Selling

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.

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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 | What’s a book? It’s whatever you want it to be — Tech News and Analysis

In case you missed it, stop thinking book or ebook and think, content and the many ways to sell it:

This kind of “format shifting,” in which a newspaper or magazine takes content that has already been published and reformats it for the Kindle or some other device, makes a lot of sense. That content can theoretically reach readers who might never have picked up the newspaper or magazine, or who missed it when it was first printed, or who want to read it in book form while sitting on their couch or at the beach rather than on a computer. And if the cost is low enough, they will be willing to pay for that convenience.

via What’s a book? It’s whatever you want it to be — Tech News and Analysis.

I Wrote A Comment On IPN | Irish Booksellers Are Missing Out On Digital Sales | Irish Publishing News

It’s about booksellers and ebooks:

Last week a new science-fiction and fantasy title, A Dance With Dragons, sold 2,200 copies in hardback in Ireland. What’s more, it did so at over €20 per copy. An impressive result and a great boost for the booksellers who sold it.

In countries like the US and the UK though the same book sold huge numbers of hardback copies AND huge numbers of ebook editions, 170,000 print copies and 110,000 e-book copies1 on its first day of sales alone in the US according to its US Publisher, Random House. In the UK, the Bookseller reports that, ‘HarperCollins sold more than 10,000 e-books’ and ‘ 28,840 copies last week in bookshops.’2

You would imagine that with a perfect opportunity to increase the visibility of ebooks in Ireland and with a clear market for the ebook version, Irish booksellers would have been keen to exploit the interest. You’d be wrong. No Irish bookseller sold a single copy of

via Friday Comment: Irish Booksellers Are Missing Out On Digital Sales | Irish Publishing News.

Go Read This | Repro buys printing operations of Macmillan India

Coming on the heels of their decision to offload MPS, this suggests that Macmillan are very keen to concentrate on publishing, at least in India. It’s funny though, it’s almost as if they were tidying up their look for something.

The acquisition, which includes MPIL’s printing operations in Chennai, with a deliverable capacity of about 6 million books annually, would strengthen Repro’s foothold in the South Indian market.

Commenting on the deal, MPIL Managing Director Rajiv Beri said: “Printing is not our core activity and we would like to focus on publishing growth. This is a strategic decision which will further consolidate our investments and energies in development and delivery of quality, need-based content.”

via Repro buys printing operations of Macmillan India.

Book Depository Free Ebooks


The wonderful people over at The Book Depository have rolled out a free ebook program. Kieron Smith, Managing Director of The Book Depository, said [in their press release]:

We wanted to give our customers a really wonderful present this Christmas. We’re continually working to increase the number of books that we have available on our website – 2.4 million at present, which is an unparalled number. Ebooks are much talked about at the moment but difficult for people to try, this gives people a chance to experiment, read something new and try ebooks all at no risk and free of charge.
We’ve not launched ebooks for sale as yet, but will do soon, this promotion is a great way for us to start talking to our customers about what they want from the format.

Quite wonderfully in my opinion, the program uses PDF. After all most people who don’t know anything about ebooks, know about PDF and feel confident in downloading them. I think the ebook program is nicely executed. It is smooth, fits into the rest of the site where you would expect it and offers something very interesting to readers.

I’m hoping this also drives print sales for The Book Depository’s Dodo Press. I’ve downloaded these two (1,2) for free, what will you get?

Lots to enjoy here,
Eoin

Publishing success in Ireland, Part One

Eoin Purcell

The bestsellers at London City Airport - DSCN3939 From Flick User Larsz

The bestsellers at London City Airport - DSCN3939 From Flick User Larsz

The votes are in and the numbers have been crunched
You have to love Polldaddy for that. It might have been nice to poll a few more votes given the rather huge traffic the post got but then, you never expect everyone who actually arrives to take action. Based on a sample of 91 in an incredibly unscientific study here is what I know readers of this blog think about success in the Irish book market:

1) A remarkable 82% believe that sales have to be 4,000 or above before they would be considered a success
2) A paltry 12% think 1,000 is a good marker
3) Most amazingly a full 21% voted for over 10,000 units as a measure of success.

