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"blogging" category

The evolution of publishing

20th February 2013

When we talk about publishing the written word, at any point in its history, we are talking fundamentally about putting the written word in front of readers.  There have been many different phases of this activity, triggered by many significant technologies.

Writing itself seems to have had various origins, including in Egypt the transition from broadly significant symbols in the famous Narmer palette, to symbols signifying sounds, which can be used to construct words.  It wasn't easy to bring early writing to a wide audience, but one form of publishing was of course carving words on temple walls for all (who could read) to see.

The temple carving process was:

  • costly, requiring special tools and trained craftsmen
  • permanent

Meanwhile, writing on less permanent media, such as papyrus, was developing, and this had other problems:

  • required large amounts of manpower to reach a wide audience
  • prone to copying mistakes
  • easily destroyed

Of course, several thousand years later the next development in publishing arrived - the printing press.  William Caxton introduced the printing press to England, though he did not invent the process.  At first, printing presses were crude affairs, using moveable type to construct pages, which had to be disassembled to construct the next page, and so on, so to make the best of the technology you had to know how many copies you were going to print, as new print runs required doing the same thing all over again!  The printing press made it:

  • easy to make multiple copies
  • difficult to amend a just small part of the copy
  • impossible to correct what has already been printed and disseminated

As printing developed, so did writing and publishing. It became easy to become a prolific novelist, though publishing practices as late as the 19th century were different to what we have today - with novelists like Dickens and Trollope being published first in serialised form in newspapers.

The role of the publisher was essential, both for the newspaper serialisation (the publisher was the newspaper, and the distribution was almost universal) and the book form (publishers took care of selling to book shops, something authors could not do by themselves).

Six hundred years on from the invention of printing, we have an advance in technology (the internet) which has led to a number of changes in the process of publishing the written word. These changes include: 

  • The devaluation of the written word (even if publishers charge "too much" for online editions, many people are writing copy and placing it on the internet for everyone to read without paying a penny - this blog, for example.
  • The devaluation of publishing (electronic self-publishing can happen through online book-sellers or just via a personal website, while paper self-publishing can be done cheaply through an online printing firm).
  • The increased power of the new book media - e-readers can bring the "printed" word to you more quickly than ever.
  • The return of serialisation - some authors are viewing e-readers as an ideal medium for publishing serialised books.

Far from simply introducing a "publish" button, the internet has taken us off into many interesting avenues - and at a faster pace than ever.

What's next?

websites need words

23rd November 2012
Categories: blogging, marketing

When you walk into a shop or an office, you expect to get a feel for the owners' character, vision, and ethos. Walking into a small independent East Oxford coffee shop, for example, you might see mismatched crockery, antiques, union flags, Bovril jars, pictures of letterboxes, and war posters, which give a homely, "made in Britain" feel - whereas if you walk into a coffee shop chain you'll see a reduced colour palette, all matching crockery, smart new furniture, large scale black and white photography, and uniform typefaces and signage.

But having stepped in, your next step will be to order a coffee. If the shop owner has trained their staff well, your conversation (i.e. your "ordering experience") will be at one with the ethos of the business. Perhaps in the chain they'll refrain from certain forms of addressm like "love", or "my dear", and perhaps in the independent shop they will be more flexible about what you can have and how they can accommodate you.

A nice website design isn't enough to portray the character of a business. You need to expose some of your thoughts and ideas, your philosophy and ethics. And you can't do this with "Home", "About us", "Services" and "Contact us" alone! 

So write about what you know, what you think of the regulations surrounding your industry, what your customers are up to, and what new services and products you can offer - but above all, write!  And if you need help setting up a blog to do just this, hopefully you'll know where to come.

You never know who's reading your blog

7th February 2012
Categories: blogging

An obvious statement of fact, I know, but I was surprised (and delighted) when attending a school parents' evening, that one of my eldest son's teachers (who hadn't met me before) had tracked my email address to our website and taken a look at this blog.

And if you're reading now, hi! (you know who you are!)

Anyone else reading this - I can imagine what you're thinking: "Why be surprised?  It's on the internet, it's public, it's linked to your email address... so what's the big deal?"

But it just might be a wake up call for people who blog on a regular basis, with two interesting implications:

  1. Whoever you're writing for - whether it's close friends or a vast anonymous public - they may not be the only audience.  If you're interested in not offending your neighbours and colleagues - be careful what you write.  On the other hand if you'd rather offend people - maybe you should be writing more on topics that are close to the bone!
  2. If you think your blog has no impact - for example if you're preaching to the converted (i.e. your customers), think bigger and write bigger. You may be reaching potential customers without knowing it.  What would they like to hear - and what's going to improve their lives or their businesses today?

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