5. As the way people consume media changes, book publishers are realizing they are content creation and rights management companies and not just book publishers. Many of them are now playing in the app market, educational technology market and other areas they likely wouldn’t have dreamed of a decade ago. To that end, book publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt recently capitalized by going public in November. The company is seen as more of an educational company and less as a book publisher by Wall Street. In fact, one-time trade publisher Wiley has almost completely transformed itself into an education and technology company partially through a series of divestments and acquisitions.
via Get Ready For More Mergers And Acquisitions In Book Publishing – Forbes.
I’m pretty sure I disagree with a good bit in this article, but disagreement has never been enough to make me lose interest in something, especially if it is worthwhile disagreement. One paragraph that caught my eye in particular:
The crowdsourcing frenzy alone is enough to cause uneasiness — the costs of editing, fact-checking, keeping spam bots and hackers at bay is the intellectual equivalent of being a traffic cop in Midtown Manhattan on a day when a major intersection signal is out of order from a water main break. The overhead that would be required to maintain the flow of information in a massive crowdsourced project is mind-boggling, a kind of 24-7 attention to a gazillion details. A handful of projects, like the Jeremy Bentham transcription, or the New York Public Library’s menu decipherment, were expertly designed, highly constrained, and made effective use of contributions by the public. The redesign of scholarship to allow for participation is an enormous undertaking, not yet much beyond prototypes, none of which have yet proved fully viable except the wiki. And the difference between a book chapter that lays out a well informed and studied discussion of new research and a set of guided activities for the acquisition of that knowledge is the difference between research and pedagogy. They perform different roles.
via Pixel Dust: Illusions of Innovation in Scholarly Publishing |.
Not terribly in-depth, nonetheless interesting. Especially when discussing the challenges of being too large (pointing to the value of imprints in the minds of authors) and responding to concerns about Amazon’s self publishing offering (highlighting in this case the ownership of Author Solutions, something I think indicates a lack of appreciation of what Amazon is doing in the digital self publishing space). Where he offers the most interesting note though is below:
At the time of the merger, you said one of the key areas of focus would be e-books . How do you plan to go about the shift?
We have to be guided by the preferences of the reader or the consumer. If they want to read a book on a smartphone we have to give it to them. It doesn’t make a difference if they are reading a physical book or an e-book . What does make a difference is channel substitution. The move from physical to digital books is not as important as the shift from bookstores to online stores. This really affects the way people find and read books.
via ‘Amazon is creating a large market for books’ – The Times of India.
Baldur Bjarnason (@fakebaldur) is in the middle of a writing spurt, which is good news for anyone who is interested in thinking about books, digital, readers and publishing. He’s a good thinker on these things and while I don’t always agree with him, I do enjoy reading his material and the thinking it generates. I also wish that I had the discipline to write a series of posts, there’s a lot on my mine.
Anyway, several of the posts have really interested me greatly, but I like very much this section and have quoted him wholesale:
“The publishing industry has bought into this idea wholesale. Some publishing markets are, according to this worldview, further ahead on the progress timeline than others. It also implies that advancement along the timeline is inevitable, even if it progresses at varying speeds. Romance and other genre fiction tend to dominate ebook sales and so must have more ‘future’. Non-fiction less so and must therefore have less ‘future’ and more of that crippling ballast called ‘past’. Big mainstream titles hit the ebook market in seemingly unpredictable ways. Some garner decent ebook sales while others seem to sell only in print. There, the ‘future’ seems to be randomly distributed, like a stress nosebleed over a term paper.
This, obviously, implies that the ebook will either eventually dominate universally or at least capture the same large percentage uniformly across the market.
I don’t think that’s going to happen.
The various publishing markets differ in fundamental ways that won’t be changed by ebooks. As others have said, ‘ebooks are terrific and haven’t changed a thing’.
Some will switch entirely to ebooks. Some partially. Some almost not at all.”
via The unevenly distributed ebook future | Studio Tendra.
There’s so much in this piece I have to take two extracts. This quote in particular is incredible:
“Being an author is like being a shark, you have to keep swimming or you die,\” he says. “People don\’t want to wait a year and a half for the next book in the series, they want instant gratification.”
But there’ lots more, like this section:
To ward off the sloppiness that inevitably comes with such speed, Mr. Osso pays two editors and a proofreader to comb through his books for errors and typos. His content editor, Dorothy Zemach, a freelance editor who used to work for Cambridge University Press, says it can be taxing to keep up. “There are evenings when my husband says, ‘Don’t check your email, there will be another book from Russell,’ ” she says.
via Fast-Paced Best Seller: Author Russell Blake Thrives on Volumes – WSJ.com.
The trend towards author services is so unstoppable now that it I becoming increasingly important that those providing the service are accredited and capable. This has got me thinking lots again about the author/publisher/agent triangle and how things might change in the years ahead.