Really nice post from Philip Jones over on FutureBook:
Yet I can’t help feel that the BBC is being unfairly pilloried, partly because it overpaid, and partly because it was, well, the BBC, and therefore unable to complete its vision. We do not see the financial performance of LP, but it won’t be pretty given what the write-down says about its costs, and the decline in the travel-book market, even though LP remains the market leader. But we do know that it was making the transition to digital, through its e-books, apps, and most importantly via its website. When it was bought by the BBC LonelyPlanet.com said it received 4.3 million visitors a month, that figure has since trebled.
Most crucially, though we may baulk at how it played out, the vision of putting the BBC and LP under one virtual roof still looks compelling. Combining the BBC’s digital know-how, its wealth of content, historical and up-to-date reports from across the globe, with Lonely Planet’s brand, its publishing nous and its reach, still looks unbeatable. The entity could have offered a true unbiased constantly updated window on the world, powered by trusted content and embellished by social interaction from the many travellers and observers attracted to such a portal. Were Google to pull off something similar, we would all be applauding.
via The loneliness of the overvalued publisher | FutureBook.
The Bookseller carries an absolutely terrifying story today if you are in travel publishing, on the other hand if you are, the sales are probably pretty clear to you already:
This year travel sales have fallen 10.7% to £22,386,597 (to 17th April) compared to the same period last year. This comes after sales in 2009 were down 26.8% on 2008. Turnover in 2010 is now at its lowest point since records began in 2001.
I’ve commented before that Travel Publishing is in a precarious position when it comes to physical books:
Well I’ve always thought of travel books as the kind of things that will be one of the first real signs of trade books facing change.
Although there are some interesting wrinkles in the market, like Penguin’s performance, an over 30% decline in less than two years (although surely aided by the recession) suggests to me an underlying trend that doesn’t relate specifically to economic change but more to cultural and technological change.
It seems to me that internet research is easily replacing much of what travel books did well. This goes to the heart of the challenged posed by both the internet and Google’s Book Search as I discussed here. Simply put, the internet reduces the demand for new titles especially in areas of non-fiction where information can be found online.
Responding to that challenge is not easy, especially as many of the useful features of books are now already dominated by branded websites offering much more efficient versions of those services, like Tripadvisor. It seems to me that travel publishers need to change their focus away from books with a rapidity that I am sure they themselves understand.
It is a fascinating test case for the rest of the industry!
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