Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue

07/18/2013

Barnes & Noble is Really an Ally of Amazon


Barnes & Noble stores – lands of discovery for ALL readers – Even e-book readers!

B&N an Amazon ally? Many may not realize this fact; but B&N has helped Amazon succeed and Amazon should show a little respect!

B&N has had a recent spate of bad bumps caused by dings to themselves and the book industry in general — like the declining sales of Nook, the resignation of William Lynch as head of their tech side (due to a $177 million Nook loss), the big six downsizing to five with the Penguin/Random House merger and Apple losing it’s agency pricing case in court.

But, believe it or not, B&N STILL has solid business fundamentals as demonstrated by a 16% increase in earnings (EBITDA) even as sales declined by 5% – 6%.

The possible hidden power of B&N lies in the ability of the re-crowned head of the company (and the one who initially built B&N to a major bookseller chain), 72-year-old Mr. Leonard Riggio — who also loves the physical book stores. He also has a genuine respect for the new digital tech. Point is, he knows how to run a store with ambiance and panache!

Mr. Riggio wants to buy back all the B&N stores and take them private again. I think this is a good start as he won’t have to put up with a lot of investors and boards of directors that might not see his particular vision for the physical bookstore plus amenities that creates an intelligent respite from the cold, harsh world — You just can’t get this kind of ‘creation’ from a tablet.

So, just how is B&N an ally of Amazon? People just love to browse physical artifacts in a warm, restful space (Homo sapiens can’t live on-line ALL the time) — they look at books with neat covers, read the cover flaps and decide they want to buy — either in-store OR very often over their devices. B&N has probably acted as the catalyst for numerous digital buys!

Bookstores are ‘lands of discovery’, even for e-book readers.

So, B&N is still earning and publishers’ net revenue grew $1 billion in 2012, upping their take to $15 billion — much of it due to the wide margins provided by e-books (no manufacturing, no shipping and no remaindering) — If only they could get over the fact that Amazon’s concurrent growth makes them secondary characters in a business they used to control.

Really, there is room for everybody.

David Carr writes this for The New York Times:

Why Barnes & Noble Is Good for Amazon

On Thursday night in Clifton, N.J., Barnes & Noble was a way station, a third place between work and home where people sought respite and diversion. With its high ceilings, wide aisles and a large Starbucks, it is the kind of retail outlet that gives big-box stores a good name.

In one aisle, a father and daughter were having a spirited generational discussion over the side-by-side covers of “The Great Gatsby,” one of which bore an image of Leonardo DiCaprio. For reasons I wasn’t quite clear about but nonetheless found charming, an older couple used a book on vegetarian cooking to cover up a copy of “The Art of Seduction” on the shelf. Nearby, two apparent siblings, one sporting pink hair and the other purple, traded loud opinions over the True Crime display.

Watching the readers lounge in chairs with a view of Route 3, it was hard to reconcile the pageantry of retailing with the brutal recent headlines about the book business.

At the beginning of July, the Big Six publishers became the Big Five with the blending of Penguin and Random House. At the beginning of last week, the chief executive of Barnes & Noble left the company after a grim earnings report that highlighted a failed strategy to have the company’s Nook device compete in the crowded tablet space.

Then on Thursday, Judge Denise L. Cote of United States District Court in Manhattan issued a withering decision against Apple, writing that the company had conspired with the major publishers to fix the price of e-books in an effort to thwart Amazon’s momentum.

So far, what has been bad for the industry has not yet hit consumers directly. If they are among the many millions of people enthralled by CBS’s “Under the Dome,” and decide to read the giant Stephen King novel that inspired it, they can hop on Amazon and buy it with a click for $13.99. Or they could avoid its door-stopping heft and spend just $7.99 for the Kindle version.

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12/17/2011

How To Strengthen Indie Booksellers – And Why We Should!


Strand Bookstore in NY -Still Surviving

More intrigue RE Amazon! AA doesn’t stand for Alcoholics anonymous here (although a drink wouldn’t hurt) … it stands for ‘Aggressive Amazon’.

Since Amazon is gutting the publishing industry by selling e-books (and e-book versions) at or below cost just to sell their other products … it is becoming glaringly clear that something has to be done to stop this future monopoly-in-the-making from becoming the lord and master of writers and publishers.

