Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue

09/20/2015

Are Book Awards and Book Sales Related? How Representative is the Authors Guild?


           The Book Publishing Landscape

The publishing landscape has changed so much that past things of importance and impact are no longer – fizzled out like a spent firecracker sparkler.

Examples are the Man Booker award in the U.K. and the National Book Awards in the U.S. – Oh, these awards still have a sentimental value to some, but, apparently, do not generate any large increase in book sales, notoriety or the economic bottom line for authors as they may have done in the past. And what about authors who don’t receive awards?

Recent surveys by the Authors Guild have exposed a 30% loss in author income since 2009 – But, these losses represent authors under the umbrella of traditional publishing. Most (not all) are not even making a living wage.

So, how do we explain the thousands of self-published authors (again, not all) who are making quite a good living wage? Let’s find out.

Tonights research article comes from WUWM Public Radio in Milwaukee, WI., written by

Key excerpts:

Washington Post critic Ron Charles reviews the kinds of books that get nominated for literary awards. These are not the blockbusters, the books written by the likes of Stephen King and Nora Roberts that make millions.”

“Robinson says the landscape for writers has changed in many ways. They have to do more self-promotion, sometimes even offering their work for free online. The Authors Guild blames the decline in writers’ income on a combination of factors: online piracy of digital material, consolidation within the publishing industry, which has led to more focus on the bottom line, the dominance of Amazon and the rise of self-publishing which has cut into the market for traditional publishers.”

“Eisler is a self-publishing advocate who says the Authors Guild doesn’t represent all writers. Its membership skews older and it is mostly interested in maintaining the status quo of traditional publishing. Self-publishing may not be for everyone, he says. There is no question writers have to be more entrepreneurial. But he says it also offers them a choice when it comes to money and control — and the end result isn’t really all that different from traditional publishing.”

” “Yes, it’s absolutely true that most self-published authors aren’t able — at least not yet — to make a living from their writing,” he says. “But that’s also absolutely true of legacy publishing. It’s always been true.” ”

Read the entire article titled: “When It Comes To Book Sales, What Counts As Success Might Surprise You

 

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04/06/2015

Amazon Is Winning at Publishing – Here’s Some Reasons Why


Winning The Publishing Race

Tonight’s post will get into why Amazon is so much better at marketing and selling than the book publishing industry.

Briefly, the answer lies in push marketing versus pull marketing, timing (being late to the dinner table) and true innovation.

Tonight’s research/resource article is from The Digital Reader (Ink, Bits and Pixels) written by Nate Hoffelder:

 

The Ubiquitous Bookstore, Or Why Amazon is Winning at Publishing

Scholarly Kitchen posted an article yesterday which explains why Amazon is so much better at marketing and selling than the book publishing industry.

Joseph Esposito uses the post to lay out his vision for a new type of bookstore – one which could compete with Amazon. Describing Amazon as a destination site, Esposito sees its success as primarily due to pull marketing. In other words, Amazon draws people in by offering a huge warehouse of books and a great shopping experience.

To compete with Amazon, Esposito thinks publishers need to adapt to the new nature of the internet:

But the Web is now being brought to us; it’s evolving into a push medium. All that time we spend looking at the news feeds for Facebook, Flipboard, and Twitter point to where the Web is going and where new bookstores will have to be. To build a bookstore that goes head to head with Amazon is foolhardy. It would be easier to carry the ball into the defensive line of the Chicago Bears.

So a new bookstore is going to have to bring its offerings to where people are rather than the other way around; a new bookstore has to be ubiquitous. A recent example of this comes from HarperCollins,which has created an arrangement with Twitter to sell copies of the bestselling Divergent series of young adult novels from within individual tweets.

The fact that this is a topic of discussion in the publishing industry, in 2015 no less – folks, this is why Amazon is winning whatever war publishing feels it is fighting with the retailer.

It’s not that Esposito is wrong so much as that he is five years late to the discussion. Both Amazon and authors started push marketing at least 5 years ago.

 

Authors have been on social media since at least 2010, and they’ve been pushing people to bookstore to buy books. This concept is so well established that there are dozens of blog posts by indie authors which discuss the nuances of how to go about it.

