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    We were in San Francisco on Wednesday for the eBooks for Everyone Else conference from Publisher’s Launch. My laptop ran the under-cover beta of our platform for attendees — which might have distressed our engineers (hi guys!) but, as I expected, eBook building hummed smoothly. Attendee interest was gratifying — from the people at Bowker (we’re making it easy to purchase ISBNs in the midst of title creation) to publishers who want to control digital book workflows and convert backlist titltes (mea culpa, Josh Talent, who’d prefer we ditch saying “conversion” and start talking about repurposing content – I agree!) to the much appreciated enthusiasm of author Sara Ramsay, who tweeted: “Vook: the demo of their eBook conversion tool blew me away. Gorgeous wysiwyg editor, get output as either .mobi or .epub”. Sara delivered the sharpest and most comprehensive live tweets, so her praise was particularly sweet.

    But enough about us—I wanted to quickly post on what I saw of Penguin’s Book Country. Molly Barton gave us an overview with screenshots of the Book Country interface, announcing that Penguin will soon be opening it to self publishing authors in the science-fiction, fantasy and romance genres. Book Country’s going to have a co-writing feature, ie, you can post chapters and get feedback from other writers and readers. Think Figment for grown-ups with a dash of Yelp, so you know who’s a trusted commenter and who might be trolling. Additionally, in Molly’s words, “I think we’re all a little sick of staring at search results”, so Book Country dynamically presents search info, allowing you to pour through related titles on a U/I that resembled the periodic table—or one of those calming panel interfaces from Star Trek. It’s not often a publisher announces a software service with a cool factor, but this got my attention.

    Other highlight presentations were Bob Mayer’s discussion of moving to self-publishing as a successful author, and finding even greater success there. Bob sounded more like a mini-publishing house—with the author as CEO. It’s the start-up lexicon applied to writing, and it’s exciting. Writers have done a great job chronicling the highs and the bottom out lows of business life—now they can join in. I’m picking up Bob’s Duty, Honor, Country for my flight back to NYC.

    We had a raft of sign ups for the beta of the platform. More updates soon on when we’ll be onramping and letting you see how we’re building eBooks that sing. And I mean sing in the sense that they look great, and because you could, in fact, drop singing audio files into them if you wanted.

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