After all … Amazon’s core mission is NOT the art of writing and publishing … it is selling digital products [that merely deliver the true gold]! Let’s not get the true artists, creators and drivers of this  fine industry back to the slaves they were under the old exploitative traditional publishing system … just with a new digital master. The cart has been before the horse for far too long!

Now there are some out there who think the current developing digital publishing field and Amazon, in particular, is just fine because of the new emerging advantages that have been kind to some … But, BEWARE, if Amazon becomes the complete monopolistic monster it is striving for, the present advantages will vanish.

We must develop and strengthen multiple sources for the selling and distribution of our works.

Jim Milliot of Publishers Weekly has this to say:

The Amazon Workaround

The best way to blunt the e-tailer’s clout is to support a diverse marketplace

Fear that Amazon will come to dominate the bookselling market is nothing new in the publishing industry. But last week, as booksellers continued to decry the company’s price check app (which could be used to access prices on booksellers’ sideline items, like toys and DVDs) and as information about Amazon’s aggressive demands to publishers regarding co-op and retail discounts surfaced (PW Daily, “Is Amazon Pushing Publishers to Brink on Terms, Co-op?” Dec. 15), some insiders began suggesting that the time had come to actively explore ways to lessen publishers’ dependence on the e-tailer. With this in mind, PW asked a number of people in the industry what the best course of action would be. The consensus was that developing and supporting initiatives that would create a more level the playing field would be the best approach to ensure a diverse marketplace.

Publishers readily acknowledge that, after the collapse of Borders, independent booksellers have become more important, and while the indie segment has shown signs of revival this fall, booksellers will still need to work closer with publishers to develop more profitable relationships. The changes that need to be made can’t be around the edges, but need to address the fundamental selling model between publishers and bookstores, something ABA CEO Oren Teicher called for in an address at BookExpo America this spring. Some experiments are already taking place, including extended dating. This would allow booksellers to keep titles on shelves longer and give them a chance to build an audience while helping them improve their always tight cash flow.

Selling books on consignment is another method that some independent publishers are trying, but consignment sales haven’t caught on yet with the larger publishers.

Windowing—offering print books for a period of time before e-books go on sale—while enticing is seen as impractical since it is unlikely that publishers will return to a practice they have already given up. Moreover, there is some thinking that publishers could start charging a premium to customers for e-books before the print book is released, something a sizable portion of consumers said they would like.

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09/23/2011

An 84 Year Old Surviving, Thriving Bookstore!


Benjamin Bass, founder, the Strand Book Store in NY

Who the hell said that bookstores are a thing of the past … emulsified in the wake of the digital storm?

I got news! There is an 84-year-old bookstore in New York that is not only still standing …  BUT, is thriving on the printed word …

Behnam Nateghi reports in The Voice of America:

Books and bookstores, have been having a hard time in the United States in the last few years.  Not long ago, large discount booksellers drove many small, independent book stores out of business.  Now,  those superstores are taking a hit from on-line and digital book sellers. Borders —  the country’s number two book chain — recently declared bankruptcy and Amazon says it is now selling more e-books than printed ones. But in New York City, there’s a family owned, independent book store that is still going strong.

Family owned business

The Strand Book store, in New York’s East Village, is surrounded by huge buildings belonging to New York University. It is more than 84 years old and is among the oldest cultural institutions in New York. It’s affectionately known for the row of tables outside, filled with one-dollar books.

Nancy Bass Wyden, Strand’s manager, is the granddaughter of the store’s founder, Benjamin Bass.  

Nancy and her father, Fred Bass, say the store owes at least part of its success to its location in New York City.

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08/20/2011

Coming: Legal Deposition RE E-Book Pricing, Economics of Digital Publishing and Inner Core Operations


Deposing Core Elements of the Agency Model

Class action lawsuits are growing against five major publishers plus Apple RE the infamous “agency model” (where the publisher sets the book/e-book price versus the traditional wholesale/retail model where the price is set by the sellers/retailers (?) … at least I think I have that right) 

Per publishing consultant, Mike Shatzkin, who writes the great IdeaLog Blog,  the “agency” model is based on the idea that the publisher is selling to the consumer and, therefore, setting the price, and any “agent”, which would usually be a retailer but wouldn’t have to be, that creates that sale would get a “commission” from the publisher for doing so.

