Some Words Can Really Hit Home

Like these words:

“We’re now seeing the transition we’ve been expecting,” said Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of “After 5 years, eBooks is a multi-billion dollar category for us and growing fast – up approximately 70% last year. In contrast, our physical book sales experienced the lowest December growth rate in our 17 years as a book seller, up just 5%. Were excited and very grateful to our customers for their response to Kindle and our ever expanding ecosystem and selection.”

via Amazon Media Room: Press Releases.

Quick Link | New Thriller Sells More E-Books Than Hardcovers – Digits – WSJ

Interesting, non?

Weeks after said that it is now selling more electronic books than hardcovers, a leading book publisher said one of its prominent new titles is generating greater e-book unit sales than hardcover unit sales during its first week on sale.

Laura Lippman’s thriller, “I’d Know You Anywhere,” went on sale Aug. 17, and in its first five days sold 4,739 e-books and 4,000 physical hardcovers, said News Corp.’s HarperCollins Publishers.

via New Thriller Sells More E-Books Than Hardcovers – Digits – WSJ.

Go Read This | A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing: With Change Comes… Anger?

Great post today from JA Konrath. I’ll take his monthly ebook sales if no one else will!

Change is always painful. It’s difficult, and frightening. When a technology changes an industry, especially a media industry, a lot of people get hurt by it. Jobs are lost. Stores close. The carefully maintained balance of power shifts. None of this is easy, and it often isn’t pleasant.

via A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing: With Change Comes… Anger?.

Luke Johnson Agrees With Me

Waterstones Logo

Waterstones LogoA few months ago I wrote this:

As readers shift to digital, the economics of book shops will become skewed, favouring online emporia. Booksellers can react by hand-selling to customers and making themselves relevant, in the way that Raven Books in Blackrock, Co Dublin, has. (I am increasingly sure of finding a pile of relevant books there every time I walk in). No doubt this will mean concentrating on older, out-of-print, and second-hand books, titles that appeal directly to the customer, and print-on-demand works (though I am less convinced of the economic case for this).

Whatever way you look at it, as a big book-buyer I should be a chain store’s best customer. Instead, like many avid readers, I’m what’s killing them.

The Sunday Times – Think Tank: Lost In The Amazon
Eoin Purcell’s Blog – Bookshop Are Dead And I Killed Them

Then today I read an interview with Luke Johnson who ran Borders for a time. this is what he said:

I bought Borders thinking we could turn it around. I believed wrongly we could reverse the downturn in high street book sales. It’s a great sadness that we couldn’t. In my opinion, the high street book store is doomed.

He did say, that there was hope for stores like Watersones and that:

Publishers I’ve spoken to agree that the one-size-fits-all bookstore doesn’t have a future. But there is still room for independents that know their customers.

I agree the local independent have a chance. But the utterly depressing reality is that at least in the UK and Ireland, big high street stores are in trouble. Eason remains dominant here and may well gain some advantage from that, especially as supermarkets have been slower to take big steps into books (though Tesco is having an impact) but the slide is inevitable.

It contrasts fairly remarkably with the confidence of Barnes & Noble as pointed to in the last post.

One point that struck me yesterday was Waterstone’s belief in the power of ebook sales to drive their growth in their press release they said they had and ‘Excellent start for e-books at, approaching one million downloads.’

That makes two major booksellers on different sides of the water with hope of decent sales of ebooks. Interesting news I think anyway. perhaps if they can peel some of the sales away from Amazon in print, drive for sales in ebooks and slowly but surely wind down their bricks and mortar stores, they can avoid the downfall scenario I had originally envision and emerge as slimmer chains selling mostly virtually.

Here’s hoping,

Links Of Interest (AT Least To Me) 01/07/2010

Wordpress Books Tag Page

Wordpress Books Tag PageI’ve been doing some fascinating reading the last few week and thought I’d share the ones that stuck with me. You may have noticed a few reblogs appearing in the stream. I’ve been using WordPress’s reblog button and loving it very much! These are non-reblogged though. Also impressed by their much improved tag pages. Like this one, for books.

An excellent open letter by Brian O’Leary to Scott Turrow about piracy, data and good and bad decision making.