What’s more, Amazon mastered the concept of push marketing even further back. I don’t know exactly when Amazon launched its affiliate network, but that was explicitly designed to give other websites a financial incentive to push customers to Amazon (h\t to Marshall Poe for making a similar argument in TSK’s comment section).

Tell me, can I make more money by pushing people to HarperCollins’ bookstore than by sending them to Amazon? No? Then why would I bother?

Speaking of HarperCollins, they are a great example of a publisher trying and failing to market and sell directly to consumers. Have you visited HarperCollins.com, and tried to browse, search, or buy an ebook?

I have, and so have several commenters on The Passive Voice. It’s terrible. If, as Esposito posits, direct retail is the future of publishing, then HC literally cannot build a retail site to save its life.

But never mind HarperCollins; let’s consider what Esposito wrote next:

From a conceptual point of view, the most interesting project I have stumbled upon for “post-destination” bookstores is that of Chris Kubica, who explained his work in two articles in Publishers Weekly, which you can find here and here. Kubica gathered a group of publishing people in New York to brainstorm about a post-Amazon bookstore. The conclusion was that each individual potentially could be the site or source of a bookstore–a bookstore of one. With seven billion people on the planet (and growing), that’s potentially seven billion bookstores. Now, how can Amazon compete with that?

Easy. Amazon thought of it first, they thought of it ages ago, and they do it better than anyone in publishing.

Folks, if you want to beat Amazon then you need to come up with an idea first. You can’t decide to adopt an SOP five years after it becomes an SOP. That’s not innovative; it’s reactionary.

 

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01/04/2013

Analyzing the U.S. Book Publishing Industry


Analyzing the U.S. Book Publishing Industry

What a daunting task!

But, I thought a look-see into how the analysis is structured and just what goes into such an intellectual endeavor would be illuminating and fun for many who may not already know.

AND, I thought the source of this and related analyzes would be of great interest to those who want to research, pursue and understand the more professional, business side of publishing (not to mention other research-of-interest projects).

The source is Barnes Reports — ‘The Barnes Reports are a cost-effective, easy way of gathering all the current and forecast information and demographics on over 100 major industries and 400+ minor industries that you need for your business plans, research reports, market analysis and industry profiling. Since 1998, the Barnes Reports, a division of C. Barnes & Co., has been publishing market research and analysis reports for its clients. Based in beautiful Bath Maine, the Barnes Reports division is dedicated to producing the highest quality research to describe industries, nationally and locally, in the United States at an affordable price.’

From Research and Markets Dot Com

2013 U.S. Book Publishing Industry – Capital and Expenses Report

The 2013 U.S. Book Publishing Industry-Capital & Expenses Report, published annually , contains timely and accurate industry statistics, forecasts and demographics.

The report features 2013 current and 2014 forecast estimates on the cost of materials, capital expenditures, inventories, rentals, and other expenses nationally and for all 50 U.S. States and up to 900 metro areas. Expenses categories include materials used, payroll, human resources benefits, health insurance, retirement/pension plans, advertising, taxes, depreciation, electricity, fuels, equipment, repair/maintenance, and software. Capital expenditures include building, machinery, vehicles, and computer equipment. The report also includes industry definition, a breakdown by establishments size and industry size estimates (establishments, sales and employment).

Barnes Reports’ Capital & Expenses reports are an essential part of any GAP analysis, benchmarking project, SWOT analysis, business plan, risk analysis, or growth-share matrix.

Users’ Guide, Industry Definition and Related Industries, Industry Establishments, Sales & Employment Trends, Industry Ratios, 2012 Establishments, Firms & Payroll, 2012 Industry Cost of Materials, 2012 Industry Inventories, 2012 Industry Rentals, 2012 Industry Capital Expenditures, 2012 Industry Other Expenses, 2013 U.S. States – Estimated Cost of Materials, 2013 U.S. States – Estimated Capital Expenditures, 2013 U.S. States – Estimated Other Expenses, 2014 U.S. States – Estimated Cost of Materials, 2014 U.S. States – Estimated Capital Expenditures, 2014 U.S. States – Estimated Other Expenses, 2013 U.S. Metropolitan Areas – Estimated Cost of Materials, 2013 U.S. Metropolitan Areas – Estimated Capital Expenditures, 2013 U.S. Metropolitan Areas – Estimated Other Expenses, 2014 U.S. Metropolitan Areas – Estimated Cost of Materials, 2014 U.S. Metropolitan Areas – Estimated Capital Expenditures, 2014 U.S. Metropolitan Areas – Estimated Other Expenses, Definitions and Terms.