The results from the Polldaddy poll

The results from the Polldaddy poll

And where do I stand?
Well the Irish Consumer Market (ICM) has some great data sources, the most important being Nielsen Bookscan. I base my thoughts on success around the yearly Top 1000 titles. Did a book in year of release make it into that select group. And in case you think that it is not a select group consider these stats from 2008:

1) Value of the entire ICM in 2008 €165,357,704.81, value of the Top 1000 in 2008 €53,351,537.91 or 32.26% of the market

2) Volume sold in the entire ICM in 2008 13,952,693, volume of the Top 1000 wold in 2008 4,691,181 or 33.6%

3) Top 1000 ISBNS as a percentage of the recognised ISBNS in the ICM in 2008: 0.36% (ie there were 278,782 recognised ISBNS in the ICM in 2008)

So even though they accounted for only .36% of the books available to buy, the Top 1000 represented 33.6% of the Volume and 32.2% of the value. That is pretty select.

Some more context
Before I go into details, I’ll unpack that a bit. The Irish consumer market panel includes the large chains (easons, Hughes etc), most of the medium and small chains (Waterstones, Book Centres, Dubray) a flurry of independents and some of the Supermarkets. That has some peculiar effects. For one thing depending on the type of book you selling it can either grossly understate your sales (this is especially true for a very local title or for a title with an extremely heavy independent and local bookshop bias to its sales pattern. Equally, if a title is VERY commercial and likely to suffer heavy price promotion and discounts, the results tend to look better versus the rest of the market because unlike the majority of books, these titles tend to be bought almost exclusively from outlets that report to the Nielsen panel.

So with that in mind a general rule of thumb is to add another 30% to the sales of titles that fall into the local/independent bias to think in terms of REAL sales for those titles. I’m not going to do that here, but it is a useful piece of information (at least until more indies join the panel and begin to send data to Nielsen).

And the numbers per book?
Based on 2008 a book made it into the Top 1000 with 1,879 units of sales. The 1000 book in 2008 was Poetry Now: Ordinary Level. The top title sold 51,777 units and somewhat unsurprisingly was This Charming Man by Marian Keyes.

Admittedly that is quiet a range: 1,879-51,777. Anywhere within that is a very creditable performance. For instance:

The 900th Best-selling book, The Last Lecture By Randy Pausch sold 2,005
The 800th Best-selling book, New Europe By Michael Palin sold 2,194
The 700th Best-selling book, World War II: Behind Closed Doors By Laurence Ress sold 2,434
The 600th Best-selling book, The Irish Discovery Map of Wicklow, Dublin, Kildare sold 2,662
The 500th Best-selling book, Filthy Rich by Wendy Holden, sold 2,994
The 400th Best-selling book, The New Contented Little Baby Book by Gina Ford, sold 3,430
The 300th Best-selling book, Better Than Sex: My Autobiography by Mick Fitzgerald, sold 4,321
The 200th Best-selling book, A Place Called Here by Cecelia Ahern, sold 5,612
The 100th Best-selling book, The Diving-bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby, sold 8,287

What can we take from this?
In short, the quantities, even in the top 1000 remain fairly small. In fact, you only get into double figures at the 75th best-selling book. You don’t see anything over 15,000 until the 43rd best-selling book. There are no titles selling over 20,000 until the 27th best-selling book and over 30,000 doesn’t happen until the 9th best-selling book.

Is there more?
But just looking at the raw numbers means very little. What genres lead the way in the Top 1000? Are their secrets hidden in the numbers? Which publisher has the best strategy? Is there an Irish publisher who dominates the list? What publisher operates outside the list? Well the next post in this series will look at some of those patterns and try and drill down into the best strategies ti adopt to achieve healthy sales and how to break through the noise and into the Top 1000.

This is fun is it not?
Eoin