Offer for my blog readers - buy a copy of my new book, The New Technology Elite, and I will mail you copy of my last book, The New Polymath, a $ 39 list value. Email your proof of purchase and mailing address to thenewtechnologyelite AT gmail DOT com.
Offer valid till May 15 or till my stash of Polymath runs out. Readers outside US - due to customs restrictions, this offer is only for US addresses, so you are welcome to participate with a US mailing address for a friend or colleague.
Shame on me for assuming my book would come out on the Kindle after the hardback. That’s so one book ago. Amazon (and B&N) show a March 27 hardcopy ship date, but they released the Kindle version February 28. Makes sense for the electronic version to come out earlier.
So I downloaded a copy and flipped through it. Nice that you can click through on the 500+ citations I have in the book. Nice that you can have it read to you. Nice that it synchs to my Android smartphone and my laptop and conveniently knows where I left off on a previous device.
I can go on….
But, here’s what has not evolved much. Business books ( as different from fiction and academic books) are still sold around Amazon. Several thousand copies of my last book were bought in hardback by case studies and event organizers. That format is still much more convenient to hand out (and for an author to autograph). Amazon got little of that business. This time I have arranged for a book distributor to handle such bulk orders. Amazon needs to make it easier with prepaid cards and frankly, way more support for bulk orders.
Rumor goes its rankings are skewed towards single orders (Amazon is pretty opaque on how its ranking are calculated) So a book which sells 500 single copies is ranked much higher than one which gets a bulk order for 500 copies. Its pricing is not that elastic for larger orders etc. Hey, they are doing fine as a business and my book is nice to Amazon as a technology industry elite player. But as a business author, I find their rankings somewhat academic, especially since each local store (amazon.co.uk, amazon.ca) has its own rankings.
The other area where the Kindle has regressed is book pricing. My new book is priced at $ 29.38. That’s just $ 3.30 less than the hardback. Seriously? With no printing or shipping costs?
Honestly, Amazon does not have much say either. When Apple introduced the iPad it agreed to an agency model with the major publishers, and eBook pricing has floated away from a $ 9.99 discipline Amazon had tried to bring to that market.
As an author, should I not be happier with a higher price? With just 15% of the royalties, not really. Honestly, I would rather have a reasonable price and less friction from readers using their calculators to decide whether to buy the book and then zinging me for gouging!
In my last book, The New Polymath, I used a somewhat old-fashioned literary style of a Prologue and an Epilogue. Drawing from the movie Field of Dreams I brought to life 10 Polymaths from the past – Da Vinci, Newton, Franklin – to mingle at a conference in Tuscany with modern-day technology Polymaths I had showcased in the book. Most readers thought it inspiring. Some thought it far fetched. Hey, that’s an author’s license :)
This time around with The New Technology Elite, no such creativity. However as I say in the book Acknowledgements
“As I reviewed a late edit of this book, I felt like I was watching ESPN’s X Games, which focuses on extreme sports. The pages that follow are filled with many technology athletes and their acrobatics.”
Take a look at the book’s index attached below and see if you agree that the book profiles the industry’s most innovative people, products and places.
Anyone want to start a Fantasy League of these athletes?
Read this post by Joe Konrath, and you will think that relations between book authors and publishers make those between spouses and mother-in-laws look cordial:)
I have had a less tempestuous relationship with my publisher for two reasons:
a) As a blogger, I realize I am used to a pace and editing independence that a traditional publisher like John Wiley actually tempers
b) When I do rant about delays or quality problems at the publisher, I have a saint of an editor, John Deremigis, who knows how to calm me down.
As the The New Technology Elite gets ready to be printed., though, I have had a more interesting conversation with John:
“If a $ 2 billion publishing company with a 85% share in a book's revenues is not willing to invest in a promotional budget, what message is it sending to a small business author with only a 15% stake in the book?”
John's response is "but every author does his/her own promotion". I certainly did that with our last book together. If you see the website for The New Polymath, you will see the countless press/blog interviews, podcasts, presentations and social media investments I made. I forwarded Wiley many orders for bulk orders – several thousand copies from case studies, events etc. Wiley’s cost of sales was close to zero.
