search results in Google then the same page without video. Google is now giving preference to video content in their search algorithm.

At Soundview, we are following this trend carefully, and have expanded our own offerings to include video. Our iPad format of each business book summary includes a video introduction from our Editor-in-Chief Sarah Dayton.  We now produce Executive Insights, a series of videos which interview active executives regarding key business skills. And we’re developing additional video content to be released soon.

Video increases engagement time, deepens emotional connections, and gives your company more trust and credibility with your customers and other stake-holders. And the cost of entry is becoming less every day with new technologies and web tools. If your company or organization is not currently using video, now is the time to jump in.



Taking the Contrarian View in Business

Have you noticed how some business authors purposely take the contrary view to current business thinking? Sometimes it’s just to get attention for their book, but generally their intention is to get us to think outside the box, to let our minds break out of the assumptions we’ve heard so often that we believe they must be true.

I thought it would be fun to scan the recent few months of books that we’re seeing at Soundview to look for some examples. Here’s what I found (I’ve provided the Amazon links for your reference):

I think there’s a lesson for us in this list of contrarian titles. Are we too set in our ways? Have we become comfortable running our businesses by maxims that may no longer be true?

Perhaps it would be healthy to take a step back as we’re about to make an important decision to take the contrarian view for a moment. Have I missed something here? Are there more ways to look at this issue? We might even invite our staff to provide contrarian views without repercussions.

Let me know how this works for you.



Apple’s iBooks Author: Will It Work for Business?

Last week I wrote about the (then) upcoming Apple announcement and their foray into education. Well, now everyone has heard the details about Apple’s plans for textbooks and it’s really a mixed-bag.

On the plus side, Apple is offering a free software package for building interactive textbooks. The features that can be used with a book include templates by subject, drag and drop for images, video and slides, integration of widgets in Java or HTML5, and the auto-creation of a glossary of terms.

For users of the books the features are also quite impressive, including highlighting with the swipe of a finger, note taking which can be turned into study cards and communication with instructors for assignments and progress, plus of course the enjoyment of interactive media.

But there are negatives, and these began hitting the blog-waves within minutes after the presentation at the Guggenheim museum. First is the cost factor. These interactive books can only be viewed on an iPad, so every student will need one. And the books must be purchased through the iBook store. The second negative is the resulting control issue. The books are not in a pure ePub format so they can’t be used on other devices or platforms. And the agreement you sign when using their software states that the books can only be sold in the iBooks store, although they can be given away free in other venues.

So what does all of this mean for business authors and publishers? I think it still opens up a great new venue for selling business books.

Regarding the plus side above, these features open up a whole new avenue for education and training in the corporate world. To have books that are interactive, with audio, video, slides and other tools integrated into the e-books, will be great for engaging employees at all levels. And the potential for interaction with trainers or managers around the content is equally beneficial.

As far as the negative issues go, these are less limiting in business than in education. Companies can afford to buy the devices needed to distribute training materials, and can purchase through the iBooks store if necessary, although I expect that some bulk discounting will be available. I would however suggest having a lawyer look at the iBooks Author agreement.

Business authors and publishers should be on the front edge of this new development because there is the potential to sell a lot more books and to get new business concepts into the hands of many more people in a dynamic new format. Let me know if you hear of any business authors taking advantage of the iBooks Author software.



Can Apple Help Business Books?

The press is all abuzz about Thursday’s Apple announcement at the Guggenheim museum in New York. While rumors have been circulating for weeks, two reports seem to have an inside scoop worth noting.

The Wall St Journal reported yesterday that Apple is working with education publishers to transform textbooks, and of course this will happen on the iPad. But ars technica added a twist to the story by releasing information about a “garage-band for e-books”, software that will be available for any author or publisher to use to create interactive textbooks.

This new development, if true, could indeed transform the textbook industry and the educational process. Not only will these new “iTextbooks” allow students to interact with the content, they will also open the way to social engagement around the information. Students will be able to add content, links and notes, and share this information with fellow-students and teachers. Each textbook will thus become a platform for learning rather than a one-dimensional text.

We’ll all get the scoop on this new innovation tomorrow, but in the mean time this has me thinking about the possible implications for business books. Up to this point, business book authors have had limitations as to how they could innovate with their books. Some authors have connected the printed text to websites where interactivity can take place.

But imagine instead that this interaction can now take place right in the book itself. There’s no reason that this “garage-band for e-books” can’t be applied to business information as well. Imagine that you’re reading The Performance Pipeline by Stephen Drotter and you want to implement his concepts to move work more efficiently through your company. Managers at each level could have a copy of the iTextbook, and as they read through it they could take notes and share them with other managers. The book could also provide a framework for implementation that could be filled in by the managers as a plan takes shape.

This could make any business book transformational within a company or organization, as the ideas take on life within the company. And for personal success titles, tools could be provided to help an individual learn and implement the principles in their daily life.

At Soundview we’re already on our way to implementing this type of learning environment with our iPad book summary that includes text, audio and video components. But we too could use that next step of software to help with the interactive piece. Let’s see what Apple can deliver.