Publisher Infinite Ideas is delighted that one of its best-selling authors, international management consultant Fons Trompenaars, has yet again proven himself one of the world’s most influential management thinkers by ranking among the top fifty business men and women to be selected for the excellence and originality of their work, including top-rated Harvard Business School innovation expert Clayton Christensen, two strategy professors boasting a record-breaking bestseller, and an unprecedented number of female thinkers.
Featuring in the 2011 and now also the 2013 Thinkers50 ranking (read: ‘Oscars of management thinking’), Fons claims that his enduring success may be a result of an ‘increasing need for knowledge of intercultural management’, and he’s probably right – cultural differences are becoming alarmingly apparent with the intensification of globalisation in twenty-first century business. And as foreign business escalates within corporations and SMEs alike, there is a growing demand for intelligent observations that will help managers to succeed fully in their chosen markets.
The Thinkers50 awards ceremony, taking place every two years and revered by the global business community, followed a day of discussions with some of the top business school leaders and high tea with 2011 ranked thinkers, with intimate discussions on topics such as innovation, capitalism, work and sustainability.
Fons is the co-author of Innovating in a global crisis, Servant leadership across cultures and The global M&A tango, all published by Infinite Ideas. In April 2014 Infinite Ideas will publish 100+ management models, in which Fons and his co-authors present an expert analysis of the most important models for tracking, measuring and forecasting business solutions.
Another really good article on Publishing Perspectives here (we do love this site).
McDonalds, as you will read, are giving up at least temporarily their position of being the world’s biggest producer of toys and becoming the world’s most prolific children’s book publishers. In two weeks alone, they anticipate giving away some 20 million books to children. The books are being published exclusively for them and each carries a strong nutritional message. Sadly Ronald McDonald and the Hamburglar don’t feature in any of them, presumably as a move away from their association with full fat food of, shall we say, arguable nutritional value.
‘We think that this is a fun and engaging way to give a nutritional message to kids,’ said Ubong Ituen, (what a fabulous name by the way), VP-marketing for McDonalds USA. ‘This is really the first step in a larger book strategy, and our intent is to continue over several years.’
So they’re in it for the long haul. One wonders whether they will ever return to the ubiquitous supply of plastic toys that used to make Happy Meals so appealing to youngsters.
I guess McDonalds should be applauded and if the books are actually of value and truly engage with their consumers then it is bearing out an argument that we’ve pursued over many years at Infinite Ideas – physical books are a great way for brands to connect to and remain connected with their customers. Books have a perceived value that goes way beyond other pieces of sales promotion. Papa Smurf (I’m probably showing my age there) or whatever other figurine they supplied in the past ends up at best in the toy box, un-played with after a week or so. But a book – a good, well written and produced book? Well, that could end up something that stays with the child for a long time, read and re-read over the years and that means that the McDonalds brand remains with the child and the parent for a long time.
James S Murphy of The Millions is a little less enthusiastic, harking back to the period in the 70s when McDonalds produced children’s classics such as Tom Sawyer, Robinson Crusoe et alia as a giveaway. And you can see his point from a cultural perspective. Many of these classics are ignored by the current generation, often cited as being ‘too difficult’ for modern kids to engage with (a glance at texts studied in this country at GCSE English over the past few years bears this out, too.) But after all, McDonalds are in the business of selling more fast food rather than educating the next generation in great literature. That’s a pity but you can understand their point.
So if one of the biggest brands in the world recognizes the power of the physical book we’re very pleased. Having worked with some pretty big brands over the years and produced some fabulous books with them to enhance their consumer engagement, it’s something that is close to the hearts of all at Infinite Ideas.
Yet another great article from Publishing Perspectives here. It’s arguing about the value in this digital age of print in certain sectors and it’s an argument that we at Infinite Ideas constantly engage with.
The rise of e-books over the last few years has been a phenomenon; the effect they have had on the (pretty antiquated) business of publishing is reflected in the range and scope of the e-reading technology now available. In the same way as the rise of TV was seen by many as the death knell of radio, there has been a cry that e-books will replace print books entirely some time very soon. I think this is true in some sectors (think mass market paperbacks – always as a physical offering something of a disposable item, given to charity shops or left in hotel rooms once read). Of course, consumers switching to digital has affected the music and the newspaper industries too; the question is how to continue to monetarise content which people now expect to get either for free or at least very cheaply.
