Books Win the Attention Economy
The invention of the printing press transformed society by breaking up elite strangleholds on entertainment and information. But governments and corporations figured out how to tame the next wave of media—TV & radio. How can the Internet fulfill its true revolutionary promise and avoid being co-opted again by the economic and political establishment? By uniting with the book, the last medium to accomplish that. Average time spent per user on books is hours, lifetime revenue per author approaches one thousand dollars. But they're damn idiosyncratic and sampling them is hell, so current technology and business models favor lowest common denominators to maximize advertising revenue. By combining the Internet's capacity to power creation and consumption with the book's capacity to get deeper inside the human mind and identity than any other medium, the Internet can balance its dependence on corporate advertising with the economics of individual choice.
Richard Nash is an independent publishing entrepreneur—VP of Community and Content of Small Demons, founder of Cursor, and Publisher of Red Lemonade,. For most of the past decade, he ran the iconic indie Soft Skull Press for which work he was awarded the Association of American Publishers' Miriam Bass Award for Creativity in Independent Publishing in 2005. Books he edited and published landed on bestseller lists from the Boston Globe to the Singapore Straits-Times; on Best of the Year lists from The Guardian to the Toronto Globe & Mail to the Los Angeles Times; the last book he edited there, Lydia Millet’s Love in Infant Monkeys, was selected as a 2010 Pulitzer Prize finalist. Last year the Utne Reader named him one of Fifty Visionaries Changing Your World and Mashable.com picked him as the #1 Twitter User Changing the Shape of Publishing. He has spoken on the history and future of writing, reading and publishing around the world—in Korea, Australia, the Netherlands and Italy, at CalArts and Yale, at Book Expo America and GigaOM RoadMap.