The above breaks down many of the categories that go into the professional analysis of the subject report.

Another helpful report mentioned in the below link  is the 2013 U.S. Book Publishing Industry-Industry & Market Report

So, if you are an ardent researcher and have a few extra bucks to blow, you now have an excellent resource in which to invest the bucks 🙂

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03/28/2012

Association of American Publishers: Book Sales Up in January :) Get the Numbers


Book Industry Growing Today

The AAP (Association of American Publishers) has some good news for the book industry. Random House sales were up in 2011 and overall book sales jumped in January 2012.

The two main reasons for this profit growth were cost-cutting and increased sales of e-books.

Matthew Flamm , Crain’s New York Business, reports these inside numbers:

Good news for the book industry

The book industry got good news on two fronts on Wednesday. Profits were up in 2011 at Random House Inc., parent company Bertelsmann reported. And book sales spiked in January, according to the Association of American Publishers.

At Random House, the world’s largest trade publisher, earnings before interest and taxes rose 7%, compared to the prior year, to $246 million. The gains came from cost-cutting and increased sales of e-books, which have better margins than physical books. Revenue for the year fell 4%, to $2.3 billion.

George R. R. Martin’s five-volume fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire also helped, selling 8 million copies in North America.

For the industry, overall trade book sales in January spiked 27%, to $504 million, compared to the same month in 2011. Among the fastest growing categories were children’s hardcover books, which were up 69% to $57 million; adult hardcover, which increased 22% to $70 million, and e-books, which grew 49% to $100 million.

The January figures marked the debut of a new methodology for the Association of American Publishers, which is now tracking 1,149 publishers, up from an average of 75 to 90 in the past. The newly added publishers have contributed year-ago numbers so that the comparisons are on a like to like basis.

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10/15/2011

The Transubstantiation of the Printed Word


Physical bookshelf space was a bottleneck … really an inefficient flaw … under the old printed word publishing model. Not only bookshelf space in the bookstores, but also bookshelf space in the homes of buyers with limited space.

There is a solution, albeit one that will be resisted by some.

This by Mark O’Connell in The New Yorker:

The Book Scrappage Scheme

In a panel discussion on the continued rise of e-books at the Frankfurt Book Fair last week, Evan Schnittman of Bloomsbury Publishing made an obvious but nonetheless important point. “Print has an inherent flaw,” he said. “It needs shelf space.” It’s a truth that most readers bump up against at some point, especially those who live in small apartments and have to undertake periodic culls in order to free up space for new acquisitions. A company called 1Dollarscan, however, has come up with a somewhat radical solution to this problem. To bibliophiles, this particular cure might seem worse than the disease, but there’s no denying that it is a practical solution to a practical problem. Here’s how it works: you ship them your books, and they scan and digitize them into fully searchable PDF files before recycling the hard copies (i.e. pulping them). As the company’s name suggests, they charge a dollar for every 100 pages they digitize. The service’s appeal is obvious. You free up shelf space for new books (or for things other than books) and you get to keep the actual text itself, which you can access on a computer, tablet, e-reader, or smartphone.

1Dollarscan is the American outpost of a service called Bookscan that has been running successfully in Japan since last year. (Here’s a video of the process in action; it’s in Japanese, but you’ll get the idea.) Like most of his compatriots, the company’s founder, Yusuke Ohki, inhabits a very small living space. In 2010, he decided that his two thousand or so books were occupying more of his tiny Tokyo apartment than he was willing to put up with. He was also concerned about the prospect of his two young children being buried under an avalanche of paper and toppling shelves in the event of an earthquake. “There were lots of news in Japan that bookshelves were falling over in bookstores,” as he told Forbes, “and that people died after being stampeded by books after huge earthquakes.” He decided to scan his entire library into his iPad before getting rid of all the hard copies. Within months, he was running a company that did something similar for the paying public, and employing a staff of a hundred and twenty to do the scanning and shredding. The company took off partly on account of the Japanese e-book market lagging far behind that of the English-speaking world—murky copyright laws, higher prices, and the technical trickiness of rendering Japanese characters on e-reader screens have all been contributing factors. The fear of collapsing shelves invoked by Ohki has surely spread and intensified since the massive earthquake earlier this year; this, too, will have added to the success of his company. In a recent article on 1Dollarscan, the Economist pointed out that the reason the pages are discarded after scanning has to do with “the ambiguous borders of American copyright law.” When a book is scanned for the first time, the company does not retain a master copy; for copyright reasons, it must treat each copy as a unique item. In other words, every time they get a paperback of “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” or “The Da Vinci Code,” they have to go through the entire process anew.

