data

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

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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

Ebooks, heating up? People disagree!

Eoin Purcell

Seriously mixed up day for me on the ebook front, reading wise that is! I still find it hard to deal with the fact that there can be such differing opinions on ebooks as you’ll read here. On the one hand I read this considered post by Trevor Dolby on the Bookbrunch blog:

The simple truth is that at present these devices are not changing the way we read. No matter how much vested interests bellow at me in an attempt to change my mind, they are not going to persuade me that my cat is a dog.

No one can dispute that mp3 players revolutionized the way we listen to music. They did so because the technology was a clear advance. But books are uniquely suited to paper. All these devices do is mimic electronically what the humble ink on paper does. The only USPs are rather minor. You can have 100 books with you at any one time – how many books can you read over a week? And you can get new ones quicker. (I’ll save the price issue for another time.) I don’t think I’m unique in the use of my e-reader. It’s continually running out of battery power, it’s slow, and, crucially, I cannot advertise how clever and interesting I am to young ladies on the Tube, since there’s no cover.

I will go along with him on the basics there, perhaps the devices are not that nice looking or that clever and maybe, as he says in the final notes of the piece:

It is the convergent devices that will take over the market. The unannounced but pretty much certain iTablet and its equivalents will be the devices that we all read books on. OK, you say, so what about e-Ink – isn’t that supposed to be the major distinguishing feature? Well you are not going to tell me that Steve Jobs hasn’t made a call to a small team of boffins in Cupertino and said, Right fellas, I want a program that mimics e-Ink: stable and energy-efficient and looks like “the real thing”.

In five years the Kindle and Sony e-book will no longer exist. On our wafer-thin computers, like large iPods, we will be reading a book while listening to music. The phone will ring or mail will ping, the machine will ask if you want to answer, you will chat, then the machine will ask if you want to continue reading. As for battery life, these devices will recharge continually via wi-fi.

Then I read this piece in Publishers Weekly:

Of e-book downloads through July, 40% were made to computers, down from 48% at the end of the first quarter. Quickly gaining in market share over the summer were downloads to the Kindle. This was especially true in July, when downloads to computers plunged, while downloads to the Kindle soared. As a result, in July, for the first time in PubTrack’s monthly survey of consumers, Kindle downloads topped computers, accounting for 45% of all e-book downloads in the month. Also enjoying a spike in July were downloads to the iPhone, likely due to the release of the new 3G iPhone and accompanying e-book apps. That July spurt in iPhone downloads came after a lull in the spring and brought the iPhone’s market share at the end of July close to where it was in the first quarter. And while Sony created a lot of buzz last week with the announcement of its new wireless device (see p. 6), it has lots of ground to cover before it catches the Kindle, holding only a 6% market share at the end of July.

And as you can see that certainly suggests that we need to keep an eye on the Kindle and Sony and the convergent devices may not be as great as Trevor might wish. Finally I read this piece on the Thomas RIggs % Co. blog, An eBook Reality Check:

According to Bowker, in 2008 ebooks represented only 0.6 percent of all books sold in the United States. The majority of buyers were men, and more than half were between the ages of 18 and 34. This year ebook sales will still be less than 2 percent of the U.S. book market.

Here’s something else to ponder.

Most people prefer paper. According to a recent survey, only 37 percent of Americans are interested in buying an ereader. Here in France I’m often at the beach and see one person after another stetched out in the sun reading a paperback. Not an ereader in sight.

Now to me that Thomas Riggs post is the outlier of the pack. You only need to look at the industry stats on the IDPF website to see that although those 2008 stats are interesting, the Q2 2009 figures are almost 3 Times the Q2 figures. So where do these divergent views come from? How can people in the same industry on the one hand think a) ebooks are that big and b) ebooks are big, c) that the Kindle and Sony Reader are growing and d) that the Kindle and Sony Reader are dead.

Still thinking about digital.
Eoin

Go local with Librarything & Well Done Ice Cream Ireland & Head Rambles

Eoin Purcell

Monday, bloody Monday!
Mondays have been getting busier for some reason and today was no different. On the plus side Good Times & Bad was put @ No. 4 in the Irish Times paperback Non-Fiction Bestseller List. It’s a really great read and well worth it at only €19.99.

Blog Awards
Well done to two/three soon to be Mercier Author’s; The Brother’s Murphy who were named best business blog for Ice Cream Ireland and Grandad who won joint best personal blog for Head Rambles at the Irish Blog Awards in Dublin over the weekend.

LibraryThing
Librarything have been doing some excellent stuff and doing it well for a good while now. I remain amazed that a publisher hasn’t bought the remaining shares (assuming they could be bought) or even just bought Abeboooks to get the share they own of the company. They are really doing exciitng work in two areas right now and have today launched a third. The newest is called LibraryThing Local and it allows users to add pretty flexible information about everything from fairs to bookstores:

LibraryThing Local is a handy reference, but it’s also interactive. You can show off your favorite bookstores and libraries (eg., mine include the Harvard Bookstore, Shakespeare and Company and the Boston Athenaeum) and keep track of interesting events. Then you can find out who else loves the places you do, and who else is going to events. You can also find local members, write comments about the places you love and more.

