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GAMESbrief reading list – October 2016

Over on GAMESbrief, where I blog about the business of games, I have just published a list of the things I read that I found interesting in October. Not all of them were about games. These are the ones that I think will be of interest to my more general readers.

Economics and Management

  • Anthropologist David Graeber writes a compelling and scathing account of why capitalism creates pointless jobs (Evonomics). John Maynard Keynes would be surprised at how hard we work in the twenty-first century, given the massive improvements in standard of living. I continue to think that this is a very real problem that will only get worse as the “productive” jobs get handed over to robots and technology. Will we as a society adapt by choosing to work less, or will we continue to work harder and harder driven by a masochistic sense that work (as defined by our capitalist system) is inherently good.
  • Memo to Jeff Bezos: Stack-Ranking is a Destructive Employee Practice: Excellent piece on the destructive nature of competition-focused management styles. Based on seminal work involving chickens (spoiler: none of the hyper-competitive chickens survived: as they fought their way up the pecking order, they literally pecked each other to death.)
  • Why Tim Cook is Steve Ballmer and why he still as his job at Apple by the marvellous Steve Blank. If you followed the link to Xbox One: A flawed plan, well executed above, this will seem eerily familiar. In essence, the skills of being a visionary entrepreneur and being an excellent (“world-beating”) COO or salesman are very different. The difference between Lean-style execution and operating a large corporate are so wide that few people who are good at corporate can step up to Lean (and vice versa). Steve sets out his case against Apple clearly and compellingly.

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Folio Fans: The anatomy of a unique publisher

This is a guest post by Toby Hartwell, the former Managing Director of The Folio Society. I love his description of the success of The Folio Society.

It may not come as a surprise to those of you who are aware of The Folio Society that this bastion of traditional hard back publishing is also home to some very interesting fans. They are core to the continued survival of Folio and rejoice in the relationship that they have with the publisher. Folio is probably alone as a book publisher in having such a strong direct relationship with its customers at the heart of its business model. Over the years it has engendered the perfect breeding ground for passionate and enthusiastic followers of its brand. For those unfamiliar with The Folio Society, the company has, for the last 67 years been publishing beautiful illustrated editions of some of the world’s greatest books. In a sector where roughly 95% of book sales are at prices below £20, some 95% of Folio books are priced at above £20 and many of them are hefty three figure prices. Arguably, if you look at the publishing sector as a whole all Folio buyers are already book super fans in some way.

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Does this chart show that print is over?

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics has put together a chart showing how expenditure on the written word varies by demographic. It focuses on newspapers, magazines, books and ebooks. That’s a bit odd because it includes the digital versions of books (ebooks) but not the digital versions of magazines and newspapers (websites).

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Why traditional publishers should surrender to self-publishing

This guest post by Eoin Purcell originally appeared on his own blog.

I had a fascinating conversation with Porter Anderson as part of The Booksellers #PorterMeets on Twitter on Monday. The topic was Hugh Howey’s AuthorEarnings project (after they released the original 7,000 report but before they released the 50,000 report) which has been raising hackles and causing ruckus in publishing the last few weeks. The conversation fired up loads of thoughts about self publishing and I wanted, following that discussion, to write a post that encapsulates the discussion and the reality of self publishing now. Continue Reading

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If Amazon cared about selling hardware, ebooks would already be free

Last week, I spoke to an audience of up-and-coming leaders at a global publisher about the Curve and its consequences for their business. One throwaway line I made was this:

“Apple cares about selling hardware, not software. It pushed the price of apps towards zero to shift units of iPhones and iPads. If Amazon cared more about selling Kindles than being a retailer, ebooks would already be free.”

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