Alan Harvey, embattled Director of Stanford University Press, said he didn’t think it’d sell a single copy more, but Yewno did, by a factor of seven. So there!

Photo: Paul Guinnessy, via Twitter.

Clearly there was more than one person in the audience at the Society for Scholarly Publishing 2019 Meeting when Alan spoke about SUP’s success with Yewno — after all someone took the photo! Why do people always crowd to the back of the room? Does everyone want to be first on line at the bathrooms afterwards? They probably want to be able to sneak out inconspicuously in the middle of the talk if it turns boring.

The trouble with the relationship between computer companies and book publishers boils down I think to language. We value elegance, they value accuracy, or whatever it is that surely doesn’t lead to elegance.

Exactly what Yewno does is, to my stubbornly analog mind, obscured rather than clarified by this piece from a couple of years ago at The Scholarly Kitchen. I find it hard to see how T. S. Eliot’s “Rock Choruses” gets dragged in to support Yewno’s efforts, but they do. It all apparently has to do with artificial intelligence and the making available of book content to an enquiring audience.

This earlier article from The Scholarly Kitchen may make things a bit clearer to those not fluent in computer-speak. Essentially the system improves your searching, taking what you request and amplifying the results with what you didn’t say but probably meant.

Does it not begin to look more and more likely that large parts (if not all) of the publishing industry will evolve into a direct-to-customer sales model? It just makes sense. It’s always nice to see an advanced-level monograph in a bookstore, but you don’t really go there expecting to find it. Maybe we will move beyond sales to subscription/rental for our products. Beavering away getting these books out makes it hard to find the time to raise ones eyes and think what might be if what is were not what had always been. The power that Yewno brings to a small part of the relationship between author/publisher/reader surely suggests that there’s more to come.

So now you know about Yewno; or as an ancient schoolmaster of mine would triumphantly trot out as the punchline for a joke he’d told to generations of schoolboys, “Ye ken noo”.