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Go Read This | International restructure for Holtzbrinck | The Bookseller

Very interesting indeed!

From 2nd July, the company is to operate through three divisions. Global Trade, managed by Sargent, will encompass all the consumer book publishing operations of the Group, including all the US, German, UK and Australian houses. Thomas will have management of a Global Science and Education division, consisting of Nature Publishing Group, Macmillan Education, Macmillan Higher Education and Palgrave Macmillan, also to include Digital Science, Digital Education and Macmillan New Ventures.

via International restructure for Holtzbrinck | The Bookseller.

The Future Of Publishing In Microcosm | The Increasing Internationalization Of Irish Publishing

Yesterday I was a little unfair to Easons for the pronouncements of the company’s spokesperson and the tone of the article on its ebook strategy which suggested the company was about to embark on a  mission to build a rival platform to B&N and Amazon, something that would surely have been a valiant, if doomed, effort.

When I thought about it for the rest of the day though it got me thinking about just how much ebooks are changing the profile of book publishing and bookselling and how quickly that is happening. For instance I am almost certain of two things about the Irish ebook market:

1) That foreign based platforms and retailers account for the majority of sales (Amazon, Apple, Kobo, Sony etc)

2) That like in the print world UK publishers (and their local imprints) publish the majority of ebooks bought in Ireland both in terms of units and revenue

I’m also close to certain about a third item, but without evidence I cannot prove it, here it goes anyway:

3) That US-based publishers sell more units (and I don’t doubt generate more revenue) from ebooks in Ireland than domestic Irish publishers do and are perhaps second only to the UK publishers (and their Irish imprints)

The first and the last points there are pretty radical statements. The first represents a huge change to the Irish experience of the book industry. Right now in print terms, most books bought by Irish consumers are sold to them by Irish retailers, Easons the principle one but others like Dubray, The Book Centres, Kenny’s, O’Mahony’s, Hughes & Hughes and many many others. That is despite the growth of physical sales through Amazon and the internationally owned (except for Dunnes Stores) supermarket chains. The wholesale and distribution businesses are also heavily Irish owned (with some British presence, increasingly on the Library supply side of things).

The Difference Digital Makes

But the situation is dramatically different on the ebook side of the house. Easons is the only ebook retailer of note in the Irish context (others should shout out if I’ve unfairly missed them out). On the ebook distribution side, EpubDirect are the only (and admittedly impressive) crew actually making a go of that business and even they don’t make up for the fact that the majority of ebooks sold in Ireland will have been distributed through other channels.

You can argue the toss over why this is the case but several factors loom large:

1) Irish publishers have been slow to digitize their content (though they are getting there now)

2) Irish retailers have been slow to embrace the web (except for a few notable exceptions) and slower to embrace eCommerce (again a  few notable exceptions aside) and, finally, even slower again to embrace ebook retailing

3) The costs of developing ebook platforms, ebook retailing sites and ebook distribution systems are high, the Irish market is small, while it might have been possible to forecast the potential to gain customers outside of the island, it is a difficult result to actually achieve (which makes EpubDirect’s success all the more impressive) which mitigates against anyone investing in them

In terms of sales, while UK publishers and their Irish based imprints have come to dominate the book trade, significant numbers of books published by Irish houses continue to sell in print form and account for anything between 15-25% of the trade. With ebooks however, sales from publishers whose books would not traditionally have been made available in Irish territory is increasingly likely. For instance a US published book that does well but might not get a print deal outside of the US has as much (if not more) opportunity to sell in Ireland as any other ebook, the key is whether it is high in bestseller/popular lists or promoted by the retailer for some reason

The only ebook store that really seems to cater specifically for the Irish ebook market is Apple’s iTunes so when Irish publishers do start to make content available they have to fight against ALL the published content there is, not just all the domestically published content and all the UK published content as they do in the print world. Further the people making decisions about ebook merchandising are rarely based in Ireland as once they were (or indeed still are in the print world) and therefore open to some discussion or indeed charm (not inconsiderable amounts of which the Irish are possessed).  You see the problem.

The Outside Context Problem

The Irish publishing industry is fast running into what might be described as some fashion of an ‘Outside Context Problem‘ wherein the new arrivals on the scene are vastly superior in terms of abilities, vastly superior in terms of resources and possessed of superior technology. While some of the participants in the market might grasp the nature of the problem and respond as effectively as they can, the truth is that the disparity in attributes makes success unlikely and the new threat is very much an existential one.

Which sounds very dramatic but think of it this way. The Irish consumer market for trade books is around €150 million a year and 15 million units all in. Suppose only 30% shifts digital over time or €45 million and 4.5 million units. That would leave only €105 million up for grabs for Irish retailers in print form and 10.5 million units. The impact on stores, book publishers and other market participants would be pretty dramatic. There would be closures and job losses and the industry would be considerably weaker. And that’s just the impact on the retail side of the trade. The impact on the publishing side of the trade is unknowable, but there is little doubt that it would be significant and would probably be negative for the domestic publishers (see my earlier paragraph on why). The UK publishers will probably cede sales to US-based publishers, especially if US publishers seek to enforce global ebook rights deals on authors.

We are probably headed in the direction of 30% digital pretty quickly. If we even approach the kind of conversion to digital sales that seems to be happening in the US or even the UK, we can expect that 30% figure to be a reality by 2015. By then the Irish industry will have changed radically and will become almost unstoppably more international not just in terms of the books that sell her, but also in terms of those who sell them. US publishers will probably be the second biggest publishers of ebooks bought by Irish readers (if not the first having overtaken the UK).

There’s interesting evidence of this too from the other side of the fence. The AAP reported that ‘total eBook net sales revenue [for US publisher] for 2011 was $21.5 million, a gain of 332.6% over 2010; this represents 3.4 million eBook units sold in 2011, up 303.3%.’

