The Take Control of Pages, Second Edition MacVoices Interview
A few days before the new edition of my book was published, Chuck Joiner of MacVoices and I sat down for our usual new book release tête-à-tête. As is customary, Chuck asked a series of questions about what was new in the book and the apps it covered, and, as is also customary, I tried to answer them as clearly as I could while also looking for opportunities to make Chuck crack up on camera. We both succeeded in meeting our respective goals.
We have big news! It is with great pleasure that Tonya and I want to tell you that, after nearly 14 years of publishing, we’re selling Take Control Books — lock, stock, and bit barrel — to Joe Kissell and his wife, Morgen Jahnke. (According to the lawyers and accountants, what’s actually happening is that TidBITS Publishing is selling the Take Control Books assets to Joe and Morgen’s company, alt concepts. Sure, fine, whatever. This is really one mom-and-pop company transferring a functional business to another mom-and-pop company, and as I’ll explain, Tonya and I only earn anything if Take Control stays successful.)
For you, dear reader, little will change. After all, Joe has written more Take Control books than anyone and has contributed greatly to both the editorial and technical direction of Take Control. Plus, all our authors and editors are on board with the move, and Lauri Reinhardt will continue to help with any troubles you hit.
What will change is that announcements of new books will come from Joe and Morgen, and the required server move will mean that Take Control and TidBITS accounts will have to be managed separately from now on. Not a big deal, we hope.
Of course, Joe has lots of things he wants to do with Take Control in the future, so you’ll see new books, new authors, and more after he gets past the initial work of the transition. He’s also totally open to ideas from readers — he has set up a virtual guestbook where you can leave feedback for him or tell us what Take Control has meant to you.
So where did this acquisition come from? It was our idea, and Joe was literally speechless when we first floated it. Here’s the thing. In 2017, Tonya, Joe, and I all turn 50, which is one of those ages when you start reflecting on where you want your life to go next — doubly so for Tonya and me, since our son Tristan will be entering Cornell University in August.
Put simply, we were all stuck in our own ruts: Joe writing books, Tonya juggling multiple authors and titles, and me wrangling servers and whatever else needed doing. But since we all rely on Take Control for our livelihoods, it was hard to see any alternative.
The key came from a friend of mine who is a high school principal. He recently explained why K-12 school principals tend to last only 3–5 years in the job now (as opposed to when we were students, when principals were fixtures for decades). He said that, as a new principal, you’d come into a job full of energy, ideas, and solutions, and many of the problems you faced were low-hanging fruit. But after a few years, you’d done most of what you came to do, and the remaining troubles seemed intractable. That’s when, he said, you knew it was time to switch schools, since your intractable problems were someone else’s low-hanging fruit, and a new position would give you back your drive.
No, Tonya and I aren’t going to become school principals — once Tristan graduates in six weeks, we are so done with all things related to secondary education. But we do want to focus more attention on our new TidBITS Content Network service, which provides syndicated content to Apple consultants and resellers. And I desperately want to update the ancient infrastructure underneath TidBITS. As I said when writing about TidBITS’s 27th anniversary, we see this as Life 2.0. Maybe we’ll start writing about that too!
By selling Take Control to Joe, we get the comfort of knowing that we’re putting a successful business in highly capable hands, especially when it comes to taking care of our people. Numerous authors and editors rely on Take Control for income, and it was important to us that they be able to continue to do so. And when it comes to readers, we know Joe shares our commitment to quality, so you’ll be able to continue to trust what you read in Take Control’s pages. There’s no room for alternative facts in our books.
Finally, I want to emphasize that as much as Tonya and I appreciate your support over the last 14 years, we really need you to keep supporting Take Control in the future too. As is common in small business acquisitions, we’re financing the deal from future revenues, which means that we only earn anything if Joe is successful. To that end, we’ll be helping Joe during and after the handover, so it’s not like we’re just walking away from everything we’ve built with Take Control.
That said, in the immortal words of Douglas Adams, so long, and thanks for all the fish!
cheers… –Adam and Tonya Engst, former Take Control publishers
We’re pleased to announce that Take Control Books has been acquired by author Joe Kissell’s company, alt concepts. All our authors and editors are on board with the move, so little will change for readers in the near future. Longer term, we’re looking forward to seeing what new authors and titles Joe publishes, and what other publishing innovations he comes up with!
You can watch Adam, Tonya, and Joe discuss the transition with Chuck Joiner in this MacVoices interview.
Here are our responses to some additional questions you may have:
Adam & Tonya: Why are you selling Take Control?
Adam: Publisher is one of those important-sounding titles that comes down to doing whatever needs to be done, whenever it needs to be done. As a result, I end up having to juggle a huge number of tasks simultaneously, and since large amounts of Take Control production, distribution, and marketing fall to me, a book release would completely take over much of my week, derailing whatever other plans I might have had. So handing the business off to Joe should mean a significant reduction in my to-do list that will let me focus more attention on other projects.
Tonya: As Take Control’s editor-in-chief, I’ve spent the past 14 years handling the day-to-day operations of the Take Control series. In the tech world, that’s a long time to be in the same job, and, in fact, I’ve been responsible for over 50,000 pages of manuscript, all in the same series. It’s time for me to tackle something new! Because Joe knows our customers and systems so well, I can’t think of anyone else who I’d rather have running the series in my place.
Joe: Why are you buying Take Control?
