Harry Potter

Why JK Rowling’s New Book Might NOT Be A Boon For Booksellers

I’ve been seeing quite a bit of commentary about J K Rowling’s newly announced book along the lines of the tweet below(1):

The Bookseller also reported some great positive comments like:

Jonathan Ruppin, Foyles web editor, said: “It is clearly huge news, it is the talk of the office already. It will be the biggest selling book of that time, I am sure other publishers will move their books out of schedules to make room for it.

But the truth is there are reasons to expect that the book will NOT be a boost to booksellers. Many reasons in fact, but here are just four:

1) Supermarkets. Like they did with Harry Potter, it seems highly likely that supermarkets will attempt to attract buyers into their stores by selling the new book below cost. Such competition makes such highly hyped titles difficult to sell for independent booksellers and even chains have trouble competing with the likes of Tesco.

2) Ebooks. Well the truth is that booksellers will largely NOT benefit from ebook sales, rather Amazon, Apple and Kobo along with whoever sells the ebook editions will.

3) Online Sales. I suppose the online retailers will do well, but pre-orders, especially through Amazon and Amazon owned sites will probably be the key winner in this space, rather than through independent or chain bookstores.

4) The Economy. So J K Rowling will do well from this but in an environment where free cash is limited the likelihood is that the book will simply change purchasing patterns in the book trade rather than expand the market. Rowling’s big name will attract money and books released around the same time will do less well than they might have with the overall impact being neutral to moderately positive rather than massive. Thus isn’t, I stress, an attack on Rowling, simply the reality of how things go.

All told I’m fairly pleased to see Rowling move past Potter and I think it was wise to move publisher at the same time enabling a proper brand extension. There’s a big part of me hopes that I am wrong, but a bigger part that expects to be right!

Eoin

(1) And I am not picking on The O’Brien Press here!

Go Read This | Harry Potter Goes Google for the New Pottermore E-book Site

You know, this really IS a very good idea for Google. It will popularise their platform and probably engage LOTS of readers just as they are transitioning to ebooks. Might even help them sell some of those new ereaders they’ve launched!

Its no surprise that Pottermore has turned to Google to run what is bound to be a wildly popular e-commerce site. How well this deal will help boost Googles own e-bookstore efforts, beyond just sales of the Harry Potter titles, remains to be seen. No doubt Google hopes to be able to lure fans and book-buyers in to its e-bookstore for all their reading needs.

via Harry Potter Goes Google for the New Pottermore E-book Site.

Go Read This | Book Trade Announcements – Bloomsbury Acquires Continuum

Another incredibly sensible acquisition by Bloomsbury and yet another that pulls them further away from the territory of a strict trade publisher. Good for them:

Bloomsbury’s strategy has been to increase its proportion of academic and professional revenues compared to trade revenues through retail channels. The current strength of the Groups academic sales compared to consumer sales vindicates this strategy. Academic revenues are more predictable and have lower related costs of sale with resulting higher margins, and are much less reliant on retail bookshop sales. Around 60% of Continuums sales are outside the UK, thereby increasing Bloomsburys exposure to the global book market. Through this acquisition, for the first time, Bloomsbury will have an academic editorial and marketing team in the US. Bloomsbury has an excellent track record in exploiting digital opportunities; this acquisition will enable us to develop Continuums 7,000 strong backlist through conversion to e-book formats and the creation of new subscription based academic services.

via booktrade.info – Book Trade Announcements – Bloomsbury Acquires Continuum.

Wisden Logo

Wisden: Another Clever Bloomsbury Brand

Wisden Logo
Bloomsbury has featured on these pages a number of times. To my mind, too much of the focus on Bloomsbury is about Potter and Rowling. When I’ve been interested in Bloomsbury it is generally for their clever acquisitions and what I perceive as a well developed but poorly reported strategy for acquiring valuable and sustainable brands that have digital potential.

The announcement yesterday that Wisden their cricket imprint (which is part of the A&C Black group of imprints) will expand its offering (relatively slowly) into other sports seems like a great example of just that strategy.

So long as the extension is done with some common sense, the very string image of Wisden should be able to sustain this move. I’m looking forward to seeing how this goes for them,
Eoin

Bloomsbury buys Arden Shakespeare

Eoin Purcell

Bolt on Acquisitions & Imprints
Seem to be the order of the day for Bloomsbury and nice, niche plays at that. Following the arrival of Bloomsbury Academic in September, the acquisition of Berg only a short time later, and the rather clever Wisden acquisition Bloomsbury today announced that they had acquired Arden Shakespeare from Cengage and would return it to the Muthuen Drama [which was itself only acquired by Bloomsbury in 2006] imprint where it originated away back in 1899.

Reference is the star
What interests me about all of this is the way in which Bloomsbury is developing is almost in complete opposition to its original source of growth (ie Harry Potter). The academic list and the expansion of A&C Black (which has turned out gems like Don’ts for Wives & Don’ts for Husbands) is proving a nice route for the publisher.

Is this the future?
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. All told Bloomsbury has acquired or built a tidy little reference and academic division featuring quality brands and properties. I think we may see more small acquisitions along this line over the next few years.

It is entirely possible, if seemingly unlikely, that in a decade we will know Bloomsbury more for reference and niche publishing than for Potter!

Cold tonight!
Eoin