And I have done similar with the new book before it is released – excerpting on the New Florence blog, doing press interviews (see here, here, here), paying for a book web site being developed. But I will be much more selective going forward unless Wiley frees up some promotional dollars.
Honestly, my own economic interests are also not well aligned with the publisher’s. So, the book badge I had on this blog is gone – to make space for a sponsor. I also make much more from consulting on innovation, and speaking on themes from the book, than from the book.
To which John asks me, aren’t you proud of your book? I definitely am – in fact, early reviewers have told me it is even more inspiring in its innovation tales than Polymath was. It has twice as many case studies, countless interviews and guest columns from some of the most innovative technology executives in the world. And it is even more gratifying I wrote it while I was not 100% last year.
I encourage readers to pre-order a copy from Amazon or Barnes & Noble or your local bookseller. If you want bulk copies (25+) I have arranged a nice discount with an independent distributor. I will still be presenting on the book’s themes at several locations. Please contact me directly for bulk orders or speaking/consulting.
So, I will still promote the book albeit in a reduced fashion. And I hope Wiley steps up their promotion. With almost 6X the author’s share, it is definitely THEIR book more than the author’s.
Our misaligned economics, though, is one item I would add to Joe’s list of items that publishers and authors need to both work on.
While the feedback to The New Polymath was overwhelmingly positive, I was a bit surprised what prompted some of the negative comments. A few software companies bitched about the Salesforce case study. More than a few outsourcing firms complained about the Cognizant case study. A cleantech VC told me I was too generous to Kleiner Perkins in the book. I actually took that as a compliment – most of those people were actually telling me they should have been in the book:)
So, with over a 100 case studies and cameos in my upcoming book, I am bracing for questions from competitors like what is so special about HP’s supply chain? Virgin America’s design principles? 3M’s portfolio of technology products? Google’s green initiatives?
My good friend Dennis Howlett got one of the few early review copies and kindly took the time to read it. Read his full review here, but if I can paraphrase, he wonders “why not more on enterprise software?”
There is quite a bit on enterprise software spread across the book – Flextronics’ global Workday project, Groupon’s global NetSuite project, various aspects of Salesforce’s social assets like Chatter and Radian6, SAP’s changing definition of sustainability.
But the major themes in the book are a) the consumerization of enterprise tech – how enterprises in every industry are embedding technology in their products and services from satellites in cars to sensors in shoes and b) the enterprising of consumer tech – how Amazon’s logistics and Apple’s retail stores and EBay’s PayPal banking capabilities are world class. These two powerful trends are changing what defines today’s technology elite and those 12 elite attributes make up the meat of the book.
If many of these companies I profile had sung praises of SAP or IBM, I would have given them more ink. But most of them discussed specialized technology vendors. Roosevelt Island talked about Streetline’s smart parking technology, Valence Health about SAS analytics, Virgin America about Tibco’s Loyalty Labs, Boeing about HCL’s product engineering services, UPS about devices from Symbol and Honeywell.
As Dennis observes “In the book, he cites company after company that are continuing to invest heavily in technology but not in the way most tech pundits see the world. We bemoan the apparently stagnant levels of visible technology spending yet are blind to the real investments that are making a demonstrable difference to our lives.”
And many of the elite attributes I profile have little to do with underlying technology. The chapter on Elegance focuses on aesthetics and design excellence. The chapter on Pragmatism focuses on smart technology attorneys.
Back to enterprise software. It is one tool in a growing technology toolbox. Use that hammer too often and it hurts companies as we have seen over and over in the last decade. And it certainly does not help Mercedes with its Gloria avatar or Facebook with its hyper efficient Prineville center profiled in the book.
My favorite part of Dennis’s review was “I was struck by the almost child like wonder and excitement that oozes from Vinnie’s analysis.” I was clearly inspired by the elite companies I profile in the book.
