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A Conversation with Andrew Savikas of O'Reilly Media

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Who is not familiar with O'Reilly Media? If you have been in the IT space for any amount of time - you have read at least three O'Reilly books. My three favorite are still - 1. DNS and BIND, 2. Essential SNMP and 3. Apache Cookbook. Over the past few months I have grown to really enjoy the "Head First" books. For those that are not familiar with O'Reilly Media - the company was founded in 1978 by Tim O'Reilly, who is owner and CEO. O'Reilly publishes books, videos, maintains multiple web properties and produces conferences within the technology space.

One of the most exciting O'Reilly conferences is the Tools of Change for Publishing (TOC). This conference focuses on how publishers can leverage technology to make a more profitable future.

From authoring, editing, and layout to distribution and consumption, new technologies are changing all aspects of publishing. But which technologies are important? Which provide exciting business opportunities? And what are the strategic questions you need to consider in adopting new models?

The conference is being held in NYC on February 22 - 24 at the New York Marriott Marquis Times Square. One of the keynote speakers will be our very own Arianna Huffington. The topics that will be covered at TOC range from presentations on the mobile web to emerging standards for content delivery and emerging models for inventory management.

Leading the TOC division for O'Reilly Media is Andrew Savikas. He is program chair for the Tools of Change for Publishing Conference and VP of Digital Initiatives, at O'Reilly. He is also author of Word Hacks - Tips & Tools for Taming Your Text and speaks at conferences about content management and XML publishing.

I had the great pleasure of speaking with Andrew on his thoughts on the future of publishing. For the sake of brevity, I chose two of the most interesting responses - I hope you enjoy them.

Ramon B. Nuez Jr.

Many industry insiders are predicting that 2010 will be the year of the tablet. At CES, there were many tablets on display - from Microsoft to Lenovo to Dell and talks of the highly anticipated Apple "iSlate." With so many tablets do you think that eBook readers, like the Kindle, will become extinct?

Andrew Savikas

In my opinion the stand-alone dedicated eBook device is a transitional technology. The analogy that I like to use is the GPS. They have had a great couple of years and people are still buying them.  I know personally, that I will not need to buy another GPS because my iPhone does a great job for casual navigation. There will always be people who need a dedicated GPS device, like a cab driver, because they are not your casual consumer. For the majority of the people who are casual consumers - the GPS on their mobile devices is just fine.

There will be something similar with eReaders. There will be a certain set of customers, power readers, that will require a dedicated device, i.e. a Kindle. In terms of a mass market device that people already carry with them, an iPhone, an Android or a tablet - these are already doing a good job in being a newspaper, movie theater, an arcade and a jukebox. Therefore it's not clear to me that there is a compelling reason to invest in a separate device.

Ramon B. Nuez Jr.

The debate on digital rights management (DRM) is a hot topic. There seems to be three main arguments - accessing content from multiple devices, lending your content or giving it to someone and not to DRM. What are your thoughts on those arguments?

Andrew Savikas

We don't DRM and Tim O'Reilly wrote a piece on the topic - "Piracy is Progressive Taxation." Tim lays out the case for why encryption does not make sense. We think that people are just as willing to pay for packaging and convenience as they are for the content itself. There is a philosophical component in that the non-DRM stance is in line with our support for open standards and our open source mentality. This is also driven by our empirical data that we have from our own sales that shows that there is plenty of room for free content to co-exist with paid content. You must recognize that the value is not in the content itself but in many ways with the packaging convenience of other services you can wrap around the content.

I had a wonderful time speaking with Andrew. He has a great command of the publishing space and it's obvious why he's the program chair of the Tools of Change for Publishing Conference.

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