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08/26/2011

Publishing as Manufacturing and the Tribalism of Literary Communities.


Richard Nash - Publishing Entrepreneur

Publishing needs to return to the basic concept of connecting readers with writers … and get away from selling book products to bookstores.

I like this concept! …  And, it is one discussed in an interview titled Revaluing the Book with publishing entrepreneur Richard Nash by Matt Runkle in the Boston Review.

Richard Nash “has created a social-networking platform called Cursor, which allows writers to form literary communities and post their manuscripts for members to read and react to.”

The interview:

Revaluing the Book

Richard Nash, former head of Soft Skull Press, insists that book publishing needs to return to the simple task of connecting readers and writers. He has created a social-networking platform called Cursor, which allows writers to form literary communities and post their manuscripts for members to read and react to. Nash also helms Red Lemonade, Cursor’s first imprint, which publishes work selected from its site. Matt Runkle spoke to Nash recently about publishing as manufacturing, the closing of Borders, and the tribalism of literary communities.

Matt Runkle: There’s a lot of worrying about the disappearance of the book as an object. Do you see the printed book in the same state of flux as the publishing industry?

Richard Nash: If people want something, why do they think it’s not going to exist? Not to get all sort of laissez-faire capitalist about this, but I’m going to have a moment of laissez-faire capitalism here and note that if people want to read the book in its printed form, then I predict there are going to be ways in which they can ensure that they will continue to get it in printed form because people are going to be willing to pay for it.

I mean the reality is that soon enough—even right now, technically—anyone will be able to get a digital version of a book and go and get it made into a physical printed book if they want. I mean right now, whether you’re using the espresso machine or—goodness gracious—3D printing, which is very, very, very much in its infancy, any kind of manufacturing over the next 10, 20, 30, 40 years is going to be able to be done as a hobby. So if you want a printed book, you will be able to get a printed book.

It has been a fascinating phenomenon in the discussion around publishing how adversarial people get around other people’s choices. So if someone says “I like an ebook,” a person will respond “Ohhh, I can’t believe—how can you do that?” It’s like that obnoxious person who you don’t want to go out to dinner with anymore because they can’t just order what they want, they have to comment on what you’re eating as well. What’s been epidemic in this discussion is that when both camps talk about their own preferences, they have to malign other people’s preferences too, and make grandiose extrapolations about the consequences of other people’s preferences for their own. If they like printed books, they should be buying the damn things instead of whining about other people’s preferred mode of reading. So I’m tremendously optimistic about the future of the book as an object. I think the worst years of the book as an object have been the last 50 years. 

What we have witnessed over the last 50 years is the progressive shittification of the book as an object.

MR: Why?

RN: When I started at Soft Skull in 2001 we were printing on 55-pound paper. By 2005, we were typically printing on 50-pound paper. By 2008, half our books were on 45-pound groundwood. And that’s because our print runs were going down. And even with publishers whose print runs weren’t going down, they were trying to save money. Because when the book’s primary purpose was not to be an object, but rather to be a mass-produced item for sale in big-box retail, then there’s going to be downward pressure on costs. And so what we have witnessed over the last 50 years is the progressive shittification of the book as an object—a process that is not external to publishing as it was practiced over the last 100 years, but has in fact been at its fore.

If you’ve got a manufacturing supply chain, then the dictates of manufacturing are going to be the ones that drive the business. And there’s certainly going to be some ad hoc occasional efforts not to do that: certain independent publishers will try to focus on quality, and certain individual books from other publishers might be tarted up for one reason or another, for marketing purposes. But those are the exceptions. Basically, when you’ve got an industry that is pushing out $25 billion worth of physical products into a supply chain, the vast majority of businesses are going to try to cut costs and increase revenues. And the simplest way to cut costs is going to be on the production side. So if the core of the business is no longer a supply chain, but rather the orchestration of writing and reading communities, the book is freed of its obligation to be the sole means for the broad mass dissemination of the word, and instead become a thing where the intrinsic qualities of the book itself can be explored.

