Go Read This | Amazon Is Not A Commerce Company

Fascinating stuff:

One common element ties Amazon’s online retail, cloud services and foray into the tablet market: data. For Amazon, the hardware does not matter. The goal is not to make margins on selling fancy consumer hardware and expensive equipment. Through efficiency, Amazon can experiment in retail, publishing and its enterprise service offerings.

I still have my doubts, though.  AWS is not infallible. Its repeated outages have given its competition plenty of room to differentiate against AWS.  And low margins do not necessarily mean success. It impacts revenues and its overall stock price — factors that can’t be ignored.

via Amazon Is Not A Commerce Company | TechCrunch.

Yet Another Bloomsbury Property Goes Digital

There’s a paragraph on Bloomsbury’s Strategy page on their website that always grabs me. It reads:

A key element to Bloomsbury’s strategy is to broaden the base on which it acquires and exploits intellectual property. This began in 1994 with retaining paperback rights and moving into children’s publishing. With the advent of the internet, the company identified a growing demand for quality on-line reference content which culminated in the development of our first major database, The Encarta World English Dictionary.

The reason it grabs me is that you can see the company put that paragraph into action very regularly. The latest is Reeds Nautical Almanac from their A&C Black division (the location of some of their most interesting properties).

I wrote before about Bloomsbury that:

It further occurs to me that nearly all the moves place them in a position to exploit the brand potential of all these properties and to do that through new digital avenues if and when they choose to

That still holds true and when you check the site out, you do begin to wonder why it wasn’t done before, but that’s not the point. This is strategy in action before our eyes. What’s more, it’s a sensible strategy that’s moving physical products and customers towards digital models in an un-hyped way.

It shows the value of intellectual property that has something that can be made available as an online service as well as a print product. Sure it brings its own worries and concerns, but it also offers opportunities and real hope for a future for publishing and publishers.

Maybe it should be more hyped! Or maybe more publishers should copy them!
Eoin

Publishing Success In Ireland, Part Four

The Companies
You’d imagine that being an Irish chart, the figures on the Irish Consumer Market would reflect that and we would see a lot of Irish companies dominating the market. It’s not a bad concept, I can see why it appeals, it is however, somewhat unfortunately for Irish publishers, just plain wrong.

For instance of the top ten titles in 2008 only two of them are listed as published in Ireland and they are published by Transworld Ireland and Penguin Ireland which, although they employ Irish staff and publishes Irish writers, is owned by International behemoths, Random House and Pearson. The image below shows this.

ICM Top 10 Including Country
ICM Top 10 Including Country

Inclusive or Exclusive
That pattern is repeated numerous times through the top 1000. 668 of the top 1000 markets are listed as published in the UK. That’s not the half of it either because a full 92 of the top 1000 are published by what might be called Irish Imprints of international publishers.

Don’t get me wrong here, these companies all employ impressive publishers, editors, publicists and sales reps and work with great Irish authors. But one should always call a spade a spade. Ignoring the different set up does no-one any good. They have distinct advantages even if those are only perceptional or brand preference issues.

I also need to be carful there because that figure includes Gill & Macmillan (G&M). I’ve been told before that including G&M in the International Imprints bracket is unfair (On the basis that Macmillan only own a share in the region of 50% of the company) so to give a full picture with G&M the figure is 92, without G&M it is 60 (which goes to show how strong a force they are in the Irish Market). I’ll leave the choice to you how you like to count them, but for me, I think it fairer to consider them part of the International Imprint group if only because they operate under a similar if not exactly the same structure.

In any case a full country-by-country breakdown looks like this.

    State – Books Published in that state
    Unknown – 2
    Australia – 5
    United State of America – 7
    United Kingdom – 668
    Ireland (Including International Imprints + G&M) 318
    Ireland (Excluding International Imprints + G&M) 226
    Ireland (Including G&M but not International Imprints) 258

So, at best, Irish published books account for just a shade under 32% of the ICM Top 1000 in Ireland. When you exclude International Imprint & G&M that brings the figure to 22.6% even if you include G&M and leave out the International Imprints it still only gets you a shade under 26%.

I think that is something of a worry. Native publishers (at the broadest definition) only just breaking towards 1/3 of the market. Sure we have a huge market right next door with large publishers and effective media saturation through UK Press, TV & Radio but you would imagine that Irish Publishers could appeal more effectively to Irish readers.

In another sense, it is hardly that surprising. All areas of our culture, from video games, movies and opera to sculpture, painting and high fashion are dominated by outside forces, why should reading, books and publishing be any different.

Units & Value
We’ve not yet looked at the figures for sales or units! So let’s do that now.

