Failing better - comments

Author Eric Wittenberg is unclear about some of my meaning ; the posting in question was trying to say that a prospective author can (1) trade a small book readership for long-term web or digital presence - become searchable and researchable on the idea level and (2) this translates into "failing better." In sharing research and key findings we can do much better reaching out to the whole world rather than through a few hundred bookbuyers.

That does not mean making every book digital - or every part of a book digital - it's more about the key findings and analysis being shared.

Eric is concerned about copyright - I do not back Google scanning books and then earning ad revenues for itself by displaying book content. That is piracy. And I do know that digital content can be copyrighted. Is digital work abuse proof? No.

Over the years I have shared a number of discoveries in this space. I will share more. If that material is retrievable to the public through keyword searches, I fail better than if I fail in commercial publishing. If someone claims what they read here as their own work, I don't care. If I did care, I could stand up for myself in the same way a print author would do so.

I read a book last night in one sitting - and I'm a slow reader - Lincoln's Tragic Admiral. That bio had no business being in book form. The author had to cover - no doubt for reasons of publishing economy - a 46-year Navy career in 200-odd pages. This Du Pont volume needed 800 pages minimum plus all the correspondence you could scan or transcribe. We need this scholar's best crack at a Du Pont bio, not what the operations department at his publishing house thinks it can affort to print and sell. What good is a 200-page bio of a Navy reformer and Civil War admiral, except as a story? I enjoyed the story. I amused myself for an evening.

That author needs to fail better.

Meanwhile, hat tip to Brian Downey, who is mentioning the post as well.

The impulse to write about failing better comes from compiling Civil War book sales data for scores of titles - 60 to 80 - twice a year and from analyzing seasonal publishing lists since 1997. I don't know of any other Civil War publishing sector analyst active apart from myself.

Have been in commercial publishing since 1974. Have published books; was editor-in-chief of a national magazine, 1986-1987; still collect royalties from an electronic newsletter I launched in 1983 with a 300 baud modem (it ran 10 years); freelanced for a trade newspaper for 11 years; told newsletter publishers how to improve content and increase circulation as a paid publishing consultant; have edited manuscripts; and currently earn my living writing.

That doesn't make me an industry guru worth reading; nor do I need to qualify my arguments with an appeal to authority; I share this only because new readers have said "Given that Dimitri has never gone through the process of publishing anything in the journal / magazine / book medium please explain how he can claim any insight into the relative merits of web v. book format."

The arguments have to stand on their own merits, not who I am. If they don't, they are failed arguments. Nevertheless, I offer this little biographical information simply as an overdue courtesy to all readers.

We have this conversational medium that supplants and transcends the quarterly journal, the roundtable, the privately published monograph; we are advanced readers; let's make the most of this.