May 2009

blog on KindleAmazon recently rolled out a new program called Kindle Publishing for Blogs.  The beta program offers Kindle owners subscriptions to blogs.  Blogger receive 30% of anywhere from $0.99 to $1.99 per reader per month; so for every thousand readers, a blogger could get $999 to $1,999.  (It’s not clear how Amazon determines the price it charges for a particular blog subscription.)   The setup process  takes about 12 to 48 hours before a blog appears in the Kindle Store. 

For bloggers, it offers potentially wider distribution.  As Shawn Farner commented on GizHQ, “Aside from giving the content creator a weak 30 percent, the new system could present an opportunity for blogs to tap into new audiences and become more widely read, and I’m all for that.”

But it’s unclear how Amazon will get consumers to pay for what they can now get for free.  Kit Eaton of Fast Company wondered about Amazon’s larger strategy:

. . . blogs derive much of their power from their nowness–their real-time relevance is what’s presenting a challenge to traditional media reporting. By offering them to Kindle readers as so much dead text…is this Amazon’s subtle way of propping up the ailing newspaper industry?

Either that, or Amazon is thinking far into the future to a time when people will pay to read blog posts. Hard to imagine, but not outside the realm of possibility.

Some other possibilities:

  • Amazon sees blogs eventually supplanting newspapers (and in some cases magazines), at least in the US.  As these blog based news organizations grow in influence and sophistication, they may begin offering premium content for subscribers.
  • Amazon sees a tie between blogs and books.  Blogs can function as the progenitor of books, and as an extension to a published book.  Blogs by popular authors may command a small subscription price and help drive sales of books.  
  • Amazon thinks readers may be willing to pay for a different blog reading experience – something between a computer screen and a printed page.
  • Amazon isn’t sure what to expect but thinks the experiment is worth a shot.

One thing is sure; if the Kindle blog publishing program is successful, other purveyors of e-readers will soon follow with similar programs of their own.

Jeff Bezos and Bestselling Authors Discuss Amazon Kindle

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Digital billboards may soon become the latest way to market books.  They are essentially like large TV screens that can be programmed to rotate video ads according to schedule.   Advertisers are generally billed based on the impressions they are likely to garner in a particular location.  They have been around for a number of years and have been shown to have more impact than their static, print based cousins.  So it is only natural that publishers are starting to experiment with this new advertising venue. 

According to the Southern Review of Books, from March 3 to 31, a trailer promoting the novel by Thomas Fitzsimmons entitled City of Fire (Forge Books) was shown on digital billboards operated by Adspace Networks in 105 malls in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Houston and 35 other cities. Each mall has between four and 29 screens, for a total of 1,389, and the trailer runs a dozen times per hour on every screen.

digital billboards in mallMall advertising lets publishers bring their message in the form of a live action 15-second video right where people are and ready to spend. City of Fire is the story of Michael Beckett, a veteran cop in the Bronx, N.Y., who seeks to apprehend the person responsible for a string of arson fires. Fitzsimmons’ thriller is a mass market original. Forge is working with bookstores located in the participating malls to promote City of Fire, which went on sale March 3 with front-of-store visibility and floor display placements.

City of Fie book trailer

However, publishers may not want to be selective about putting book trailers on digital billboards.  Outdoor billboards have been shown to be highly effective at capturing the attention of drivers.  So effective in fact that a number of communities – e.g. Los Angeles – are now weighing ordinances to ban digital billboards because they represent a threat to highway safety.  Indoors, however, they could represent a whole new way to spur readers to purchase popular titles.

digital billboard outdoorThe jury is still out on how this will affect the overall sales of Fitzsimmons’ book;  so far, he says on a post on an Amazon community, his retail sales are good.  But in the future, digital billboards, like transit based video, could provide extra joice for book sales.  As digital billboards and signs replace their non-digital counterparts, it opens up an unlimited marketing venue for book trailers which comes with a ready made set of well understood consumer demographics.

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gregg-taylor-and-lori-thiessenWe have often discussed the benefits of blogging for authors.  Blogs are a great platform for building an audience while you develop your work.  But blogs can also serve as an excellent vehicle for researching your book, especially when you are tyring to identify and explain new social trends. 

Gregg Taylor and Lori Thiessen have set up a blog to help them gather stories and information for Coffee Shop Office, which details the phenomenon of a new class of mobile entrepreneurs; those individuals you see with their laptops working from coffee shops. 

