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.
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.
Interesting piece throughout. Perhaps the most interesting thing is the way it illuminates just how much easier digital makes publishing, for everyone. Interesting too that the bookstore is seeing opportunities upstream from book-selling, driving its own revenues, something there has been too little discussion of in recent years among bookstores. If Amazon is doing a good ob of gathering exclusive ebook content through KDP, there’s many reasons to believe that bookstores are even better positioned to capture this kind of exclusivity at a local level, to act as publishers for that material and to profit from it too:
The Imai Shoten bookstore chain, based in the western prefecture of Shimane, published the electronic edition of “Shutei Kunchu Meigetsuki” (Revised Version of Annotated Meigetsuki) in October. Meigetsuki is the diary of famed “waka” poet Fujiwara no Teika (1162-1241).
The bookstore chain released the first edition of the annotated diary in the form of a printed book in eight volumes in 2002, selling 200 copies and winning high praise. The company had also been working to publish a revised edition of the title, but could not do so because estimated benefits were not worth the required costs.
“It would be impossible to release the revised work without digitizing it,” says Yasuhiko Tago, chairman of the bookstore firm. “I believe that we will be able to turn the introduction of e-books into a great opportunity for the publishing world.”
via Local publishers find new life by digitizing out-of-print, hard-to-find titles – AJW by The Asahi Shimbun.
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 |.
A good piece, the unspoken element here is that the B&N described here is a much smaller B&N in terms of store and probably in terms of store size as well:
Instead B&N should pour that money into the development of a low cost, high efficiency print on demand machine. The current print on demand technology requires the installation of a behemoth device that currently costs about $100,000. Have you paid attention to the posts about 3D printing? 3D printers cost about $10,000 and can print out guns, exoskeletons, and even small planes. How is it that it requires ten times the cost to produce something made of glue and paper?
Barnes & Noble’s future is in providing quality physical objects to in store customers.
via Print as the future of Barnes & Noble.
Fascinating piece by Ed Nowatka of Publishing Perspectives rom the NYTimes.com about the new digital library in Texas. I’m struck by the way that digital can, if we allow it to, reinvigorate libraries as well as make them so much cheaper to run and stock:
“We have maintained from the beginning that we are a digital library, not a bookless library,” said Ms. Eklof, who, like the rest of the staff, wore a sporty BiblioTech-branded polo shirt. Books or no books, she said, the goal is the same: to give residents access to information and research assistance.
It is also economical. At a cost of $2.2 million to build, stock and staff, BiblioTech is a bargain compared with the downtown library being built in nearby Austin, which has a budget of more than $100 million. BiblioTech’s yearly operating costs are budgeted at $1.1 million. “Getting it going cost us a third less than the $3.7 million Bexar County contributes annually to the San Antonio public library system, which has 26 libraries,” Ms. Cole said.
via It’s Here: A Library With Nary a Book – NYTimes.com.