My MLOVE Berlin Talk About Travel and Mobile

I had dinner with MLOVE organizer Gianfranco Chicco who with Harald Neidhardt invited me to speak at MLOVE in Berlin. The talk was to a group of mobile industry experts and was based off the intersection of travel and the new definition of mobile. I really enjoyed giving it and I hope you enjoy watching it!

I’ve made a pretty good damn living, living on the edge of polite society on what is normal on what people said that I should do. I live, right now, as an author, which is hilarious. It’s the very polite way of saying, “I’m homeless and unemployed,” in public. All of my friends, I provided a hash tag. #Thisbookthistagisaboutthistalkisaboutthisbookisabouttravelandstuff, because we’re also going to cover that and that’s important.

I’m going to talk about network-enabled digital nomadism. Now, what is that? Now, we’ve got this awesome and loved community and this is a world-class event and world-class people are here. But what does that mean, kind of going forward and we talk about all these buzz words. You guys love buzz words. You guys love creating problems to solve as well and it’s awesome to watch.

But what is mobile? Yell out, what is mobile? Do we have a simple definition of what this is? Go for it.

Audience: It’s a phone.

It’s a phone. It syncs. The most common thing I hear from your presentations, it’s what the device you use from your home to your work. The in-between moment. The in between moment, that’s mobile, right? Well, what happens when you don’t have a home? I’ve been on the road for two years without a home. This is everything that I own. It’s in a backpack. It fits in a carry on. It can actually fit under the seat in most commercial airlines.

So, when we’re discussing what is mobile, what is home? What is people like me, and are we becoming more common? Let’s look at mobile and the history of it. It kind of went through this – Oh, is my location mobility equal to what you guys are doing in the future of mobile? So, mobile phones kind of went from this awesome, elitist car phone. You knew one friend that had a car phone, and then it kind of became this symbol of poverty, of almost enabling the poor.

Then we went again from this elite symbol of wealth to this $200 is the nicest smartphone out there. You can get a really nice smartphone. Well, let’s look at travel. 100 years ago, travel was for the elite, and then it went to this kind of poverty-stricken need to travel for better economic outcomes. Then again it went to the elite, and then again became accessible to all.

There are 500,000 commercial flights this month in the world. Are you getting on one? Are your friends getting on one? It feels like we’re starting to travel more. Do when we look at mobile and we look at travel, does it just come down to a money thing? Is travel for the elite? Is mobile for the elite?

So, I took upon this project. I had this great day where everything in my life changed. I was training for an Iron Man, broke my foot. Had a nice long discussion with the girl I was in love with, about to propose to, and decided that we were going to break up. Went to my dream job and said, “I quit.” So in one day, everything in my life changed.

I went to my friends and said, “What should I do? Should I do another start-up? Should I find a new place to live?” They said, “Go travel.” All of them said, “Go travel.” Over the last two years, I traveled, and I went to all these places, in one bag, working, volunteering, helping out, reaching out, talking to people, and just kind of asking a lot of questions and not really trying to find a specific answer.

So, I don’t really own anything. I don’t really have a home. Am I on the fringe? Or am I the future? So, I wrote a book about the whole process and I want to talk to you about my writing after the book. So the book launched. It did well. Amazon number one travel section. iBooks number one travel section. It’s the tone that I wanted to see the travel writing. Because travel writing is either, “Look at my slide show. Does everybody want to look at all my pictures?” That’s the worst invite ever. It’s so boring.

But the other end of travel writing is this very elitist like, “I climbed Everest and people died.” But there’s nothing really in the middle, right? There’s no accessible thing, right? If we look at hostile beds only, just hostile beds, there are 3 million hostile beds being booked tonight in the world. As a country, they’re in the top 100 countries in the world, hostelers, travelers, right? Do you guys read a single traveler’s blog right now? I don’t and I write about this all of the time.

So, travel in the tone of travel is really, really challenging. So that’s what the project was about. Writing a book, if you haven’t written a book this year, this is what it’s like. It’s a quarter questioning if you’re talented, a quarter forgetting that the internet is. A quarter of it is writing and a quarter of its actually working on the formatting. That’s kind of what you guys do is you obsess over the devices and the format.

So, I started publishing all my results. All my data is open. How many books I’ve sold. How much money I’ve made. What the cut everybody takes is. That started causing some stories to happen. Because, although we have this creative class of authors that can use all these digital free tools out there, we don’t really understand what the costs are. Everybody just kind of has this land grab of 30% of everything you make.

