e-books

Go Read This | The E-Publishing Success Narrative Will Have to Change

This is a nice corrective to the Ebook story, though in some ways too it glosses over the access point (that ebooks opens access to distribution for many unpublished authors, some good, others not).

Playing the either/or game is dangerous and misses the point of the whole discussion. So let’s repeat some more platitudes: e-books taking 10% of total trade market share is still 90% accounted for by print. E-publishing, at least for now, favors writers who generate or have generated a sizable backlist, ergo favoring genre fiction.

via The E-Publishing Success Narrative Will Have to Change.

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Still True: It Only Matters That It Sells

The debate about ebooks and digital being the future IS over.

Sometimes in the whirl of debate, discussion and faux innovation that has surrounded the shift to digital, you can forget fundamental principles. Something about the tone of the discussion at the moment got me thinking about where we are and what it means.

That brought me to something I wrote just under four years ago:

Which of course is no major deal. Why on earth should publishers worry? Does it really matter if a book is sold as a paper product, as an audio CD, as a downloadable eBook or as part of a subscription based updatable online book, or indeed some combination of these?

NO. IT ONLY MATTERS THAT IT SELLS.

If anything they should be jumping in this direction as quickly and rapidly as possible. They should agree a format that is cross industry and cross device. They should look for attractive price points and better reading devices. Publishers in short should be looking for ways to grab the market and sell more books

I get the sense that most publishers at least in the UK, USA, Canada and Germany and probably in France, having tasted the sweet ambrosia of digital revenue and seen the impressive growth of ebook sales, are there now.

Maybe they don’t admit it too loudly, but I’m sure most senior level publishers have looked at the numbers, and they like them.

What does that mean?
Of course the flip side of what I said four years ago is this:

You can see then book publishers face a problem like print publishers. EBooks do not attract high prices. That is to say that I think most people feel that an eBook is less valuable than a real live (dead in Jeff Jarvis’ world) paper book. If an e-reader appears that quickly changes the market and shifts content online and into digital form as rapidly as music sales have shifted, traditional publishers will be faced with enormous difficulties. Their print runs will need to slide, their high costs need to be removed and eventually some books will simply no longer be printed in books and will remain exclusively as eBooks.

Print runs sliding and high cost cutting will not be fun. In fact it will be unpleasant for pretty much everyone in the industry, but make no mistake, if the first part of the prediction is true, then the second part is inevitable. The structure of the industry MUST change if it is to adapt (that forgoes the obvious strategic issue of whether survival in a digital world IS possible for now. There’s some discussion of this over at Mike Shatzkin’s blog recently).

The debate about ebooks and digital being the future IS over. What’s going on now is the shake out of how publishers change and adapt. I get the feeling that, for many people, this will be far more painful.

Beautiful morning here in Dublin, almost makes me hold back in posting this!
Eoin


Image with thanks to Flickr user Cloudsoup and CC

Waterstones Logo

Luke Johnson Agrees With Me

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 waterstones.com, 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,
Eoin

Wordpress Books Tag Page

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

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.
Here

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.
Here

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

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

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

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.
Here

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

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.
Here

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

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!
Eoin

Amazon Encore Signs JA Konrath

Shaen By J. A. KonrathAmazon Encore the publishing imprint of the internet retailer has signed a deal with JA Konrath to publish his next ‘Jack’ Daniel title, Shaken.

This is pretty big news, as Mike Shatzkin points out:

this is a significant jolt to conventional publishing economics. Sales of Konrath’s $2.99 ebook will deliver him about $2.10 a copy (Konrath says $2.04; not sure where the other six cents is going…), as much or more as he would make on a $14.95 paperback from a trade publisher, and significantly more than he’d make on a $9.99 ebook distributed under “Agency” terms and current major publisher royalty conventions.

I noted here and elsewhere how Authors will drive change and pointed specifically to Konrath. It is very interesting that this deal is with Encore whose efforts I have also been watching warily for some time.

Publishers who didn’t see this coming, having been warned that such moves were on the horizon and in the aftermath of a series of similar deals really only have themselves to blame. I wonder what the reaction will be.

Print may wither much sooner than we expect!
Eoin

The Sunday Times Column

I’ve a column in The Sunday Times today. it features many of the ideas from this piece about bookstores. Here is a flavour and you can read the full piece here:

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.