Go Read This | Independent bookstores embrace digital publishing with ‘espresso’ book machine – The Washington Post

I’m intrigued by this. Not least because 5,000 paperbacks in 7 months is 23 books a day. Impressive stuff, though I wonder if ut makes any money:

Politics and Prose has produced almost 5,000 paperback books — some in as little as five minutes — since receiving the book machine nicknamed “Opus” last November. Leggett said about 90 percent of the books printed on the machine are self-published works by local authors.

The others are out-of-print editions, millions of titles available in the public domain like Google Books, and digital formats licensed out through major publishers including Harper Collins.

Alfred Morgan Jr. was able to get a copy of his father’s out-of-print 1923 aviation guide, “How to Build a 20-foot Bi-Plane Glider,” printed on the machine for $8. The volume was on Google Books.

via Independent bookstores embrace digital publishing with ‘espresso’ book machine – The Washington Post.

Bookshops, You Have Three Choices

It is becoming increasingly clear that bookshops, both chains and independents, are the first segment of the trade book publishing industry to face wrenching decisions that amount to bets on survival in this digital transition.

Publishers, agents, authors, wholesalers and many others all need to respond and some have already made significant efforts to do so, but it is clear that bookshops are the facing the full thrust of this change right now.

The way I see it bookshops have three choices:

1) Bet On Digital
Betting on digital means much less emphasis on real bricks and mortar locations. In order to win in this space you’ll be taking a leaf out of Barnes & Noble‘s book and building a real platform for content that provides self-publishing access AND access for traditional publishers direct to your platform and be shifting readers to your platform in your store(s).

Waterstone’s looks like it is about to embark on this strategy by launching its own device next year, I fear it will be too late. Barnes & Noble is two years into this strategy and is well on the way to building a convincing platform with a significant share of the US ebook market. They could still fail, which only goes to emphasize the importance of acting quickly.

Make no mistake about this choice, it means closing bookshops and shedding staff and soon. It’s a hard choice for chains because up until recently floor space devoted to print books were hallmarks of success. That is no longer true.

Smaller chains and independent book stores are faced with an impossibly high barrier to entry here, their own device is an excessive cost, as is creating their own platform and I don’t see a real way for them to pursue this strategy unless they can develop a loyal customer base for a curated ebook offering. It’s not an impossible prospect, but it will be damn hard for them to take this option.

2) Bet On Retail
This is perhaps the hardest decision for a bookseller to make because in essence it involves admitting that the product that to date has defined your business, books, is no longer the most important aspect of your business.

It seems to me that WH Smith has decided that its focus should be on retail, that its retail space can be best used to sell anything and perhaps over time that means fewer books and more of the other things it sells. If that is the case, then being in the digital book business is a distraction not an essential element in its future, hence the Kobo Deal.

By working with Kobo, Smiths leverages the book portion of its business to gain revenue and to sell devices while shifting its actual in-store focus towards products that deliver more revenue and profits. The company may feel some regret about that but as a retailer it will have to be unsentimental and profit driven. The flip side of not developing its own platform and device is a significant investment saved for another opportunity.

On balance, I think it’s probably the right decision. Either ebooks take off and WH Smith must replace a large section of their product line up OR ebooks plateau and what has the company lost?

I suspect that here in Ireland Eason is following this strategy, but the signs could point either way.

3) Bet On Print
By betting on print, bookshops will be making the assessment that they cannot compete in another retail space (or that they choose not to) and, as I suggest above in 1, they simply don’t have the resources to compete in digital.

Nothing about betting on print prevents a bookshop or a chain from doing a deal with an ebook platform to sell a device and provide access to an ebook library. That will bring some revenue but it won’t  (in all likelihood) be enough to replace the revenue lost to most bookshops of falling print sales.

The bet here is that YOUR bookshop or chain will the lucky one. The one with just enough customer loyalty, just the right location, just the right level of population density, just the right amount of print loving readers, just the right range of books in the right formats and at the right prices, just the right amount of business nous and just the right amount of marketing know-how to rise above the other bookshops hoping the same thing.

Sadly, some bookstores probably most of them will lose this gamble. Many will lose because of bad luck or poor location, nothing to do with how good a bookstore or a bookseller they are which is a slightly depressing reality, but one we should face.

The winners may well do pretty well because although the overall market for print books shrinks, they will have an increased share of that market and also because the market for print will change most likely towards higher value books.

There’s a final choice of course, which is to do nothing and keep on rocking. I don’t hold out much hope for survival for those who make that choice.

Go Read This | McSweeneys Internet Tendency: The State of Publishing.