MR: How did you come up with the idea for Cursor?

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07/21/2011

Paid Book Reviews – Credible or Expensive Trash?


Do Book Reviewers Actually Read the Material?

All the new indie publishing opportunities out there begs the question: Are book reviews functional or even necessary … especially in the digital sector where readers can just read the trailer or synopsis to find if the story may appeal to them enough to fork over $.99 to $1.99 (or a little higher).

I really don’t know. I’m a little conflicted on the whole concept of book reviews … especially paid book reviews.

Even in traditional publishing, book reviews RE fictional story telling, especially, were dubious to me at best. After all, reviews are just opinions … and you know what they say about opinions. Just because another author or other person of note says a story is good or bad, doesn’t mean another one million readers won’t disagree!

The only legitimate book reviews, I believe, probably exist in the science, math and technical areas when an expert in the field of the subject matter comments on its viability … But, this is something that can be politically motivated, so you have to be careful here, also! 

So, are book reviews necessary or good? I feel they might have a certain marketing value among those enamored with the reviewer … usually this applies to the adolescent, younger crowd.

Reviews will also be taken more seriously if the reviewing source has worked up a certain credibility (this seems very hard work) and track record amongst a particular niche. “I have enjoyed every single book that XYZ has reviewed and recommended! I will always read their reviews.”

If your e-book is good, it will get great word-of-mouth (or social media rush) and that is the best reviews you can receive … and they are free!

Here is a good insight and view on book reviews by indie author advocate Lynn Osterkamp, Ph.D. at http://pmibooks.com:

Are Paid Book Reviews Credible?

What if you could get 50 people to post positive reviews of your book on Amazon? For a reasonable fee?

I know the importance of having reviews of my books on Amazon. A mix of professional reviews and customer reviews is ideal. But for indie publishers and self-published authors, reviews–especially professional reviews–can be hard to get. Many professional reviewers still refuse to review books not published by mainstream publishers.

Sites that will review our books are increasingly charging a fee for what they term an expedited review or for posting the review they write on sites like Amazon and B&N. While most of these book review sites continue to offer free reviews, they warn that due to increasing numbers of submissions, a book submitted for a free review may take months to get reviewed or might not get reviewed at all.

So should you pay for a review?

Purists on author discussion groups and blogs continue to insist loudly that paying for a review with anything other than a free copy of the book, it is wrong. They say these reviews have little to no credibility and will ruin your reputation.

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03/25/2011

A Growing Love Affair: Authors and Ebooks


“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…” Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote these immortal words and I’m going to borrow them to introduce a counting of the ways authors are loving ebooks more and more!

One of my favorite mentors and writing-publishing-advice-givers is Joanna Penn from that great country “down under”…Australia.

Joanna has put together a comprehensive list of 10 reasons why authors love ebooks and it is so clear and concise that I want to repeat it here. A real eye-opener:

10 Reasons Why Authors Love Ebooks 

You might have noticed that ebooks are being talked about a lot at the moment. The growth of ebook readers and ebook sales plus the success of Kindle authors have made headline news in even the most traditional press. A few days ago, bestselling thriller author Barry Eisler announced that he was turning down a half million traditional publishing deal to self-publish, primarily because of the potential of ebook sales. And do I need to mention Amanda Hocking’s Kindle millionare status?

If you’re not convinced yet, here are ten reasons authors love ebooks and at the bottom, introducing my new multi-media course on ebook publishing if you’re ready to poke your toe into the water.

1) Ebook sales are growing which means the number of readers is growing. I’ve certainly been noticing more ebook readers on the train and also people in my office are buying the new Kindles and loving them. Ebook sales have been reported to be up 115% this year, and even though that’s growing from a small base, the pace of adoption is speeding up. Your book can be available to this growing market.