    State – Units – Value – % of Whole Top 1000
    Ireland (Most inclusive) – 1,252,405 – €14,781,707.41 – 27.7%
    UK – 3,400,705 – €38,048,969.06 – 71.3%
    USA – 19,984 – €254,414.93 – .48%
    Australia – 13,044 – €181,931.94 – .34%
    Unknown – 5,043 – €84,514.57 – .15%
    (Note: the rounding is a little off here)

The most inclusive figure then, under-performs on a value basis, even its paltry 32% of titles figure. When you consider things from this perspective, the notion that publishing success then requires an author to move abroad to an international publisher, is not then without some foundation. As a strong proponent of Irish publishing, as a fan of many of the books published by my peers in all of the various types of publishers bring books to the market here (be they International Imprints or native Irish), that is a little hard to accept. But accept it I must.

Of course one needs to be cautious. These represent raw figures for titles, units and revenue, and only for the Top 1000 at that. Some sales will have been missed simply by happening in non-traditional outlets or independents not tied to the Nielsen system. In any case, on this basis I think we have more than enough data to write a solid wrap up in the fifth and last part of this series.

It gets you thinking, the data gets you thinking,
Eoin

Getting to Digital

Beastly goings on
There have been a few pretty big moves in the last few days towards what seem (At least to me) sensible models for getting digital and quickly. The first is Tina Brown’s The Daily Beast‘s deal with Perseus Press that the NYT featured yesterday:

Ms. Brown said that Beast Books would select authors from The Daily Beast’s cadre of writers, most of whom are paid freelancers, to write books with quick turnarounds. She said she planned to publish three to five books in the first year.

The beauty of the deal though is that they making digital first publications:

Beast Books, that will focus on publishing timely titles by Daily Beast writers — first as e-books, and then as paperbacks on a much shorter schedule than traditional books.

I rather hope this works, it certainly sounds like a good news story if it does. The model seems sensible, it capitalises on the eyeballs the Daily Beast is dragging and as The Big Money puts it in a sensible and thoughtful paragraph:

The good news is that this is exactly what digital publishing needs to fuel its growth: a product ideally suited to a new technology. Brown’s entry into the field validates the idea of writing specifically for the Kindle and its competitors, a huge vote of confidence in the tools. The less-great news is that for all of Brown’s talent for attention-getting, the Daily Beast may not have the right content to drive sales. Which just might be the point of the whole deal—with Brown using the book deal as a back door to better content.

Disney Digital
Disney Digital

Disney’s gamble
There have been some negative comments about Disney’s newly launched program that provides online access to 500. As the NYT (again) puts it:

In what it bills as an industry-defining moment — though rivals are sure to be skeptical about that — Disney Publishing plans to introduce a new subscription-based Web site. For $79.95 a year, families can access electronic replicas of hundreds of Disney books, from “Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too” to “Hannah Montana: Crush-tastic!”

DisneyDigitalBooks.com, which is aimed at children ages 3 to 12, is organized by reading level. In the “look and listen” section for beginning readers, the books will be read aloud by voice actors to accompanying music (with each word highlighted on the screen as it is spoken). Another area is dedicated to children who read on their own. Find an unfamiliar word? Click on it and a voice says it aloud. Chapter books for teenagers and trivia features round out the service.

I like this idea because it is heading more towards the type of product that can win the battle for attention and hold its own against numerous distractions. What is more, a site like this (and being a site is crucial) has a certain seamless quality, it fits into the web rather than standing aside from it in a “connected” device. It will simply be a rich content website that you happen to pay for! That is important! that, I believe, is the future.

Both these moves are taking big publishing digital very rapidly. This is a space to watch!
Eoin

Start With XML update

Eoin Purcell

Last week I had the distinct pleasure of attending the StartWithXML seminar that O’Reilly, Idea Logical & The Publishers Licensing Society ran in the British Library. The event itself was fantastically interesting as were the attendees.

Will Hawkins, who I met for the first time at the seminar, has a nice overview of the event on his blog here and I totally echo the wonder and awe that this section inspires:

Each book has all of the information about the title held in XML as well as the book in digital format so that, literally, at the click of a button, they can produce 48-page catalogues about their lists, feed their web site and make versions of each book in different formats. Anyone who has ever tried to put together a catalogue in a conventional way will know that it can take weeks and weeks to do this.

Want to know of whom he speaks? It should be obvious, but just in case, it’s Snowbooks.

Aside from that, I was struck very heavily by just how much further down the path of digitisation, chunking and generally the new reality STM and Academic publishers are. One eye opener was the wonderfully succinct and yet powerful presentation (all of the presentations are on slideshare here) by Mark Majurey from Taylor & Francis. Have a read below, but the effort is somewhat lost, because you don’t get to hear Mark saying that T&F were selling chunked content online as early as 2001!!! It just didn’t take off hugely.

When you hear that news, you realise how far trade publishers have to come before they are even at the races with some of these things.

An eye-opening day,
Eoin