ATG Hot Topic of the Week: “Treat a Book Like a Start-Up? Only By Confusing Process With Form”

by | Jul 29, 2011 | 0 comments

Submitted by Tom Gilson, Associate Editor (

Taken from The Scholarly Kitchen 7/28/11

Kent Anderson contends that “of all the book publishers out there, one of the most experimental and interesting is O’Reilly.” As proof he points to the way they are publishing Todd Sattersten’s Every Book Is a Startup: The New Business of Publishing. “The book is being published in small chunks, with each available via e-reading (ePub, Mobi, or PDF) at a low price. The premise and promise is that feedback from early readers will shape subsequent and more complete editions, until a “finished” book is achieved and printed.” However, Anderson takes issue with the concept insisting that “Books don’t work this way. Books are a form of finished content. Authors can be agile, and historically are… Books are expected to be fairly polished and final expressions of an author’s work, whether that’s an e-book, a paperback, or a hardcover.”

Is Kent right or is this the 21st century version of installment publishing perfected by Charles Dickens in the 1830’s coupled with the inherent fluidity of the digital world? The possibility of interactivity and reader feedback is a new wrinkle but is that enough to overcome the expectation that a book should be a completed work when read?


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