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The digital publishing revolution starts now

Interesting new model from Ed Bott (seems similar in some ways to one of my own publishers, Quid Pro Books, who published my Louisiana Civil Law Dictionary). Love their lack of DRM in their epub files. Reminds me a bit of Louis C.K.’s success with his recent video sales. And iTunes sells DRM-free songs and does well.

The digital publishing revolution starts now

Published November 30, 2011

I am a writer. I make my living helping people use technology to become more productive.

My first book appeared in bookstores back in 1995, when the World Wide Web was still shiny and new. I’ve been writing books steadily since then, always with traditional publishers, always following the same basic model.

I still believe in books. The web might be the best option for finding a specific answer to a specific question, but there’s nothing like a well-written, carefully edited book to help you understand a new technology or quickly master a new product.

The trouble with the traditional publishing model is that it hasn’t changed much in the last 15 years, despite the revolutionary changes in technology we’ve seen during that time. Traditional publishers still start with a print edition and eventually get around to digital formats. That model has to change.

That’s why I’ve joined a new company, Fair Trade Digital Exchange, as a founding author and partner and why I’m leaving traditional publishing behind.

It’s the first shot in what I am confident will be a revolution in tech publishing.

We’re “digital first” for a reason.

Technology changes at breathtaking speed these days. One of the advantages of a digital-first approach is that we can produce smaller titles with a smaller price tag, and get them into the market quickly, while print-first publishers are still arguing over proposals.

My first book for Fair Trade DX, Ed Bott’s Windows 8 Head Start, is practically a case study in the difference between the two publishing models.

With a traditional publisher, I would start writing when the first beta appeared. Four to six months later, my co-authors and I would have a finished, fully edited manuscript. After two more months of post-production and printing, that 1,000-page book would finally be available for sale.

By contrast, the first edition of Ed Bott’s Windows 8 Head Start, based on the Windows Developer Preview released in September at Microsoft’s BUILD conference, is already fully tech-checked, professionally copy-edited, and available in every popular digital format. (You can buy the EPUB version at our website, get it for your Kindle at Amazon.com, or download it to your Nook from bn.com.) The first edition is 130 pages. I’ll have an updated, expanded edition within weeks after the beta is released. And I’ll update and expand that book again when the final version is released to manufacturing.

Our digital-first process lets us work fast, update quickly, and stay relevant. If you’re an early adopter, you can follow along with those early editions and have a genuine head start on the competition by the time the final product is released. If you prefer to wait for the final edition, you’ll still have a head start of weeks or even months compared to competing products from traditional publishers.

At Fair Trade DX, authors are 50/50 partners.

I’ve been fortunate to work with many fine publishing professionals through the years. We’ve shared a long list of successful titles together, but those successes have always been on the publisher’s terms. They keep 85-90% of the revenue; the author gets 10-15%.

That split made sense in a print-first world. After all, it costs a lot of money to print books by the thousands and ship them around the country, and there’s always a risk that the booksellers will return those copies if they don’t sell.

Digital publishing changes that cost structure completely. There’s no manufacturing cost for e-books, distribution uses web servers instead of trucks and warehouses, and there’s no risk of returns.

But publishers still insist on keeping their traditional revenue split with authors when they sell a book in digital format. That doesn’t seem fair. Which is why we’ve changed the split to a straight 50/50 for revenue on an author’s work.

At Fair Trade DX, we share the responsibilities and the rewards. Authors are the subject-matter experts. We provide professional development, editing, proofreading, cover design, and translation into every popular digital format. Not to mention the tricky details of placing titles where readers can find them.

This arrangement allows Fair Trade DX to publish titles that might never get considered by a traditional publisher because they’re too small. And it allows authors the chance to make a living without having to spend time mastering self-publishing tools. Instead, they can do what they do best—write.

And best of all: there’s no DRM.

At Fair Trade DX, we hate copy protection as much as you do. For titles aimed at IT pros and computer professionals, it’s especially annoying and counterproductive. If you buy a new title, you probably want to read it on your Kindle, your iPad, your smartphone, at least two PCs and a Mac, and eventually on devices that don’t even exist today.

We say, go right ahead. Our titles have no restrictions on the number or type of devices you can use them on. In other words, we trust our customers to do the right thing.

Why now?

We’ve been asking traditional publishers to make these sorts of changes for years, and every time we asked, they said the time wasn’t right. They always seem to have a reason to keep doing things the way they’ve always done things.

So finally we got tired of waiting and decided to get it done ourselves. That’s why we founded Fair Trade DX.

If you’re looking for our first wave of computer books, you can find them at our online bookstore. If you’re a technology expert and you’d like to talk to us about how Fair Trade DX works and how you can submit a book proposal, we’re ready to listen.

Come and join our revolution.

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To the extent possible under law, Stephan Kinsella has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to C4SIF. This work is published from: United States. In the event the CC0 license is unenforceable a  Creative Commons License Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License is hereby granted.