And I hope the book inspires, more than annoys, a wide cross section of readers – even those who wish I had more on enterprise software.
As you may notice, the book badge on the left now has a blue cover – Amazon just announced it is taking pre-orders for my next book (due in February according to Wiley, my publisher)
In the meantime, I am excerpting on a regular basis from the 20 chapters and 21 case studies/guest columns in book on the New Florence blog. This link shows the excerpts so far and those planned through February. Enjoy the excerpts now and the book in the New Year!
I recently submitted the first draft of my manuscript for my next book. It’s about what I call “technology elite” companies and it has 21 chapters most of which talk about attributes of what makes them elite. They include elegance in product design, malleable when it comes to business models, very aware of the power of the physical presence and touch even in our digital world, global when it comes to supply chain etc etc.
Honestly, when I started writing it I had Apple prominent in every chapter. I mean how can you ignore Jonathan Ive when you are talking product elegance? How can you ignore Apple’s masterful retail strategy when it comes to physical presence?
In the manuscript I ended up submitting Apple still looms large, but the book is much more balanced. It has 17 case studies including UPS, 3M, Corning, Boeing, Virgin America, Google, Facebook, HP and of course, Apple, and 4 guest columns from CIOs and IP attorneys and professors as a companion to each of its 21 chapters.
Here are some excerpts from my Apple case study
“In a 2004 BusinessWeek interview Jobs said “And it comes from saying no to 1,000 things to make sure we don't get on the wrong track or try to do too much. We're always thinking about new markets we could enter, but it's only by saying no that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.” That ‘saying no to 1,000 things” has become part of the lore around Jobs and Apple. But Apple’s saying yes to plenty of gutsy, even maverick decisions is what really defines Apple’s success.”
“While Apple did not invent MP3s, it dragged the music industry with iTunes to make it a big business. Over 15 billion songs – most of them singles - have been downloaded via iTunes and many more through other channels like Walmart.com. Even today, though, many music executives long for the return of albums, ignoring the “long tail” phenomenon – users buy many more “one-hit wonders” than they would if they were not unbundled.”
“Apple has stayed loyal to Foxconn through multiple releases of iPods, iPhones and iPads in spite of sweatshop accusations, employee suicides and factory explosions in its Chinese facilities. Most companies like to diversify between company owned and outsourced plants and certainly across geographies. Apple has been willing to take the risk of putting its eggs in the Foxconn basket and taking plenty of jabs from China bashers (though Foxconn has recently been looking at a significant diversification to Brazil)”
“When Apple opened its first retail store in 2001, an observer commented “"I give them two years before they're turning out the lights on a very painful and expensive mistake,"Apple dealers were not happy. One of them said “Apple might do just well enough to really hurt our business. They've also done a...poor job telling us how sales and service will work when an Apple Store opens nearby," Others questioned the timing in 2001 with the tech industry in a severe downturn and drawing parallels to PC maker Gateway's struggling retail effort.”
“When Apple introduced the iPad in 2010, it tried to reverse “more than two decades of (industry) attempts to get tablets right–none of which really succeeded, and some of which failed on a monumental scale.“
“Amazon has over the last decade become a dominant player in the book market. As eBooks started to grow in popularity over the last couple of years, Amazon had driven the market towards a $ 9.99 price point. At the iPad launch, Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal asked Steve Jobs why people would pay more for the same book on an iPad. Jobs’ response was “The prices will be the same” Apple had no intention of keeping prices that low even though it was a trivial player in the book market compared to Amazon. Instead it signaled to publishers it would accept an agency model which would give them more control over pricing. That precipitated a show down between publishers and Amazon, and Amazon having to cede pricing control to the publishers. Venturebeat wrote “The ten-dollar e-book may soon be gone, replaced by the fifteen-dollar e-book””
“While many technology companies use cash reserves to make acquisitions, Apple has on many occasions used large sums of money to secure strategic components. In 2005, “Apple reached long term supply agreements with a number of memory supply companies including Hynix, Intel, Micro, Samsung Electronics and Toshiba. Apple will prepay up to $1.25 billion for flash memory over the next three months. The agreements secure a supply of NAND flash memory through 2010.” In 2011 they announced “During the September and December quarters, we executed long-term supply agreements with three vendors through which we expect to spend a total of approximately $3.9 billion in inventory component prepayment and capital expenditures over a two-year period.” Apple would not reveal the components or the suppliers but such large commitments not only get them priority in tight markets but also freeze out competitors.”