In an attempt to do just that, Kevin Kelly has published a large format collection of reviews around his Cool Tools website, called A Catalogue of Possibilities. It sounds perfect as a web offering and he starts off by making some interesting observations about printed books:
Paper is old. You can’t search it, you can’t easily share favorites, you can’t instantly click to get items, you can’t haul it in your virtual library device. The web and Kindle are so much better that way.
Hmm – not the best start for lovers of Mr Caxton’s legacy. But it does get better. He goes on…
There is something very powerful at work on large pages of a book. Your brain begins to make naturally associations between tools in a way that it doesn’t on small screens. The juxtapositions of diverse items on the page prods the reader to weave relationships between them, connecting ideas that once seemed far apart. The large real estate of the page opens up the mind, making you more receptive to patterns found in related tools. There’s room to see the depth of a book in a glance.
The upshot is that he decided, for the benefit of the user experience, to publish his collection of reviews in print. This idea is something dear to our hearts at Infinite Ideas. Whilst it is undeniable that some content simply lends itself better to being produced in electronic format only, the print book is not going to die out.
Printed books have a physical presence – they are often things of beauty in their own right, things to be valued and we’d argue that have a physical as well as an emotional connection to the reader. Picking up a life-changing novel that you read at the age of eighteen can be a moving experience in its own right. Just look at the cookery book sector. Sure, most recipes these days can be found on the web, but there’s nothing quite like picking up an old favourite. It’s the way it falls open at much-loved recipes, stains from spilt Rioja. It becomes a book of memories as well as of recipes.
Printed books still have a high perceived value. Kelly is charging $40 for A Catalogue of Possibilities – much more than he could have done for an e-book. You pay that money and you don’t throw the book away. And that’s what we tell many of our authors who publish books with us to promote their businesses. A physical book has authority, it has value and it stays in the life of the reader. As a means of communicating with an intended audience, print books still very much have their place.
We loved this Publishing Perspectives article – the view from Germany on the future of publishing and indeed writing in general. Happily, the ebook market there isn’t standing still. Although ebook reader adoption has been slower to take off in continental Europe (mainly because Amazon – reckoned to be 70+% of the market – have concentrated on the bigger global picture), publishers and developers are looking for new ways to penetrate the market. The time is ripe for innovation.
Henrik Berggren runs Readmill, a Berlin-based social reading start-up. It’s leading the way in a ‘networked reading’ revolution by enabling users to identify and share particular points of interest in the text (OK, Kindle have offered this functionality for years), but Readmill takes the idea a step further. Users can annotate their ebooks on their smartphones and open up discussions with other readers (Readmill developers thought that tablets would become the number one digital reading device, but it was soon apparent that more readers were reading on smartphones). It’s social networking for ebooks but, unlike sites like the Amazon-owned Goodreads, it’s social networking within ebooks.
The proliferation of various reading devices demonstrates their incredible reach and commercial viability (in the UK, despite the dominance of Amazon, multiple manufacturers offer e-readers stocked by well known, big-brand stores like Tesco, Waterstone’s, WH-Smith and Blackwell’s). Now in huge demand, not only e-readers but also smartphones and tablets make ebooks instantly accessible; readers the world over can download their favourite books whenever and wherever they want, for less than a mass market paperback.
So, the beauty of the ebook lies in its adaptability, ease of use, and its potential for enhanced reader experiences. But the real sweetener is that anybody can publish one; now, an aspiring author can get his work out in to the marketplace and, if successful, can secure an agent or even a traditional publishing deal. But it’s no longer necessary for him to submit his work to snowed-under agents and face the fairly inevitable rejection letter (if his submission gets acknowledged at all). The digital revolution without doubt facilitates the bypassing of traditional gatekeepers (agents, publishers and ultimately booksellers) to disseminate new writing.
But we’d add a caveat here. We’re a little concerned by the attitudes of those who favour freedom and abundance over quality and editorial control – those who, like Dr Bublitz of Ullstein Verlag, are opposed to a “culture of perfection”. What publishers are good at is taking manuscripts and editing them and proofing them properly. That is a skill in itself and an expensive service. We at Infinite Ideas have met with many self-published authors whose books are riddled with errors. A culture of perfection in our view is a good thing if it means poorly written and edited self-published books don’t become the norm.