You can see an example here where I have added information about the Dublin Book Festival which is on at the end of the week.

Although it will be a while before this feature builds into the rich stream of information and knowledge it has the potential too, it, like the recent Common Knowledge feature they rolled out are excellent ways to harness and pool the minds, thoughts and knowledge of their members to everyones advantage.

More pleased heading to sleep than I was waking up, is that good or bad?
Eoin

Planning for 2008

Eoin Purcell

Overambitious

So I foolishly announced that I would lay out a plan for blogging in 2008 in response to Bloglily’s tag. Thinking it over it sure offers a challenge. Such a big challenge and the world being so terribly random and unpredictable* that I think I made a foolish promise. So I need to do something else. If I cannot predict the blogging year, I can at least offer some thoughts on what I see playing a role in my year ahead and about which I will probably be writing a great deal.

1) Digital projects & technology

– In the next few weeks Mercier Press will be launching one of its first major digital efforts. I’m not going to talk too much about it right now but the basic idea will be to capture digital content online and take that into print. It is an experiment for us and I can see the short term element proving to be a successful precursor to a much longer term goal for us.

– What is more, 2008 sees the start of something very exciting for Mercier. We will be launching our first blog to book product. The wonderful Murphy’s brothers from Murphy’s Ice Cream will launch a book that build on their blog Ice Cream Ireland and offers all Irish ice cream lovers what is going to be a very beautiful book. There will be more of these types of books in the future (not just from Mercier) as blogging makes real talent more visible and findable on the web.**

– These are not the only reasons I think this area will be a huge part of my year in 2008. If you have been following the links both on the blog and on my linkblog at Google Reader ***, you will have seen that these issues are looming large in my thoughts. If you fail to be inspired by these I suggest you check out a few of Snowbooks videos on using Onix data to make life easy. that ought to bring the point home forcefully.

– Mercier have just started the process of moving to an integrated system (Using Anko’s Publishing Manager). it will be tricky as so much of our legacy information is in people’s head and not digital systems, but once we have finished the process we will be in a great place to make much better use of all our content.

– And then there is this, e4Books, which will probably be honoured more in the missing of the target than in the achieving it.

2) Books: reading & commissioning

– Ha, I’ll bet you saw that one coming! The To Be read pile is now insane. Though again I’m feeling a little better about that (thanks NTT). I do try. I read a good few books this year but not nearly as many as I had hoped (closer to 60 than the 100 I had planned). Spending too much time online and reading for work perhaps.

– Of course the other aspect of books will be the process of publishing and building the list here at Mercier. 2008 is now more or less to bed and it is time to get cracking on commissioning 2009. It is nice to be in a more relaxed place with this commissioning but I am conscious still that the competition is hotting up in Ireland with the arrival of an Irish based Transworld office. This side will definitely make for an exciting year.

– And while we are on the subject of books, I need to mention that Litlove has just published one, The Best of Tales From The Reading Room (you can buy it here). A collection of her very, very fine essays from her excellent blog: Tales From The Reading Room.

3) Events & Trends: the unpredictable

– Who knows what will happen to prompt a blog post. Sometimes I have been inconsistent in covering topics here and I have no doubt that will continue. One area I know I have yet to really write much on is the effect that the iPhone is having on the world of mobile devices and online reading. Apple’s OS X has taken a lump of market share in this space very rapidly implying firstly that iPhone users browse the web more than the users of other smart phone/mobile computers and also that consumers are not put off by mobile internet they just want it to be user friendly.

– Here is a list of words that I suspect (but with no real level of confidence) that we will see much more about this year: Onix, Community, Digital Publishing, Online Reading, Ebooks, widgets, content, micro-chunking, CS 3, XML. Of them, for publishers I think XML is going to be the big one! But Community will be too. Just check out Authonomy and see what I mean.

So there you go BL. I hope that my lack of planning is up to scratch.
Pleased with the outcome
Eoin

* And my reading of Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s The Black Swan is sure not helping me remain confident of my ability to predicate anything reliably, though it is making me much more comfortable with that. More of that soon when I finish the book and process my thoughts.

** Hint! Hint! Authors, start blogging if you don’t already!

*** Who also have a shared items page which I find a it confusing.

A great series on Digitisation

Eoin Purcell

Original Expression is a great blog that I have been following for a bit.
For more on the author: Here and Here.

Bill started posting a new series today (starting here) which I think anybody considering digital ventures for the first time should follow. Some gems. EG:

Again, don’t be too concerned with file formats. In most cases, your partner will be the one to worry about this, and will let you know what’s best for their use of your data. If you don’t have the format they need, let them create the data for you. Just be sure to get a copy for your archive!

I know I’ll be reading it very closely.
Eoin