Month: January 2014

Go Read This | Harder, better, faster, stronger | The Bookseller

There is, as ever much to enjoy in reading Rebecca Smart’s analysis over on The Bookseller. One thing that stands out for me though is the ease with which she talks about topics that rarely get flagged up in publishing discussions, things like working capital and cash flow, critical elements in the world of books, physical or digital that perhaps more often than makes sense get relegated to the back room while the cool topic like art, literature and the rest get all the attention and discussion:

The current trade publishing sales process means that money and time are invested in 15 to 18 months’ worth of books at any given point. If we could reduce the length of the pipeline for most of the books we publish we would be able to invest more in each book – and the fact that the business of publishing would become less working capital-intensive would improve its chances of survival and therefore of continuing in its important role of finding and developing talent.

via Harder, better, faster, stronger | The Bookseller.

Of course, it’s easier to say than to implement but it’s a worthwhile goal I think, one worth thinking through and looking at a plan for execution!

Eoin

Go Read This | The future of bookstores is the key to understanding the future of publishing – The Shatzkin Files Pt. II

I’ve already linked to this, but it warrants a second link. If you want to understand the basic problems facing book publishers in 2014, then read this post. In it, replace the large publishers and niche players that Mike refers to with small general players and consider how the trends and realities he discusses endanger them. It’s both illuminating and unsettling:

But that’s today when the online-offline division may be near 50-50 overall and is 75-25 for certain niches. If those numbers become 75-25 and 90-10 over the next five years, the bookstore market really won’t matter that much to most authors anymore. Whether through self-publishing or through some fledgling publisher that doesn’t have today’s big publisher capabilities but also doesn’t have their cost structure, authors will feel that the big organizations are less necessary than they are now to help them realize their potential.

via The future of bookstores is the key to understanding the future of publishing – The Shatzkin Files.

When Mike talks about the challenge publishers will face in retaining authors, I’m struck by how his thoughts reflect those I wrote back in 2006 (Authors Will Drive Change) early in my blogging about this ongoing shift we’re all a part of:

What’s more you can package your content in any variety of ways. Make a podcast or your poetry and push it on iTunes. Act out your play and upload it to YouTube or your preferred location. It is easy to do it all now and to do it well. Maybe the cost of a decent designer or video editor will take a summer to save for or a winter of being cold avoiding buying new jumpers but the costs are so achievable it is exceptional.

The point is that publishing is no longer just about books and even more it is no longer about waiting for a publisher to decide your work is good enough for print.

Options abound and as more and more writers realise that they will take advantage of it. E-books will push this change even more. There is no reason why authors’ royalties should be the same on e-books as they are for paper books and in many ways there is no reason why the authors cannot sell e-books themselves rather than through a publisher. Why should you sell a paper publisher your digital rights when there is no need?

Of course the real growth in power for authors is with two groups; the super successful authors who already command high advances and special treatment, and those who were never going to be published anyway. In both cases options abound for changing the current model.

Where things are less easy to decide is the mid-list. Here, as bookstores fail and ebook sales gravitate towards the winners and the margins, there may be difficult years ahead for those who fall into either the average writer space or the average sales space.

None of that solves the headaches publishers face!

Go Read This | The future of bookstores is the key to understanding the future of publishing – The Shatzkin Files

Mike is smart, very smart this paragraph nails the problems of booksellers and publishers too:

One distracting fact for analysts considering this question has been the apparent slowdown in the growth of ebook sales, suggesting that there are persistent print readers who just won’t make the switch. The encouraging fact is distracting because it is incomplete as far as predicting the future of shelf space at retail, which is the existential question for the publishers, wholesalers, and bookstores (and, therefore, by extension, for legacy authors too). We need to know about changes in the division of those sales between online and offline to really have a complete picture. If ebook takeup slows down but the online buying shift doesn’t, the bookstores are still going to feel pain.

via The future of bookstores is the key to understanding the future of publishing – The Shatzkin Files.

Go Read This | Mainframe Bookselling and Internet Commerce

Bookshops and their fate have been coming under increased scrutiny in the last few month. Whether they can be saved or not in an interesting question. My sense is that many of the chains will no longer be sustainable within the next three to five years in countries with high digital penetration. Local, second-hand and value booksellers though, and supermarkets selling limited lists will probably do okay, especially if the chains close their more marginal stores more rapidly than currently anticipated, and even in some cases if they follow existing planned closures:

This is a sad and quixotic result for a bookselling industry that was to a large degree birthed from a generation of 1960s entrepreneurs at Bookstop, Borders, Barnes & Noble, and other book chains, all of whom were technical innovators in their day, as David Wilk of Booktrix observed to me recently. In the 1970s, and then especially in the 1980s, this group of founders created the first automated efforts to describe supply chains, stock and inventory management, and analysis of consumer preferences using then state-of-the-art programming on mainframe and mini-computers. The extent to which one bookselling group gained more efficiency than another was in part due to the ability of each firm to capitalize on innovation in IT automation.

via Mainframe Bookselling and Internet Commerce | PWxyz.

Go Read This | Been Down So Long | PWxyz

Seems a bit negative on the whole, but it’s a useful thought experiment:

Other impacts are inevitable, but harder to perceive in clear definition. Successful self-published authors like Howey, who did well by ultimately selling print rights to a Big 5 publisher while retaining digital rights, are less likely to see any benefit in prestige or marketing when there is diminished gain from a rapidly diminishing retail presence. The appeal for authors to sell rights only for finite term duration, another Howey recommendation, are likely to increase. And ultimately, that means that Big Trade publishers are going to have fewer titles to work with; my agent lunch-partner describes the difference as going from 800 big titles a year to 200 – regardless of the actual numbers, it’s the level of impact that’s important.

via Been Down So Long | PWxyz.

Go Read This | Sit Back, Relax, and Read That Long Story—on Your Phone – Megan Garber – The Atlantic

I’ve been doing most of my reading (books, magazines and websites) on my mobile for some time now (since I first got hooked on Kindle on an iPod Touch). I’ve felt that mobile is too easily dismissed as a platform for reading books for some time and this timely piece caught my eye. It’s interesting too in the light of Pew’s most recent data which found that “About a third (32%) of e-book readers still say they sometimes read e-books on their cell phone, reflecting both the ubiquity of mobile phones and the convenience of these phones as supplementary reading devices“:

Earlier this month, Buzzfeed published a piece called “Why I Bought a House in Detroit for $500.” The story ended up getting more than a million pageviews, which is notable because it is also more than 6,000 words long. The other notable thing: 47 percent of those views came from people accessing the story on mobile devices. And while people who read the piece on tablets spent an average of more than 12 minutes with the story, those doing so on phones  spent more than 25 minutes—a small eternity, in Internet time. 

via Sit Back, Relax, and Read That Long Story—on Your Phone – Megan Garber – The Atlantic.

Go Read This | Japan’s National library joins digital wave, will offer books online –

Fascinating stuff this

Japan’s largest library will begin offering online access to selected books on Feb. 1, starting with 13 works that include some of the country’s most famous epics and folk tales and a novel written by one of its most acclaimed novelists.

The National Diet Library is trying out its new online delivery system, which was requested by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, with help from bookstore operator Kinokuniya Co. and the Dai Nippon Printing Co. group.

via National library joins digital wave, will offer books online – AJW by The Asahi Shimbun.