I have a quick strategy note over on my EoinPurcell.com for publishers, especially small and medium-sized one, on how they can stop making their backlists a digital problem and maybe start moving towards selling ebooks:
Well to my mind, the first thing ANY publisher needs to do, even if they don’t have immediate plans for digital publishing, is stop making that backlist issue bigger and I’ve a pretty sensible strategy for how they can do that AND start preparing for digital publishing.
1) Stop only holding PDF files
Simple enough really, but if you are using in-house design programmes like Indesign or Quark, make sure you hold onto the Quark or Indesign files of your titles AS WELL as holding on to the PDF. If you are using out of company contractors, make it a condition that designers supply original files to you when they deliver the final files. Doing this means that you have files that are easier to convert then PDFs and will thus cost considerably less money when you decide to explore digital publishing and ebooks.
A wonderfully snide analysis of Eason (Ireland’s largest book retailer) in The Spectator Book Blog the other day.
Foreign retailers have it no easier. In the States, Borders is poised to collapse; whilst in Ireland, shrinking giant Eason can’t stop making a loss. Radical measures that should have been taken years ago are finally in the offing. Eason has been forced to introduce another loyalty card package and establish in-store interactive zones, in addition to giving its outlets a lick of paint and a squirt of Fabreeze. The firm is also working to narrow its stock categories, having conceded, like Waterstone’s, that it can’t compete when it comes to shifting Sophie Kinsella. Most conspicuous of all, Eason is relaunching its website to boost sales.
A very fine piece on value, price and economics in ebooks:
Too true. I may have a legal monopoly over books by Courtney, but there are decent economic substitutes for books by Courtney. The problem is that (a) there are a small number of really good economic substitutes and (b) all substitutes are imperfect, with some substitutes being more imperfect than others.
For instance, I have a vast amount of empirical data demonstrating that at least some people would rather pay $7.99 to read my book than spend $0.00 to read Moby Dick for free. This is because Moby Dick is a really, really bad economic substitute for a historical romance. I like to think that even in historical romance, there is no perfect substitute for a book by Courtney. Heck, my books aren’t perfect substitutes for each other. Most people don’t read Unveiled a second time and say, “Well, now I feel just as good as if I’d read Unclaimed, so why bother?”
A key element to Bloomsbury’s strategy is to broaden the base on which it acquires and exploits intellectual property. This began in 1994 with retaining paperback rights and moving into children’s publishing. With the advent of the internet, the company identified a growing demand for quality on-line reference content which culminated in the development of our first major database, The Encarta World English Dictionary.
The reason it grabs me is that you can see the company put that paragraph into action very regularly. The latest is Reeds Nautical Almanac from their A&C Black division (the location of some of their most interesting properties).
That still holds true and when you check the site out, you do begin to wonder why it wasn’t done before, but that’s not the point. This is strategy in action before our eyes. What’s more, it’s a sensible strategy that’s moving physical products and customers towards digital models in an un-hyped way.
It shows the value of intellectual property that has something that can be made available as an online service as well as a print product. Sure it brings its own worries and concerns, but it also offers opportunities and real hope for a future for publishing and publishers.
Maybe it should be more hyped! Or maybe more publishers should copy them!