Inkling is a forward-thinking company that produces a set of tools that businesses use to build, manage, and distribute digital content. They are on the forefront of what content, stories, and books may become. I am always interested in how stories can become more mixed-media and interactive. They seem to be on the right track.
Almost every day I wonder why the book hasn’t been reinvented. New technologies have helped us make the publishing process and marketplace faster and more efficient, but the notion of the book itself hasn’t really changed. Why? Shouldn’t the book adapt to our already time-compressed lives? What will books mean to children who are growing up with iPhones and tablets, constant interruptions from the network? Ask any preteen and they’ll tell you that they find what they need on YouTube. So will they read? If so, what? I don’t think the answers are within the book-publishing industry. A business model that starts with exploiting writers doesn’t leave room for innovation. And Amazon is no different from the calcified establishment it pretends to upend. Enter Matt MacInnis, the Canada-born chief executive officer of San Francisco book-publishing platform Inkling. Matt is one of my favorite debaters: He is articulate and possesses an acerbic wit. More importantly, he isn’t afraid to speak his mind. He also likes to talk, as you will see. A few months ago we met for coffee and ended up talking for hours about books, publishing, native advertising, content, startups and life. I left out the startup stuff and instead have focused on publishing and how books are (and aren’t) changing with the times. I enjoyed this conversation and hope you will too.
Om Malik: How would you describe yourself and what your company does?
Matt MacInnis: I think the word “book” is the tricky word. We are a publishing platform, and sometimes the thing that people create with Inkling Habitat and Inkling is a book, and sometimes it”™s not. Sometimes it”™s much more flexible in new categories like learning platforms, where people take assessment and get re-mediated using Inkling content. I don”™t think we call that a book, but I don”™t know what we do call it. That”™s the problem of the people who are creating those things using our technology.
OM: We always look at the formats of the past and try to apply them to new mediums. For example, we put the old radio show format on television and taught that it was “”
MM: That was Tv.
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