“It could be saying no to 1000 things or it could be saying yes to 10 gutsy decisions, or it could be what Marc Benioff, who did a stint at Apple before founding his own very successful salesforce.com, says “Steve Jobs is the best technology leader the world has ever seen.” Certainly, few would argue he is the Tom Cruise “Maverick” - the “Top Gun” of the industry!
As I continue my research and interviews for my next book, I am presenting an interim perspective at the Lexmark/In2Lex Startup Advantage event in Lexington on Monday (am also presenting separately on my last book, The New Polymath).
Some of my findings so far:
a) Just about every non-technology industry is thinking about next-gen tech-enabled “smart” products and services. I have talked to companies in auto, aerospace, banking, chemicals, education, government, healthcare, media, retail and many other sectors and fascinating their reasons, methods etc as they prepare to become or improve as technology “vendors”
b) They are finding the tech industry, never slow, has changed even more dramatically in last few years. It is a world of accelerating “clockspeed” and scale. Just in last 2 years over 3 billion Android apps have been downloaded, Facebook user count has tripled. They are finding brick and mortar is not dead when it comes to tech products. Apple stores had over 230 million visitors last year. They are learning about the fascinatingly complex technology supply chain with China contract manufacturing, India software design and disruptions like those caused by the recent Japan tsunami. They are learning demand forecasting is hugely difficult in this new market as amazon, Nintendo, Cisco and others can testify to with their product shortages/surpluses. They are learning about user engagement and impact on product design. Even tech savvy auto companies are susceptible to being criticized for a poor, even risky, user experience.
c) They are finding they can only learn about above from a small group of their technology vendors. Most of their IT incumbents are stuck in 3-5 year product cycles and 5-10 year customer deployment rollouts, with traditional customer channels, poor UIs, data centers and ecosystems which were designed 20+ years ago. So many are not involving their IT and IT vendors in their product thinking.
Come to think of it, along than non-tech companies which are moving into smart products and services, many technology vendors will find examples from my book useful as they redesign themselves for our new tech world of amazing clockspeeds, brick and mortar and more.
Most readers loved the 150+ case studies and cameos I profiled in The New Polymath. The new book is shaping up in the same way. So much innovation, but just as impressive so much new process efficiency, best practices and benchmarks coming out of the changing world where we will all need to become “switch-hitters” – good at both producing and consuming technology.
While baseball spring training games beckon, over the last few weeks I have been conducting early research and interviews with some really smart folks around my next book which looks at the exciting convergence of technology consumption and production models:
“Their zip codes are far from Silicon Valley. Their SIC codes show retail, automobile or banking. But industry after industry is waking up to the opportunity of “smart products” for their increasingly tech-savvy customers. Traditionally technology buyers, they are learning to embed technology in their products and become technology vendors.
In turn, traditional vendors are increasingly aware that the successes at peers like Apple, Google, Facebook are not just about innovative products but their embrace of “industrialization of technology” – global manufacturing efficiencies, supply chain optimization, partner ecosystem management. Technology vendors are adopting best practices from far-flung industries.
This convergence of technology buyer-vendor roles is opening up new opportunities – and competitive landscapes. It calls for new skillsets, attitudes, even business models. It calls for a “switch-hitter” – enterprises and executives equally comfortable buying and selling, consuming and producing technology products.”
If you work for/know of a company which is building cool “smart products” for its sector or tech vendors which are pushing the envelope when it comes to scale/efficiencies or have an interesting perspective on the themes, love to talk to you as I continue my book research. Also, I will be periodically excerpting from the book/profiling some standout examples on this blog.