2) You can reach readers globally. This is amazingly exciting when you think hard about it. Anyone can now publish their book on Amazon.com, the biggest bookstore in the world, or on a site like Smashwords, also open to all.  Anyone can buy your book as long as they have some kind of digital device to read it on. Since Kindle app, Stanza and other apps are now on the majority of smart cellphones, it won’t be long before even the developing world can be reading your books (since cellphones have a much larger penetration than computers). I’m in Australia and yet my major market is in the US, thousands of miles away. Some US authors I’ve spoken to have said how well their books sell in Europe. It’s a small world when our work is digital. Brilliant!

3) You can publish your book within 24 hours – and for free. Speed to market has to be one of the most annoying factors of traditional publishing. It can take 18 months – 2 years to reach bookstores after you’ve finished writing a book. Perhaps that can be chopped down to as little as 6 months but with ebooks, you can publish to the Kindle store within 24 hours. You should absolutely be using professional editing, cover design and formatting but once the book is ready for the market, you can publish fast and easily. Oh yes, and it’s free to publish on Amazon and Smashwords. They just keep a small % of sales.

4) Ebook readers buy more books. I know this from experience as I read at least 3x more books now than I did before because the price enables it. My husband just bought 5 novels over the rainy weekend which he devoured. They were indie priced at $2.99 and so there’s not even a question that’s a bargain. New books in Australia are around $30 each. The price alone means that people will read more books electronically. There are also studies out that show this too, so it’s not just my opinion!

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02/02/2010

Amazon vs The Book Industry

Filed under: Amazon,book industry,book publishing,ebook pricing,Kindle — gator1965 @ 11:43 am


Martin Peers of the Wall Street Journal has more on the empowering of publishers:

In Amazon vs. the book industry, the latest round has gone to the publishers. But they might not want to claim victory just yet.

It’s no doubt gratifying to publishers, and all content companies, to see Amazon.com affirm their control over their own product by capitulating on e-book prices. But it won’t do the publishers much good in the long run if they raise prices so far they snuff out the burgeoning market for e-books.

Leaving aside the pricing issue for a moment, e-books offer big advantages for publishers. They eliminate one of the industry’s major costs – printing, binding and distribution. No longer does cash have to be tied up in inventory. With e-books, there are no costly returns of unsold books to worry about.

Publishers should therefore be flocking to e-books. That includes trying to figure out how to keep the low prices. There’s little question the Kindle’s $9.99 pricing on best-sellers is part of the reason Amazon now claims six Kindle sales for every 10physical sales when the same title is available in both formats.

Instead publishers are fretting about the Kindle’s impact on higher-priced hardcover sales. Raising the e-book price to $13 or $15, as reportedly contemplated in Apple’s discussions with publishers, isn’t the way to embrace the digital future. A price of $15, for instance, is close to the hardcover book price charged by discounters like Costco.

The music industry showed what happened when content makers try to hold back their product, including through high pricing: Piracy takes over.

By introducing iTunes, with low prices for music, Apple saved the music industry from itself. Publishers appear to have won the right to set e-book prices. They should use that power wisely.

12/30/2009

Analysing the Global Ranking of Publishers



This great annual ranking will open your eyes to who REALLY are the biggest publishers on the world-wide stage, who their subsidiaries are and who owns who!
Just click on the rankings image to view in larger size.

From Publishing Perspectives by Rüdiger Wischenbart:

For the past three years publishing consultant Rüdiger Wischenbart has released a “Global Ranking of the Publishing Industry,” which looks at companies with revenues over $US250 million. Here is his analysis of the latest ranking, focusing on how the changing dynamics between the professional/science, education and trade sectors have have affected this year’s ranking.

It is a strange world we live, read and publish in. Among the top ten global publishing groups, just five have a significant presence in trade books: UK’s Pearson (with its Penguin group), Germany’s Bertelsmann, of course (with Random House and the ever ailing “Club” business), France’s Hachette Livres (which is also a strong player in education), Spain’s Planeta (the new kid on the block, having gobbled up France’s #2, Editis), and Italy’s De Agostini. Oh, and by the way, they are all headquartered in Europe.

This being said, many companies in the rankings are doing much better, both economically and in terms of re-inventing themselves. While the Pearson group performs remarkably well in comparison to most of its peers, the real powerhouse seems to currently be Thomson (now Thomson Reuters), last year’s #1, and currently #3. It slipped to this position due to last year’s internal reorganization following its merger with Reuters, the result of moving a major stake of its old information business into the new, news driven Reuters division and of selling off “Thomson Learning”, which is performing well under the newly established brand of “Cengage” (#13 on the list). Thomson’s traditional publishing arm, in this perspective, is still good enough to rank it #3 on the global scale.