Frustratingly the APP did not share details for Ireland (those were contained in the full report but not as a single territory, rather as part of a larger group of English language territories) so we don’t know how well those publishers are doing here. Still, we can assume that they did well relative to the size of the market.

What’s more, Ireland and the story of change in the publishing industry really acts as a microcosm for the rest of the English language publishing industry (indeed it acts as a microcosm for any small market which shares a language with a much larger market be it French or German or Spanish or Chinese).

In some ways the whole industry is encountering the ‘Outside Context Problem’ I mentioned earlier as software and technology firms move into a traditionally physical business, but for larger companies, responding can be easier because of their scale and their resources make for a wider context as it were. It’s the small markets where the combination of these larger players and the changes in technology make for such a difficult problem.

Beautiful day here in Dublin!
Eoin

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Interestingly (or maybe just interesting for me) I wrote some time ago about the impact of divergent rates of digital growth on small markets, and in many ways this post is all about that impact. The increasing internationalization of the Irish publishing industry is driven by the very issue I highlighted: Divergent Growth Rates In Digital.

Digital Growth At Quercus, And Beyond

There has been some grumbling (I’ve a note coming on that later) about the slow pace of digital take up in the US in the last few days and weeks. I’ve a feeling that has as much to do with the now higher benchmarks the digital market is growing from.

By which I mean if the ebook market is worth $1 million then to double it need only increase by $1 million however when the market is $100 million it needs to increase by $100 million to double and when it is a $1 billion it must grow by a full $1 billion in order to double. Needless to say whereas $1 million in increased sales is hard to find, $1 billion is considerably harder.

On top of that, there is a real need to break analysis into markets to account for different market conditions. The UK is not the US and Ireland is not the UK. What’s more a UK publisher must react to UK market conditions. This has echoes of some of my thoughts about different rates of digital change from 2010. For instance, the UK is in the midst of a huge shift to digital BUT that shift has really happened over the last few months. 1.3 million ereaders were sold over the Christmas period and the UK market has as a consequence flourished since December.

Which makes the Quercus numbers all the more interesting. In 2011 digital sales accounted for 11% of their revenue, but grew 270% in December 2011 when compared to December 2010 promising a nice digital year in 2012.

We continue to benefit from our significant investments in digital publishing and marketing, website development and social networking. For the year as a whole, Quercus generated approximately 11% of its income from digital revenues, while the growth in ownership of eReading devices over the Christmas period contributed to an increase in eBook sales of 270% in comparison with the previous December.

via Quercus Christmas trading update | Quercus Books.

It’s entirely possible that many of those ereaders will remain idle, many will fall out of use, but enough will remain active to shift yet more readers who were once print dedicated into either digital dedicated reading or hybrid print/digital status. If those readers are heavy readers (as I suspect they will primarily be, after all why give someone who reads one book a year an ereader?) that will shift considerable numbers of digital units in 2012.

So the UK situation is very different to the US situation. We should avoid blanket statements.
Eoin 

Go Read This | Brillig: Borders, Post-Mortem

Excellent post this!

You may notice that none of the changes all these CEOs were doing sped up the supply chain. Even after Borders put in a reorder for a backlist book, it would still take two to four times as long for that book to make its way back to the store shelf. It could still be weeks after a book sold before the reorder was even placed. There were some efforts made by the sf/fantasy buyer in 2006 to rationalize the sf/f section so that A stores had a full A range selection thus doing away with some of the weird gaps that had developed over the years, but this didn’t help much at the D or E store range to reduce the overall inconsistency of the brand.

via Brillig: Borders, Post-Mortem.

Quick Link | The Burger Lab: The Ins-n-Outs of an In-N-Out Double-Double, Animal-Style | A Hamburger Today

One of my favourite US Food sites, Serious Eats, has a sub section dedicated to burgers. It makes for pretty compelling reading if you, like me, happen to love burgers though eat them considerably less than you THINK about eating them.

Today’s post is a classic of the type and worth linking to for that alone:

Needless to say, he jumped at the excuse to hit In-N-Out. $120 in overnight delivery fees later, the UPS man showed up at my door at 9:30 the next morning, golden package in hand.** Inside were two regular Double-Doubles, two Animal Style Double-Doubles, two plain cooked beef patties, two packets of Spread, and one large chunk of dry ice to freak out Dumpling with.

I knew that the flavor of a frozen-then-thawed burger could never compare to the freshness of the original, but nevertheless I felt compelled to resurrect them—not a minor feat in and of itself!

After a totally failed attempt at reheating one whole, I realized that the best way is to separate it into individual components, and reheat each individually, tossing the veg and replacing them with fresh ones. Within the hour, I had my lunch of Zombie In-N-Out burgers:

via The Burger Lab: The Ins-n-Outs of an In-N-Out Double-Double, Animal-Style | A Hamburger Today.

Pub Rants: Why You Can’t Buy An eBook In English Outside The U.S.

Not confusing at all! Interesting to think through this post and follow the competing agendas, reader’s, author’s, agent’s and publisher’s:

If I sell Title X for North American rights only, then that means the US publisher is only allowed to sell its English version in the US, Canada, US territories (aka Philippines etc), and non-exclusive in select countries in the rest of the world (clearly listed in the contract). Print or ebook. The reason for this is that we want the ability to sell English to UK or ANZ (Australia) separately and UK/ANZ insists on certain “exclusive territories” for its print and electronic edition.

Are you starting to see the problem? If UK/ANZ hasn’t been sold, then no eBook version in English is available in let’s say Denmark because Europe is considered exclusive to UK in terms of selling the English edition.

via Pub Rants: Why You Can’t Buy An eBook In English Outside The U.S..