I’m always amused when people suggest ebooks are a problem for books and reading and authors, when in reality they are only a problem for the current business set up of bookstores, publishers, distributors and other businesses in the trade.

IN any case I’m intrigued by McSweeney’s effort in this regard. A nice initiative that I’m looking forward to reading through.

It’s worth considering the flip side of some of their wholly positive indicators later on in the article.

Even with the rise of e-books, and the struggles of some bookstore chains, all the anecdotal evidence we knew pointed to the book industry being on solid footing. But we wanted proof, so back in May of 2010, amidst some of the most dour prognostications about the state of the industry, we asked fifteen or so young researchers to look into the health of the book. Their findings provide proof that not only are books very much alive, but that reading is in exceptionally good shape—and that the book-publishing industry, while undergoing some significant changes, is, on the whole, in good health.

via McSweeneys Internet Tendency: The State of Publishing..

Go Read This | Waterstone’s needs to find its Nook | FutureBook

Nice post from Philip here. Personally I think the physical retail presence and access to HEAVY BOOK BUYERS and BROWSERS via that retail presence is the key to Barnes & Noble’s success with the Nook.

It’s an odd story in a way but it reinforces the idea that one of the key weapons in the future of the industry is knowing the customer OR having access to them directly. The three winners in the ebook space right now, Apple, Amazon and Barnes & Noble all have either huge databases of customer information or direct access to them in places where they part with their money, we shouldn’t miss that when thinking about this today.

Many people wrote off the Nook when it first launched in the US. The name was a bit, well, odd. It had a funny colour strip that didn’t serve much use, except to show book jackets. The e-books available weren’t cheap enough, when compared to Amazon’s overly aggressive pricing. And it had initial shipping problems, a sure-fire technology killer. It was seen as the last gasp of a dying mammal washed ashore by a particularly arch digital wave.

We neglected to look at the two key advantages it had over the Kindle. There was the innovative sharing function, which Amazon has now copied, that gave users a sense of having purchased something tangible—not just a license to read. And of course the ability to read any book for free in one of the chain’s 700 shops, making a physical connection to the shops via digital. The latter gave it something Amazon could never have.

via Waterstone’s needs to find its Nook | FutureBook.

Go Read This | French indies sign petition against Hachette’s iBookstore agreement | theBookseller.com

Interesting news item from The Bookseller today. It’s such a mix of valid and to me misguided thinking.

On the one hand they ask the most pertinent quetion of the next few years: Do We Want To Live Without Bookstores?

Yet on the other they seek to retain their protected status and fixed prices something I’ve never really been a fan of.

The petition, entitled ‘Does Hachette Livre want to do Without Booksellers?’ and reported by the French trade weekly Livres Hebdo, says the joint advertising campaign by Apple and France’s

largest publisher to promote the launch of the iPad in France on 28th May was considered by booksellers “as a sign of great disdain”.

The agreement between the two undermined “the need for publishers to fix retail book prices and resistance to the risk of domination or a quasi-monopoly by one or two large American distributors that impose their terms”.

via French indies sign petition against Hachette’s iBookstore agreement | theBookseller.com.

Go Read This | A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing: The Changing Face of Publishing

You should read the whole post, but I wanted to pull one quote out and think it over.

On the one hand, JA is right here. There will be fewer books printed. That will result in fewer books sold through bookstores.

However while that may well result in fewer bookstores the surviving stores will do better.

Follow the logic through:

1) Ebooks claim a greater share of book sales
2) Print runs drop (for most books) to accomodate this
3) Gross physical book sales drop
4) Marginal bookstores close
5) Marginal sales drift
a) away for ever
b) to ebooks
c) to other bookstores
6) Surviving stores will win sales and market share for print
7) Surviving (well run) stores will be more profitable even in declining print markets.

Fewer books printed means fewer sold in bookstores, who will no longer be able to stay open. Without bookstore orders, publishers will print even fewer books. And so on.

via A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing: The Changing Face of Publishing.

U.S. neighborhood bookstores thrive in digital age | Technology | Reuters

Hand-selling, local and small, the future of bookstore?

While book sales are down, industry experts say the demand for bookstores with a local feel remains strong.

Bookstore owners say the industry has found new life with the locavore movement, which puts a premium on locally grown or raised food. The trend has brought farmers markets and by extension breweries and craft soap factories to cities.

“People are rediscovering the value of an independent store that’s connected to their neighborhood and understands them and their tastes,” said Jessica Stockton Bugnolo, who opened Greenlight Bookstore this year.

via U.S. neighborhood bookstores thrive in digital age | Technology | Reuters.

HT @GutterBookshop