Mike Shatzkin looks at the current realities of ebooks and print books and what is happening. I think we are only a few months shy of encountering the kind of events I describe here, at least in the US:
In fact, the current improvement in the profit picture suggests that the big houses have done a remarkably good job of managing the transition from print to digital so far. What is implied by the reported numbers, but receiving little attention, is that print sales are down pretty dramatically. Print runs are down with one trade house telling me that their midlist non-fiction first printings having typically declined by 40%. A larger house suggested that the print being shipped from their warehouse is down 35% in less than two years. I’m not close to the numbers but that might mean that for segments of their list shipments are half what they were less than two years ago.
Smaller press runs mean higher unit costs for printing and binding but they also mean fewer units are sharing the cost of design and page make-up. Many of the fixed overheads in publishing houses: warehouses, production departments, catalog creation, and lots of IT, are really only necessary to support the print component of the business. For the past two decades, commercial success in book publishing and, as the demise of Borders has made clear, in book retailing depended on an efficient supply chain. Being in stock but not overstocked, shipping quickly, being able to get fast turnaround on reprints, processing returns promptly to facilitate collecting accounts receivable, and providing accurate data to accounts as well as to internal stakeholders all require investment but generate value that shows up in
via Will print and ebook publishers ultimately be doing the same books? – The Shatzkin Files.
3 thoughts on “Go Read This | Will print and ebook publishers ultimately be doing the same books? – The Shatzkin Files”
The obvious route to take is to do POD for traditional publishing (higher unit cost but only on actual sale – no excess copies) and to epublish in parallel.
What has been missing so far from the debate on ebooks is the low cost of production compared to the costs of printing. A typical POD novel (260 pages long) will cost less than $4 a unit whereas the cost of an ebook is $0!
When I see the major publishers charging sometimes €15+ for an ebook I wonder what their game is. The only reason for this high pricing is not to undercut the paper book. This is not the way to go!
An important article especially for those who miss the hidden meanings behind reported sales and revenue figures for the big publishers. Statistics can so easily mislead.
What is so often missing, it seems to me, from the whole revenue reporting discussion is the eBooks sales going through indie sites and indie publishers across the big markets. The industry statistics are not including most of these outlets and the accuracy of the reports and therefore the wider implications are therefore incomplete.
I believe the movement of readers from higher priced agency titles to self pub’d and indie titles is being under reported and the increased profits reported by the big publishers, brought about by the huge profits on their eBook titles, is hiding a loss of unit market to those indies and self pub’s titles. I believe the self congratulatory air of the bigger publishers about their profitability figures is hiding trouble in the long grass waiting to emerge as the market matures in the coming years.