Books Writing

The joy of publishing

I published a book. It’s called “Train to Nowhere” and it collects the first 100 tales from my podcast, “Two Minute Stories.”

What a strange paragraph!

Publishing a book has long been on my bucket list – it’s incredibly satisfying that I can say I’m a published author. Having said that, the bar for entry is quite low. In the same way podcasting doesn’t require much more than an internet connection and an idea, publishing a book doesn’t require much more than an internet connection, formatting, and an idea.

That’s one of two things I found most interesting during the process of publishing: the time required to properly format. Since I was aiming for speed, I published “Train to Nowhere” exclusively to Amazon’s Kindle platform. My two big learnings:

  1. Since all of the text for my book was previously written for “Two Minute Stories,” my time was invested in both understanding how to publish to Kindle and formatting for Kindle. There are several ways to do this, but I chose to use HTML. I’m fortunate to feel comfortable coding (and yes, you could argue I coded a book).
  2. Again, the bar for entry is quite low. Amazon makes it easy to publish to Kindle. More importantly, I learned that the idea of a “book” is quite light. There are plenty of examples on Kindle that don’t fit nicely into the traditional definition of a book.

Similarly, the term “publish” is quite light. Thanks to many new technology platforms, I can publish a post, article, podcast, book, and more with minimal effort. But although publishing is relatively easy when compared to its history, the satisfaction of doing so still feels great.

Books Design Podcast Self


Our current world – one of quarantine – has constrained our living space, access, and brain power. But it is within these constraints that creativity can flourish, all because we must focus. In times like these, it’s great to think like designers, folks that “thrive on constraints, but hate compromise.” (Erik Spiekermann)

With constraints that limit our thinking, the likelihood of success increases. I’m reminded of this during quarantine as we must find new ways to parent. How can I entertain my child within the confines of my yard? I’m now responsible for designing a solution for significantly more time than I was while school remained in session. This is a new – and incredibly challenging – restraint.

A designer solves a problem within a set of constraints.

“Design is a Job” by Mike Monteiro

Some activities we’ve considered for our child within this new set of constraints:

  • imitating parts of the school day, to varying affect (math, recess, art, independent reading, comprehension),
  • as many walks or bike rides around the neighborhood as possible,
  • backyard scavenger hunts, and
  • encouraging creating: coloring, Legos, and even reviewing movies on Instagram Live!

…and that’s just the constraints for our child! Let’s not forget the constraints as a full-time employee. But again, this is where creativity flourishes. In the short time of our quarantine, I’ve also created new routines and outputs, including:

  • a redesigned web site, which you’re currently reading!
  • documenting life at home via Instagram Stories,
  • and soon launching two new podcasts.

Chances are good that little to none of these activities would have occurred without our current set of constraints. Designers thrive on them… and it turns out parents can, too.

Interested in learning more about constraints? Check out Jay Acunzo’s episode of Unthinkable.

Books Self

Book ’em

Favorite books of 2014

Having converted to a public transportation commuter in September, I’ve had the immense pleasure of reading a lot more than I typically would. Since Labor Day, I’ve read 11 novels, 9 non-fiction books, and 18 graphic novels. Here are my top recommendations:

The Giver by Lois Lowry
Seemingly everyone except me read this in high school. It’s a straightforward, succinct science fiction novel about a teenager given an incredible responsibility for his community. Lowry paints the family dynamic beautifully and provides a unique setting for Jonas, the main character. This was a quick, satisfying read. Great stuff!

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
A former colleague begged me to read this for years… and for good reason. The story of Louis Zamperini is uplifting, disturbing, and often unbelievable. His amazing story of survival and commitment to serving America made for an amazing book. A must-read.

The Last Policeman trilogy by Ben Winters
A detective novel set in a sci-fi world? Yes please. Winters’s straightforward writing places the reader in a world where a giant meteor is scheduled to destroy earth in only a few months. How does Detective Henry Palace operate in a world that’s changing everyday? All three books are stellar and recommended for any sci-fi enthusiast.

The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman
A surprisingly enjoyable read – the setting is an international newspaper and each chapter explores a different employee. We learn about how writers, editors, and everyone in between came to work in Rome and what goes on outside their job. Worth the read for the chapter on the obituary writer alone – the words on death are heartbreaking and beautiful.

The Dog Stars by Peter Heller
A gripping post-apocalyptic-ish book in a similar vein to Cormac McCarthy’s fantastic The Road. Main character Hig lives his days guarding his home with his partner – but also finds time to fly and escape in nature. McCarthy fans will appreciate Heller’s lack of punctuation. A scary look at human behavior when the chips are down.

Books Business Culture Media Music Technology Video

Renting vs. owning: A shift in content consumption

From the HB Blog

A recent Google+ post from Jeremiah Owyang read:

“You for rent: I can rent your HOUSE with AirBnB. I can rent your CAR with GetAround. I can rent your TIME and EXPERTISE with taskrabbit, crowdflower. What else can we rent in the future? What’s left?”

Owyang focuses on a shift in user behavior over the past couple of years: people no longer require ownership of their content – just access to it.

That’s a long cry from Steve Jobs’s discussion surrounding the iTunes Music Store in 2007:

“People want to own their music.”

Only six years later, Apple now offers iTunes Match which allows users to stream their music from any device, assuming it’s purchased through iTunes or resides on a home machine. Similarly, Spotify offers a seemingly-endless supply of music to its customers for a monthly subscription fee.

On the tube

Likewise, the television and movie models are shifting their business model from ownership to rental. Companies like NetflixHulu, and Amazon provide content consumption without taking up precious space on your hard drive.

Even production companies are joining the fun. Without “ownership” of a cable box, folks can watch many of their favorite shows via a web site or app. The episodes no longer reside on a machine; rather, users stream content over the internet with relatively little setup.

On the horizon

Back to Owyang. What’s next? Magazines have slowly joined the movement, offering digital subscriptions – but mainly when the customer already receives a print version of the publication.

Instead of content, it’s commodities and services that are sure to see an uptick in “rentals.” Could there be a subscription-fee model for airfare? Or how about automobile maintenance? Will the book industry move to this model to service the millions of KindlesNooks, and iPads across the globe?

What do you think will come next in this world of renting?

Apple Books Business Content Marketing Strategy

The new publishing

From the HB Blog

Gone are the days where writers and content creators needed a publishing house to help them distribute their latest work. Today, a piece of content can be shared effortlessly through a company’s web site or social media channel(s).

Where does that leave books?

Going digital

eBooks exploded over the past couple of years – first, with the development of Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes n Noble’s Nook. Now, the iPad has taken the market to new heights. In fact, the move has destroyed some businesses – most notably, Borders.

Publishers and authors can decide to release a book… without printing. Via Amazon, Barnes n Noble, or the iTunes Store, users can purchase directly from a publishing house.

The self-author

More recently, authors are foregoing the business model all together. Rather than work with a publisher to determine cost, shipments, and logistics, forward-thinking creators can work with Amazon’s Domino Project to offer free, short-form books. A good example: Julien Smith, who previously wrote (and distributed in the traditional fashion) “Trust Agents,” released a book through Amazon with a free digital download.

Beyond reading

Apple’s latest investment goes beyond the printed word. Their iBooks Author program provides content creators another distribution stream… but with interactive content.

Authors can create books that feature animations, photos, and videos for use on the iPad. And they can be sold for as little as $0.

Opportunities abound

So we’ve gone from the printed word, to eBooks, to interactive offerings (all within a few years). Needless to say, the creation of free eBooks or iBooks should be a part of many companies’ future content marketing plans.