A very fine article over at Slate (Thanks to SarahB for the tip) on ebooks and paper and why one will not replace the other. Agree or disagree, the writing is solid.

A nice find in general, Slow Media, one I was directed to by the excellent blog Casual Optimist.

James Long over on Speculative Horizons has a great list of four upcoming titles by four of my favourite fantasy writers.

Smashing line for literature at the Kilkenny Arts Festival this year.

Philip Jones points to the clash in perception of the future for books in the digital age between Jeff Bezoz and Hachette UK’s George Walkley. Nicely done too.

With the Russian spying scandal in the US, Yale University Press talks spies! Well worth the read and considering a new book purchase too.

Despite a tough market, Barnes & Noble have been very upbeat about the future in terms of digital and print sales. I hope they are right.

The summer seems to be rolling in this year (when does it not), but at least it’s been a good one so far!

Amazon Creates Translation Publishing Imprint: AmazonCrossing

In many ways this is a fairly sensible move from Amazon:

Similar to AmazonEncore, Amazon’s first publishing imprint, AmazonCrossing uses customer feedback and other data from Amazon sites around the world to identify exceptional books deserving of a wider, global audience. AmazonCrossing will acquire the rights and translate the books and then introduce them to the English-speaking market through multiple channels and formats, such as the Amazon Books Store, Amazon Kindle Store, and national and independent booksellers via third-party wholesalers.

It does go to show though how much power Amazon has gained for itself through hard work and enterprise. Owning the relationship with readers is enabling them to leverage their other capabilities and to relatively rapidly create imprints. Right now they seem small enterprises and mant dismiss them, but as I have pointed out before (and been shown to be correct) small things can grow!

Some questions arise here:

1) Will agents see the value of this outfit?
2) Will authors prefer more established houses?
3) Will their sales data and reader feedback advantage give Amazon a clear advantage over traditional houses in the rights acquisition field?
4) How will publishers react?

That last question is by far the biggest and strategically important. 2010 has really seen a ramping up of Amazon’s publishing enterprises. Beside this new imprint and a fairly large increase in the numbers of titles published under the Encore brand, they also announced this week that they had acquired a pretty mainstream writer. Publishers surely must see the danger that Amazon presents when it pursues actions like these!

Intrigued by all this!

Hughes & Hughes: It’s Anything But Simple


Over at MediaConact there’s a blog post that puts the blame squarely on high prices for Hughes & Hughes’ failure:

In the analysis of the failure of the business in the media today there is mention of high rents, and the move by consumers online as the main reasons for the closure of the chain. The truth behind the collapse is a little more simple. Their books were just far too expensive, with many titles being more than twice the price they are on Amazon. It maybe the prices were a direct result of the high running costs, but there is no way they could have survived by continuing to over charge customers.

Just before Christmas we wanted to buy 60 copies to the wonderful “Tribes” by US marketing Guru Seth Godin to send to customers as a thank you present. I phoned around and the price in Hughes & Hughes was €16 per copy. We ended up getting the books on for just €7.50 per copy. The price was the same on Amazon whether we were was getting one copy or 70.

Do you see now why Hughes & Hughes is gone out of business?

I responded because I really felt that the post was far too simplistic in its analysis:

I agree and disagree with you on this. On the one hand H&H had a real challenge on Price in that Amazon and other internet retailers have a very impressive price advantage. But that can be easily explained.

* Amazon get a much higher % discount from publishers than even a chain like H&H did. That is one reason for the price differential.

* Secondly H&H sell much fewer books and unlike Amazon couldn’t make up for cheaper prices by relying on volume sales, especially in a small market like Ireland (Amazon buys and sells internationally).

* Thirdly and perhaps most importantly, H&H had bricks and mortar stores which Amazon does not. When you add in the distribution network that a Bricks and Mortar chain imposes and the redundant stock it very quickly becomes obvious that the kind of expenses imposed by real world bookselling is what made up for most of the price differential. It was unavoidable.

BUT, and this is important, many independents simply refuse to compete on prices and are doing pretty well. They tap customer need in their locality and provide services that a chain or Amazon simply can’t. So Price alone is not the reason why H&H closed. It didn’t help, of that I am sure, but given the thriving stores that sell at the same price or higher, I think it’s the wrong focus.

Not a good weekend for the Irish Publishing and Book Trades