While being a writer is tough, getting your work noticed is even tougher. These days, it seems everyone has a story to tell, but that doesn’t make surfacing the best work any easier. This is why a group of book editors from HarperCollins Publishers developed authonomy, a community site that caters to unpublished and published authors alike. authonomy invites writers to post their manuscripts for visitors to read and review online, giving them a centralized venue devoted to the craft of writing.
With authonomy, users create their own personal page on the site and use it to share and promote their work. authonomy is not for the casual scribe, nor for the faint of heart; all authors posting on authonomy must present at least 10,000 words for the public to read. Also, with the ability to comment on submitted books and recommend favorites, anyone who visits authonomy can become a book critic. authonomy counts the number of recommendations each book receives and ranks the most sought after books on the site. authonomy also recognizes its most devoted visitors by tracking which readers consistently support books that become popular on the site and then honoring them as the most influential trend spotters.
With authonomy, book lovers can search for their next great read by keyword or genre, or they can browse the site’s collection. Other features include a virtual bookshelf, where users can display up to five of their favorite submissions, and the watchlist feature, which allows users to store their favorite page turners. Once a month, the top five books from the Book Chart, a feature that tracks member’s bookshelf activity, are delivered to the desks of an editorial board made up of international HarperCollins commissioning editors. authonomy aims to mitigate the discovery process by giving every author—novice or veteran—the ability to share his or her work with an eager community. And no doubt HarperCollins has high hopes this digital slush pile will turn up a few best-sellers as well.
The publishing universe is dominated by a few big names, with thousands of smaller publishers struggling to keep up with evolving digital distribution methods. This dynamic may be changing, at least on the technology front, with Constellation, a digital offering that will allow independent publishers to leverage best-in-breed players across the digital spectrum.
Introduced by The Perseus Books Group in September 2008, Constellation is designed to provide a one-stop digital solution for independent publishers and help launch them into the digital realm. Instead of negotiating with multiple suppliers and mastering a large number of very different processes to reach the whole marketplace, a book publisher can opt to provide a single book file to Perseus. This vendor-neutral service creates one central repository and service organization that allows a publisher to manage titles throughout their life cycles, leveraging—where appropriate—online marketing and sampling (Amazon's Search Inside!, for example), ebook distribution and sales, and print on demand.
With Constellation, each client is able to tailor its choice of services, such as on which platforms its content will be made available. Once a client uploads content, Constellation does the heavy lifting, arranging agreements with vendors and settling costs. The initial enrollment in the Constellation service takes the form of an addendum to a client’s distribution services agreement. In this addendum, clients can indicate the digital services in which they want to participate and will include a set of representations and warranties from the client to the appropriate digital service providers. Clients then have an individual login system from which they can manage functions such as where an individual title will be sent. Constellation uses all of this information to make deals with participating vendors—which include Amazon; BookSurge; Sony; Google; OverDrive, Inc.; ebrary, Inc.; and barnesandnoble.com, LLC—on behalf of its publishing clients.
With a service like Constellation, small and independent publishers have a means to reach a multitude of digital distribution channels and take their content places only major publishers could go before.
With the growing popularity of ebooks and digital content, the stereotypical massive textbook no longer has its usual place in the world of academia—nor in students’ weighty backpacks. This is exemplified by CourseSmart, an online marketplace for course materials that aims to improve teaching and learning by providing instructors and students better access to textbok content. Developed by five higher education textbook publishers—Pearson; Cengage Learning, Inc.; McGraw-Hill Education; John Wiley & Sons, Inc.; and the Bedford, Freeman & Worth Publishing Group, LLC—CourseSmart unites thousands of textbooks under one digital umbrella and invites students to ditch those heavy books and instead discover information digitally.
This etextbook approach not only helps students save on expenses (and alleviate back strain), it allows more flexibility by providing access to thousands of textbooks directly from a computer screen. With CourseSmart, users can search for a book by course name, author, keyword, title, or ISBN. They then have the choice to download the book to their computers or buy an online version that grants them subscription-based access. Other smart benefits include the copy-and-paste tool, which allows users to copy and paste text from the etextbook into notes, virtually eliminating the need for highlighters, and the print tool, which can be used to print specific sections of an etextbook rather than lugging the whole book around. The benefits of using etextbooks extend to instructors as well. CourseSmart provides access to textbooks and other course materials within an instructor’s particular field for review and comparison without the need to request print exam copies. Offering selective print ordering saves some trees and in turn benefits the environment. With more than 2,000 schools currently using CourseSmart, the idea of accessing textbooks digitally is not only a bright one, but it is changing the way students and faculty members approach their academic ventures.