We liked very much what Bobbie Johnson, from Matter, had to say. Matter was created to release quality pieces of investigative journalism which had been overlooked by mainstream presses. Each month they release a piece of long-form nonfiction, which is sent to subscribers and available to buy on the Matter.
Johnson states that while a lot of digital ventures count on quantity and multimedia to gain a following, Matter focuses on quality. Using metrics to analyze how readers interact with the text, they survey subscribers to find out what is most relevant to them, and even allow select donors to be “co-pilots” of writing projects, which allows them to give input and participate in a given assignment as it is being researched and written. For instance, by surveying readers they were able to find out that there was a big demand for audio books, so now Matter releases an audio book version of every piece it publishes, which is included in the $1 price of subscription.
The world of digital content is flourishing. Dominance by large corporations like Amazon and Google is forcing publishers and developers to innovate and experiment with new ways to experience reading. The competitive marketplace means a consumer can choose between hundreds of devices and millions of ebooks, and buy them at whichever store she chooses. She can even publish her own book if she feels so inclined. But it doesn’t matter which device she uses, or which store she buys it from, if the ebooks she’s reading are terrible. On a most basic level, it’s all about content, and Matter is a great example of how innovative small-scale publishers can provide a niche audience with the best possible content in the formats they want.
Which frankly sounds like the way to go to us. In a market clogged with products of the metaphorical meat grinder, quality content will win out.
What is it that inspires people to spend astronomical sums of money on a cask of cognac? And what is it about this golden drink that has even driven people to violence? To put it simply: why is cognac the world’s greatest brandy?
Nicholas Faith has the answers in his acclaimed Cognac, an unparalleled collection of insights into the world’s finest brandy. This book is an expertly led tour through cognac’s fascinating history, with quick reference sections to amuse and intrigue. Find out why Snoop Doggy Dog and Jay-Z get a mention; which are the best years for quality vintages (and which should be avoided); which firms produce the finest cognacs (from one-man operations to huge manufacturers), and which oaks impart the best flavours.
Nicholas Faith is the world’s leading authority on cognac and has twice won the prestigious André Simon prize. Our completely updated third edition of Cognac includes a fully updated directory of the top producers and their brandies, including the author’s tasting notes.
Our favourite parts of the book have to be the sections on combining cognac with chocolate, and the assortment of cocktail recipes. We thought we’d share a few with you here.
To make a Brandy Julep you will need:
5–6 mint leaves
1 tsp caster sugar
1 measure of cognac
Put the ingredients into a Collins glass (a small but tall tumbler) and stir until the mint rises to the top.
To make a Brandy Collins, simply mix together:
1tsp caster sugar
1 small measure of cognac
Juice of ½ lemon
There’s another great article from Marketing Week here, this time about curated content.
The article starts with some amazing numbers. We all know that the Web is rather big, but the actual scale is somewhat breath-taking. According to this article the indexed World Wide Web is estimated to contain nearly 4 billion pages. At the end of 2012 there were some 634 million websites, 51 million of which had been added that year. Every minute, one hundred hours of video are uploaded to YouTube.
So, in something quite so massive, it’s very easy for your website – and therefore your business – to simply disappear. Brands in every sector of business are faced with the challenge of engaging with their consumers through strong, pertinent content to compete effectively for consumers’ limited attention.
One way brands are engaging is through personalisation – learning about their customers’ browsing habits, usually through cookies, then delivering bespoke content based on that information. The result is often that a brand’s home page will vary depending on the customer accessing it.
But content remains at the core of successful online brands, whether it’s user generated, celebrity endorsed or simply authoritative because it is written by an acknowledged expert in the field. By engaging with content through these experts, the consumer’s experience is greatly enhanced.
So it is particularly gratifying to read that content remains King – it’s the idea that has underpinned our business all these years. Our authors are acknowledged experts in their fields, and they’ve been briefed to write in a friendly, accessible manner that readers (i.e. consumers) relate to and trust. We don’t believe in ramming messages down people’s throats and our authors certainly don’t preach (they wouldn’t dare!) That’s why, over the years, our ideas database has provided many top brands with great content in order for them to engage successfully with their customers. Take a look at our Wordgen tab if you’d like to find out how you can harness the power of our inspirational ideas.
Here endeth the first lesson (what was that about preaching again…?)