So, I put my book on KickStarter, and I said, “I need social validation. I need people to be on my back if I don’t finish this book.” I got 300 to pre-buy the book, and I asked them all what format they wanted. Kindle was by far the first one, PDF was the second and iBooks was the third. So then I put it on sale, and of the first 300 books I sold, it was all Kindle. 75% was Kindle.

So, I started writing this post saying, “Well, should I join Kindle’s exclusive program where you just sell on Kindle?” They really reward authors for that. They have $0.5 million a month for authors to just go Kindle.

So, I started writing the post and about half way through it, I start crunching numbers. I found that for every book that I sold, I was paying Amazon $2.50 for them to deliver it to a Kindle. That’s not over WhisperNet. That includes Wi-Fi. That includes desktop. Amazon charges authors the top price for delivering digital goods.

I compared what they’re charging Kindle authors to S3 EC2 which I use for Amazon hosted, and the markup is 129,000%, which is staggering. Can we think of other things that are – that’s halfway to the moon in miles. If that’s 130,000 pixels, one of them is orange. You can’t even see it, because it’s so staggering.

So, we’ve got this markup and I started talking about it and everybody cover it because this is astonishing to people. People think that this creative class of authors are being rewarded. They’re getting 70/30, where it’s really not the case. So, I started writing and I noticed some things. Let’s just not talk about why I selfishly did it, to sell more books. The best thing about writing a book is to tell people to buy your book by the way.

So authors are talking, but people are talking. So if you guys are launching apps, if you guys are launching projects, you’re going to be able to get away with some stuff, once. Then your brand is going to not live with you. So kind of realize that and realize how simple it is.

I wrote about this and I said, “Screw Amazon. They’re charging me this much,” and my next 100 book sales, direct 75%. So, Kindle down to 18% from 75%. So when I started voicing my concerns to my audience, my audience, not in year, not in three years, not in a month, in a week, drastically changed their buying behaviors.

That’s happening. That’s real. So, I started throwing out more graphs. Why are Kindle books more expensive? When you launch a Kindle book you get to choose between taking home 35% from Amazon. So, Amazon keeps $6.50 of the $9.50 book, or through the delivery fee minus 30%. So, there are a lot of problems with all the books, though.

So, most famously and I think most hilariously in this crowd, iBooks. If you launch through iBooks author, you hit publish, it will not show up on an iPhone in the app store. Why is that? Because they have them built a way for it to read in the iPhone. But do they say like, “Hey this isn’t ready for iPhone.” No. It just isn’t there and the user feels like an idiot. They think the author’s an idiot for sending them to iBooks.

But Mobi and Kindle doesn’t have that same grasp. There’s Nook, but that’s less than 1% of my sales. There are all these other services out there. I have my book for sale on ten digital formats and in two places in print, and 90% of it comes from one single spot. So Mobi, you’ve got to hand code a Mobi file.

So if you’re releasing a Kindle book, you’ve got to open up your favorite text editor – imagine authors doing this – and you’ve got to design one file for all the formats. So for an iPad, for a graphite black and white Kindle book and you pay the top price of your format. So if you’re reading a Kindle book and there’s a really bad looking graph, the person to blame is actually not the author, but Amazon.

Problems with mobile, this is not just – I mean, books are pretty small, but this a problem you guys are solving is how do people consume content digitally? I, as an author, spent a quarter of my time worried about how people were going to read about it. I spent a quarter of my time not writing. The same amount of time I did, as writing the book, as thinking about the usability of a book. If a reader doesn’t finish a book, is that my problem as a writer?

You guys all obsess over, from the point somebody signs up for your product to the point that they’ve kind of succeeded or they’ve left you, right? With books, I obsess over the time you hear about the project until you buy it. Then after you’ve bought it, I don’t care. I care but the industry doesn’t. Right? So, everything’s changing and everything’s open and we’ve got this bag. We’ve got this great opportunity to really play a role.

So I just did this because I went everywhere and decided I wanted to see a book like this when I started. I solved my own problem. I scratched my own itch. But I also kind of did something that I didn’t realize was possible. I did something that if somebody told me to do it before I did it, I would look down upon them. Now I wouldn’t live life any other way. So, I can do things today that some of you can’t. If we go fight club on you guys, I don’t own stuff that owns me. I highly suggest you have that mentality when you buy stuff.

So, with that in mind. What is home? How does that change your definition of what mobile is? Thank you.

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