The story also demonstrates a much more fundamental lesson about how “the book industry” has completely reoriented itself within just a few years when it comes to handling “professional information” (which includes STM, science, journals, and a lot of other pragmatically useful content). Today, this wealth of information is born digital, distributed digitally, and is not available in any bookstore near you.

This “professional information” has become the primary load bearing column in what amounts to a new global temple of knowledge.

Accordingly these “knowledge groups” prefer generating four out of five dollars (or euros) from an integrated digital value chain. Digital subscriptions, they explain to their stockholders, because they’re often sold to institutions, bring in a consistent flow of revenue, and are a much better financial bet than struggling to sell a single book at a time to an individual reader.

This new era of digital integration is a bit more difficult to cope with if you’re an education publisher. Pearson Education has taught everyone the lesson of how to sell content plus branding plus distribution plus services (i.e. testing and scoring materials) on a global scale. Recently, the dream of selling education has been the catalyst for other mergers and acquisitions in the sector. But this has merely resulted in companies faced with huge debts and few sound and sustainable business models. This is why, at least for the moment, education is an unstable column in our new global temple.

That said, there is a new and interesting publishing terrain out there. It reminds one of the famous Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times,” which of course translates to unrest, uncertainty, famines, floods, and the like. It is important to note that in the field of education, the first major Asian global players have stomped into our temple of knowledge and proclaimed, “Here we are. We represent major markets with the potential for substantial growth, and, after having bought your content for quite a while now, we now want to play the game on a more level playing field!”

Companies like Korea’s Kyowon or China’s Higher Education Press have pretty strong arguments and opinions when it comes to “localizing” content (i.e. cultural adaptation) but also to the economics of it all. “We want to take our rightful place among you,” they are saying.

Only the third pillar of the temple — if we want to think of our industry in such classical patterns — is traditional “trade” publishing, or just plain books. Looking at the numbers among the global top 10 as well as further down the list, we see a steady decline in the revenues in trade. There has been no real drama as of yet; just a few percentage points falling off each year.

What’s interesting to point out is that a few ambitious winners can still be found in this otherwise flat environment. Penguin is pursuing a strong strategy, both at home and internationally, and has become the leading brand for global literature. There are also a few, new regional players vying for a larger role, including Planeta (as noted above), Denmark’s Egmont — which had a significant boost from Harry Potter, and has a significant presence in emerging genres like Manga and graphic novels — and Sweden’s Bonnier, which has substantial holdings in Germany. In this, Bonnier is like Holtzbrinck, Germany’s second largest group. They are less about bold growth and innovation than sustaining a relatively boring, if solid presence in the market.

So what is next? One thing is probably quite easy to predict: The combined forces of digital and economical change, together with globalization, will be hitting trade publishing sooner rather than later,that’s for sure. Couple this with the fact that people are now reading differently, for different purposes, in different contexts, and based on different economic rationales than was the case ten or even five years ago and we know something is about to occur.

What this means in detail is certainly more difficult to foresee. Take the example of professional (science) publishing. Wouldn’t consumers prefer to subscribe to a vast amount of (digital) reading that can be delivered online or via cable TV subscription for five dollars (or Euros) per month, rather than buying individual titles for a much higher price?

But what will happen if Internet or phone or cable TV providers consider reading as too small a niche to cater to? Or what if publishers balk at the idea of feeding their books into such pipelines? The likely outcome of that scenario is that trade publishing may be in for some serious trouble sooner than we think.

Some wise person once said that “making predictions is always a headache, particularly when it is about the future.” Which is why, for the moment, I can only offer a picture of the status quo, backed up by a few numbers, and with a history of a few years, at least, to illustrate a few trends. Digitization and globalization does not spell the end of publishing, or of books for that matter. But one thing is for certain: things won’t stay the same for long.

The “Global Ranking of the Publishing Industry” is an initiative of Livres Hebdo, Paris, researched by Ruediger Wischenbart Content and Consulting, and co-published with buchreport (Germany), The Bookseller (UK) and Publishers Weekly (US), with yearly updates since 2007.

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