It was the best possible solution for everyone involved. Adam and Tonya get some much-needed free time, along with the liberty and money they’ll need to explore new opportunities. Our customers, authors, and editors get stability and continuity. As for me, I’ll get to upgrade my title from Author to Publisher, learn new skills, and have the freedom to guide Take Control in interesting directions. It also seems probable that I’ll get a raise, in a manner of speaking.
Adam & Tonya: What does this mean for TidBITS?
In the near term, very little will be changing for the TidBITS Web site and mailing lists, although changes made to your TidBITS account will no longer also be reflected in your Take Control account. Looking to the future, Adam hopes to put some quality time into improving the TidBITS Web site and mailing list infrastructure, as well as working on a Web site redesign. Tonya hopes to contribute TidBITS articles on a more regular basis. They will also both be focusing more time on their TidBITS Content Network service for Apple consultants, resellers, and other professionals.
Will TidBITS members still receive their Take Control-related benefits?
Yes. The 30%-off coupon enjoyed by TidBITS members will work as it always has for the foreseeable future.
Will my Take Control account still work?
Yes. Nothing about your Take Control account will change, except that it will no longer be connected to your TidBITS account. The two will function independently, even though they will initially use the same password (until you change one or both of them).
Joe: What will be changing under the new ownership?
Initially, not much. We’ll keep publishing and updating high-quality books from your favorite Take Control authors, same as always. Everything will look and work pretty much as it has for years. Email messages (such as announcements of new and updated books) will come from me instead of from Adam and Tonya, and the Web site will have a few little changes. But apart from small, behind-the-scenes adjustments like those, it will be the same Take Control our customers know and love.
Over time, I would like to make improvements to a number of our systems and processes. I’d also like to do significantly more to publicize our books and expand our audience. We may even venture into additional subject areas and formats. But I expect changes to be slow and gentle, with an eye to maintaining or increasing the happiness quotient of our customers, authors, and editors.
Joe: Will you be running Take Control by yourself?
Not at all. My wife, Morgen Jahnke, who is a talented writer with a professional background in fundraising for nonprofits (and who has helped out with a number of Take Control books over the years), will be in charge of marketing and publicity, among other tasks. Most or all of the freelance editors who have worked for Take Control in the past will continue to do so, and other contractors will likely contribute as necessary. In addition, employees of TidBITS Publishing Inc. (including Lauri Reinhardt) will supply customer support services, at least in the short term.
Joe: In addition to publishing other authors’ books, will you continue writing your own books for Take Control?
I do plan to continue writing Take Control books, but because my duties as publisher will require a great deal of time, I imagine the percentage of Take Control books written by me will decrease.
Joe: What will happen to Joe On Tech?
I started Joe On Tech to provide a home for some of my favorite Take Control books that could no longer be maintained otherwise. Those books will continue to be updated, and most likely I’ll reintegrate them into the Take Control brand at some point. As for the rest of Joe On Tech, I think it has served its purpose, and I don’t currently expect to do more with the site or add new Joe On Tech book titles.
On MacVoices, Joe visits with Chuck Joiner to discuss the current state of online privacy. Drink the Kool-Aid with Joe (literally), as he lets you know what you can (and can’t) do about the proliferating risks that populate today’s privacy landscape. Bears, border agents, and bad actors in the VPN game highlight this important, and sometimes alarming, discussion.
In addition, as the Update Plans just above say, I’m working on a revision of my Take Control book for version 9. We plan to release it in June or July. Meanwhile, the version 8 book is now free, and the version 9 book, when published, will also be free to all PDFpen 9 customers.
To commemorate the latest update to his book, Jeff shares the frame with Chuck Joiner of MacVoices in an interview in which he contrasts Apple’s privacy approach to image analysis with Google’s, helps Chuck develop useful search strategies for his own collection, and exposes some of the little-known AI capabilities of Photos (when Jeff says, “The machines have taken control,” he doesn’t mean it in a bad way…we hope).
Because Apple’s new wireless AirPod earbuds lack cabling, they are easy to misplace. Although the best method for keeping track of them may be to place them in their charging case whenever you remove them from your ears, it’s safe to say that many people aren’t going to do that, or even if they do, they’ll lose the case.
To solve this problem, with the release of iOS 10.3, Apple has added AirPods to the list of devices that you can track using Find My iPhone. You can see them on a map and make a sound play on both your AirPods or just one — just one is helpful if you’ve lost only one. If your AirPods are out of range of their paired iOS device, you’ll get information about where and when they were last within range. You can search from the Find My iPhone iOS app or from Find My iPhone on the iCloud Web site.
In iTunes 12.6, Apple has added a long-awaited “rent once, watch anywhere” function. You can now start watching an iTunes Store rental movie on your Apple TV at home and then finish it on your next morning’s bus commute by streaming it on your iPhone. Previously, you could transfer rentals made on your Mac to an iOS device by performing an iTunes sync, and you couldn’t access rentals made on an Apple TV on any other devices.
In iTunes 12.6, Apple has given a facelift to the MiniPlayer, that small window that can replace your iTunes window while you listen to music. For details, read the Kirkville blog post iTunes 12.6 Overhauls the MiniPlayer Window.
iTunes 12.6 adds a feature that has been absent for a few years, the ability to open a playlist in its own window. To make this happen, Control-click the playlist name in the sidebar and choose Open in New Window from the contextual menu.