Dogfooding, now known as Ebooking.
At BookNet Canada’s Tech Forum (aka “the day after Ebookcraft”) I gave a talk about the many thoughts I have about being a developer in the publishing industry.
One of the thoughts I brought up was the concept of “dogfooding.” The concept goes like this: if you expect people to buy your product, you should be able and willing to use the product yourself. As an example, the CEO of Proctor & Gamble better be using Tide and not something Unilever produces. If his company makes changes to a product, he or she should be the first one to try it. If you dislike the product, there’s a pretty good chance others will as well.
I know a lot of publishing people that love print books. And many of them are still diehard print book readers. And that, in and of itself, is perfectly reasonable. The problem, from my vantage point, is that if you don’t know what an ebook reading experience is like, how are you supposed to be able to discuss what your next title deserves in e?
I don’t really believe that ebooks are the dogfood of publishing, but I do believe they are treated like second citizens very often. And the only way for us to stop treating them as such is to eat our own ebooks. If you love print books, you don’t have to give them up. But you should force yourself to try reading ebooks. You may find you like it, you may find you hate it—but you”ll be far more empathetic to ebook readers if you at least know what their experience is.
Most of us in ebook production have read our titles on devices—it’s the nature of the job that we look at ereaders so much we end up reading most of the book on various devices. But I think its worth requesting the same of your editorial team. Consider turning it into a lunch book club. Everyone can read a title and then meet to discuss it—and their experiences with reading it on whatever ereader they used
As mentioned previously, most of us in ebook production end up reading on ereaders all the time. But perhaps we don’t do it with the intent of learning. Yep, you’ve gotta check that old Nook reader—and you do it begrudgingly. You know its going to create some huge pain and you just muscle through it. So I’m going to challenge you, dear ebook producer, to the next level of dogfooding/ebooking: ereadering.
I’m going to assume you have a decent number of devices at your office. Tell your manager that you’re doing work research and ask to borrow a device you don’t normally read on for a weekend. Force yourself to pick up that older Kindle, that Kobo (if you’re in the US), or that Nook (if you’re in Canada and elsewhere). And read on it for the weekend. Play with the highlighting features. If it’s a tablet, play with the apps. See what another reader with that device can and cannot do. Be that reader. Maybe you’ve been treating your books all wrong in order to support the features of this device or that device. This is how you will find out.
I did this for a while at Atavist Books, and you know what? I really liked that Nook Tablet. I still hating the rendering in the book reader, but I totally saw why someone might swear by it (especially if they never knew what an ebook was supposed to look like). I personally hated the Kindle Paperwhite—I found it’s touch interface terrible. But I can acknowledge the screen and reading experience was quite enjoyable. But above all else, I began to see what readers see. We can be so close to our work that we never remember what it is to just read for pleasure on the device we have in front of us.
So next time I see you at a ebook conference, I’m going to ask you how the dogfood tastes.