From the very first book that Rosenfeld Media published in 2007, the company gave people who bought a physical copy a free electronic copy too. At first, that was a PDF, but now they have broadened the offer into all the other formats. The company has found that readers use the paper version for the first read through, but use the electronic version as the handy reference.
Louis Rosenfeld told us about it, during a late morning conversation at Runner & Stone, around the corner from his space at the Brooklyn Creative League, in Gowanus. The company has a history of being format agnostic. Perhaps it is de rigeur for a company that has so much a focus in the technology space, but that move may have presaged the pivot that the publisher made about eighteen months ago.
“Publishing is not about making books. Publishing is about identifying really good expertise and bringing it to market in the format that makes sense,” Rosenfeld told us.
The company puts out five to seven books per year, but it has recently evolved its business into a sort of publishing-speakers’ bureau-boutique consulting agency, he explained. He’s assembled a list of about fifty different experts with very deep knowledge of specific areas of design that large companies can bring in for talks, trainings, workshops or other forms of what he described as “teach a man to fish consulting.”
The company has also always pushed its authors to share their expertise in multiple formats. For example, each of his books has a blog associated with it. Different authors use it more or less, but you can see how a blog might draw new readers in. For example, this post on Google Glass caught our eye on the blog for one of the newer books, Why We Fail. Today, they are finding Twitter to be an especially powerful way to spread its experts’ ideas, he said.
One of his authors, Dave Gray, has taken this to another level. He’s working on a forthcoming book called Principles of Agility. To write it, he went out to interview leaders on teams using Agile principles to build products and find out what works. He conducted these interviews over Google Hangouts, letting the book’s eventual audience watch as he gathered his material and engages with its subjects.
“You have to give something away to generate interest, a sense of stakeholding,” Rosenfeld said. Not every writer is comfortable with being this open about his process, but Rosenfeld has come to look for this willingness as a quality in authors he wants to work with.
Rosenfeld Media is a primarily oriented toward user experience design as its subject. As more of its readers rise up to higher leadership roles in their companies, the demand is growing for more business and management oriented books. That said, the company is maintaining its rootedness in its design process that it has committed to from the start.
So, the books have a distinct look and feel. That evolved out of user experience testing. From the very first book they laid out a sample design, printed out copies using Lulu and then put them in the field to get user feedback. They prototyped a book, and that has yielded the distinct Rosenfeld format that is largely still recognizable today.
The company lists five staff on its website. Its most recent book is A Web for Everyone, a book about incorporating accessibility principles into website design from the start, so that your site works everywhere. It was their first book to come out in DAISY, a format that enables talking ebooks. Its electronic distribution is now handled through a partnership with O’Reilly Media.
Rosenfeld lives in Park Slope. He’s also one of the founders of the Brooklyn UX Meetup.