Both Gregg and Lori are entrepreneurs themselves.  Gregg, through his Vancouver BC based company, Transitions Career & Business Consultants Inc., coordinates public and private sector career planning programs and provides career counselling, success coaching and HR consulting services.   He has a keen sense of the latest workplace and workforce trends and had the idea for the book.  Not so coincidentally, his grandfather started a coffee company in Montreal in the early 1900’s.  Lori writes and provides other contract business services through her own business, Scriptorium Ink.  She has an interdisciplinary background in history, psychology, sociology, and philosophy.  She provides the literary prowess and creative flair for the project. 

We recently interviewed Lori about the Coffee Shop Office project and her and Gregg’s experience  with using a research blog.

FPP:  What is Coffee Shop Office about and how did you come up with the idea for the book?

LT:  The Coffee Shop Office is about people using their local caffeinated watering hole as their alternative or even preferred office. Gregg is the brains behind the idea. He was sitting in his local coffee shop and noticed that just about everybody was working away on something, either solo or with another person or people. Gregg is fascinated with new work trends and wanted to investigate this one further.

Gregg asked me to come on board and help him with the research and writing. Plus it’s just more fun having someone else to work with.

FPP:  What motivated you to set up your site and blogs as part of the book project?

LT:  Setting up a website and the blogs seemed a no-brainer because much of our lives, social and business, are being carried out online. We wanted to connect firsthand with people who were using the coffee shop as their alternative or preferred office, and hear about their experiences. That’s why there is a link on the website and the blogs to our online survey. We want to capture as much raw data on this work trend as possible.

Gregg also felt that packaging the research material into manageable chunks, like posts of about 350 words, would make the book writing process a bit less daunting. We’ve been finding out that blog writing and book writing are two different animals. Writing the posts have been useful though, as a way to really focus in on a particularly juicy piece of information.

FPP:  You how have two blogs. How does each of your blogs help you gather research for the book?

LT:  When Gregg and I first started working on this project, I was constantly attracted by information outside of the scope of the coffee shop office topic. For instance, I am a history buff and became a bit obsessed with the history of coffeehouses until Gregg pulled her back to the 21st century coffee shop.

All this information was fascinating for both Gregg and I. It seemed a shame to ‘waste’ it so the caffeculture blog was born. It encapsulates all the meta-topic stuff to do with coffee, like coffee culture around the world.

FPP:  What has the response been from your readers?

LT:   Our readers have been very supportive and kind. The comments have been very positive with people chiming in about their own coffee shop experiences which is what we were hoping for.

FPP:  Were you surprised by some of the things you’ve learned from readers?

LT:  I have been somewhat surprised, but gratified that many of the readers come from Britain, Australia and Europe as well as Canada and the US.

One Coffee Shop Office blog reader wrote in this wonderful advice about how to secure your computer data when working remotely. Neither Gregg nor I are really up on the tech-side of cafe commuting so it was a great piece of information to receive.

FPP:  Has the site been effective in connecting you with the media?

LT:  It hasn’t been nearly as effective as we had hoped initially. But the online world is full of people wanting their project, product, etc. to be noticed so it’s all about jockeying for attention through search engine optimization.

However, we have been delighted with the number of people who have picked up on our blog and promoted us to their readers. 

FPP:  Have you used the site as a marketing platform, and if so, how effective have you found it to be thus far?

LT:  At this point, Gregg and I haven’t really been fast-tracking the marketing side of the project. We’ve been engulfed by researching and writing.  However, we will be taking the marketing full-throttle in the next while, and the website and blogs will play an important role.

FPP:  Are there any other things you would do (or do differently) to gather research on a future book project?

LT:  Not really. Research is, by its very nature, a time-consuming task and covers a wide range of media. We sift through blog sites, websites, article indexes, newspapers (both local and international), books, social media and mainstream media to thoroughly know our topic. There is always something more to learn. We also had a librarian friend do an article search for us that provided some great foundational concepts such as “third spaces”, the idea of community spaces where people connect outside of home and office.

FPP:  What advice would give authors about using a blog for book research?

LT:  Do it. You never know when someone will provide you with a different view of your topic that may lead you into something really exciting. But always double check the information if you can. There are many knowledgeable people out there, however, not everyone possesses reliable information. If you can’t verify the information, then don’t use it in your book. It’s your name on the book and your reputation on the line.

FPP:  What is the next step for Coffee Shop Office?

LT:  Keep on writing the book and marketing the heck out of this project to publishers. And Gregg mentioned something about total media domination … Then settle down for a nice, celebratory cuppa joe!

Want to know more about Coffee Shop Office or share your own coffee house commuting stories?  You can contact Gregg and Lori at

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