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.


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.

E-books and the Business Book Market
March 7, 2012, 11:24 AM
Filed under: Books in General, E-Books, Technology | Tags: , ,

On Monday I ran across an interesting article on the Smart Money site titled 10 Things E-Books Won’t Tell You. In the article Kellie Grant looks at the negatives of e-book ownership. As I read through her ten points, I found myself considering which of these points might apply to business e-book customers.

Here are the points that stuck out to me:

  1. We’re not one-reader-fits-all:  the point here is that books can’t be easily transferred from one manufacturer’s device to another. This can be a real problem for business executives, who tend to be early adopters and rough on their devices. How can you get you growing list of books from your Kindle to your iPad, or your Sony Reader to your Nook?
  2. Watch your data bill – a standard book can be up to 1GB in size, which can really affect your data usage if you download a lot of books. Cell phone companies are beginning to charge more for data, and who has time to hunt for WiFi hotspots to save on download costs?
  3. The extras will kill you – as business authors expand their use of multi-media in their books (see my post on the business use of iBook Author), this will raise the price of e-books and add to data usage.
  4. E-books are the new latte – as business book readers, we’re already guilty of buying stacks of books that we’ll never find time to read – that’s why Soundview offers book summaries.  But now it’s even easier to make an impulse buy with e-books purchased on a website, downloaded directly to your latest device. The result – more unread books, more money, more data usage.

And yet, the convenience is still very compelling! Since e-book publishing and device development are still evolving, perhaps we’ll see solutions coming soon for the issues listed above. But in the mean time it’s probably best to think carefully before each device and e-book purchase to make sure you’re investing your money wisely.

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.

The World’s Top 50 Thinkers

You may or may not have run across the Thinkers50 website. Every two years the site names the world’s 50 top business thinkers.

The ranking is based on voting at the Thinkers50 website and input from a team of advisers led by Stuart Crainer and Des Dearlove. The Thinkers50 has ten established criteria by which thinkers are evaluated — originality of ideas; practicality of ideas; presentation style; written communication; loyalty of followers; business sense; international outlook; rigor of research; impact of ideas and the elusive guru factor.

Here are the top 15:

Clayton ChristensenThe Innovator’s DNA, The Innovators Dilemma, The Innovator’s Solution, etc…

W. Chan Kim & Renee MauborgneBlue Ocean Strategy

Vijay GovindarajanTen Rules of Strategic Innovators, The Other Side of Innovation, The Quest for Global Dominance

Jim CollinsGood to Great, Built to Last, How the Mighty Fall, Great by Choice

Michael PorterCompetitive Advantage, Competitive Strategy, Competitive Advantage of Nations

Roger MartinThe Opposable Mind, The Design of Business, Fixing the Game, The Responsibility Virus

Marshall GoldsmithWhat Got You Here Won’t Get You There, Mojo

Marcus BuckinghamFirst Break All the Rules, Now Discover Your Strengths, StandOut

Don TapscottThe Digital Economy, Wikinomics, Macrowikinomics

Malcolm GladwellThe Tipping Point, Blink, Outliers

Sylvia Ann HewlettOff-Ramps and On-Ramps, Top Talent, Winning the War for Talent in Emerging Markets

Lynda GrattonLiving Strategy, The Democratic Enterprise, Hot Spots, Glow, The Shift

Nitin NohriaIn Their Time, Paths to Power, Driven, The Arc of Ambition, What Really Works

Robert Kaplan & David NortonThe Balanced Scorecard, The Strategy-Focused Organization, Execution Premium

Gary HamelCompeting for the Future, Leading the Revolution, The Future of Management

What do these great business thinkers have in common? As you can see from the list – they have all published business books. The publishing of a book is still the best way to disseminate the latest in business thinking. We may be consuming this information in different formats, but we still need the book to begin with.

Something else this list of business thinkers has in common is that 12 of the 15 have had at least one Soundview Executive Book Summary published from their works. That means that these titles were among the top 30 books of the year in which they were published. You can find the summaries by going to the Soundview website and searching an authors name.

What Are Your Favorite Resources?

In a given month I look at a lot of resources to improve the way I do my job, and to provide content for our various social media outlets. Here’s a partial list:

My #1 resource is of course Soundview’s stable of content: business book summaries, author webinars and interviews, Executive Insights videos, and our Executive Edge newsletter. I realize I’m biased but I don’t know how busy executives get by without this resource.

  • I subscribe to a few excellent book- and publishing-related newsletters like Publisher’s Weekly, Publishing Business Today and Mediabistro’s GalleyCat.
  • I still like to get magazines and currently receive Fast Company, Inc magazine, Fortune and Wired to name a few. I learn as much from the ads as from the article as to what companies are doing and what content is important. I also refer to their corresponding websites as needed.
  • The Wall St Journal is a great resource at many levels and again I use their website when it suits my needs.
  • I watch the Tweets of over 150 business authors and publishers, although it’s difficult to keep up. You can see the complete list of who I follow @BusinessBooks. In addition I receive newsletters and emails from several of our frequently summarized authors to stay attuned to what they’re doing.
  • Because we’re on the mailing list of all major book publishers, we also see what’s coming up for new books so that we can spot trends and choose upcoming titles to consider for summarization.

I’m sure there’s more that I’m forgetting, but you get the idea. What do you use for resources in your position? Our readers would love to see your list and perhaps I’ll pick up a few more for myself as well.