Inc. Magazine has a profile of Tim O’Reilly, discussing how he founded and grew O’Reilly Media from nothing into a $100 million company over the course of 32 years. The article says that O’Reilly has always had a tendency to look to the future, to predict what the next big thing was going to be and be ready for it.

One of those things has been e-books:

Chemical reactions, [O’Reilly] says, require activation energy in order to begin, but once that happens they tend to proceed on their own. "I think there is that quality in this company," he says. "Right now, the industry is getting really excited about e-books, but we’ve been working on e-books for 23 years." Book publishing has been in crisis for the better part of a decade. For every three independent bookstores that were in business in 1990, two are now closed. But O’Reilly Media is making more money selling books than it ever has. Overall, revenue at the company is up 20 percent from 2000, when the market for computer books peaked.

It also mentions O’Reilly’s “Safari” e-book subscription program (described as O’Reilly’s second-biggest sales channel after Amazon) and the $5 iPhone “appbooks” O’Reilly sells of many of its titles.

Tim O’Reilly has been very influential in not just e-books but all across technology. His next project, “Gov 2.0,” involves using iPhone applications to make government more accessible.

"We’ve come to think about government as a kind of vending machine — we put in our taxes and we get out services," [O’Reilly] begins, drawing on an analogy he had recently come across in a book called The Next Government of the United States. "And if we don’t get the services we want, we shake the vending machine. We get to protest. We write our congressmen. We have a tea party.…But there are better things we can build than vending machines."

It will be very interesting to see how that turns out.

(Found via BoingBoing.)


  1. Good remarks, but I’d tweak his “if we don’t get the services we want….” to say “If we get services we don’t want…” That’s what’s fueling voter outrage in this country, a government that increasingly regards itself not as our servant but as our nanny.

    That’s particularly when those services are crammed down our throat in a highly partisan vote in which almost no member of Congress had read, much less understood, the changes in health care they were voting on.

    Recently, I’ve been recalling how medical researchers, such as those who developed the yellow fever vaccine, first tested their vaccines on themselves. It’s very telling that Congress hasn’t tested health care reform measures on itself and continues to give itself a taxpayer-funded scheme that’s far beyond even the most generous plays in the private sector, generous schemes it plans to tax into oblivion. “Do as we say not as we do” is the message coming out of DC.

    If the government is a vending machine, as Tim O’Reilly is suggesting, then we’re paying too much and given no opportunity to decide what we get. We insert a $20 bill, pull the Payday bar lever and get a Snickers that’s well beyond its expiration date.

    I’d also suggest changing his “make government more accessible” to “make government more accountable.” And often the only effective way to do that is to throw them out of office.

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