Or, put another way by the ABA (The American Booksellers Assoc): Under the agency model, a publisher sets a retail price for a specific book, which establishes a level playing field for all resellers.

 I have posted on the agency model several times back when it was first named … and damned if I don’t seem more confused about it now!

At any rate, the lawsuits … mostly claiming that e-book prices are being artificially inflated … and their associated costs are spiraling upward!

These details in Publishers Weekly by Andrew Albanese:

More Lawsuits Over Agency Model

A class action lawsuit over e-book pricing filed against five major publishers and Apple has begun to sprawl, with four new “copycat” lawsuits filed last week. Two suits, filed in Manhattan, add Random House as a defendant, while a third suit, also in Manhattan, adds Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Another suit was filed in Oakland, Calif. The claims and assertions of fact in each suit are nearly identical to the original suit, filed August 9 by the firm Hagens Berman: that the simultaneous introduction of the agency model by the major publishers reflects an illegal conspiracy to “artificially inflate” e-book prices.

The filing of copycat suits is very common in consumer class actions. “It is more the rule than the exception,” one class action attorney told PW. If a case is perceived to be a good one, there will be multiple filings by different firms in different courts, and the firms will then compete to see who will become lead counsel. In the coming months, the cases—and there could be more coming—will be organized, and the defendants will seek to have them moved to one court.

According to the filings, the price-fixing conspiracy occurred as Apple negotiated terms with publishers in anticipation of the 2010 iPad release. On January 27, 2010, when asked by reporters how Apple’s e-bookstore would compete with Amazon’s $9.99 price, Apple’s Steve Jobs responded that the prices “would be the same.” That public pronouncement, one suit alleges, “was a signal to Publisher Defendants that each of them had agreed to join the conspiracy.” The following day, January 28, Macmillan CEO John Sargent told Amazon of its switch to the agency model. “This would have been irrational if Macmillan had not expected its primary competitors to follow suit,” the lawsuit notes. “Acting alone, no individual publisher would be able to sustain the supra-competitive prices.” The agency model, the suit notes, effectively ended “retailer discretion” for e-book pricing.

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08/17/2011

Amazon Publishing – Print is Thriving – And Other Insider Information


Awesome Amazon ???

Amazon’s business makes publishers nervous because it’s finally allowing the online retailer to cut publishers out of the loop entirely. Amazon is making more of its own books, and it’s got the authors to sell them.”

Amazon is adding more writers and renowned authors to its own company’s publishing imprints to produce new books directly for the reading consumer and bypass other established ‘publishers’ entirely. 

Gaining control of the online digital book retail business just seemed to whet Amazon’s appetite to gobble up more control in the bigger publishing business (in disruption due to the new tech transition) … including print, which is doing just fine right now, thank you very much. 

These interesting details provided by Anthony John Agnello , consumer and technology writer for InvestorPlace:

Amazon Publishing Continues to Boom With New Exclusives

Traditional publishers being pushed out of the picture

Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) frightens book publishers. Not because electronic books are going to replace print by September. Far from it. Print is thriving, and while e-book sales have grown 1,300% in the past three years, they still represent only a fraction of overall revenue in the publishing industry. Amazon’s business makes publishers nervous because it’s finally allowing the online retailer to cut publishers out of the loop entirely. Amazon is making more of its own books, and it’s got the authors to sell them.

A Tuesday report in The New York Times said Amazon has made its latest promising acquisition in an ever-growing stable of authors producing original books for the company. Timothy Ferriss, the self-help author behind the bestseller The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich, will release his new book The 4-Hour Chef exclusively through Amazon Publishing imprint.

4-Hour Workweek has spent 84 weeks on the Times‘ Advice bestseller list. That book was published by Crown, an imprint under the Bertelsmann-owned Random House. Ferris never entertained a counteroffer from his previous publisher after talking with Amazon because they would not have been able to match what Amazon was offering as “a technology company embracing new technology.”

This is just the latest major publishing effort from Amazon since editor Laurence Kirshbaum came on as head of Amazon Publishing in May. Imprint Montlake Romance, an all-romance branch of Amazon Publishing, opened for business in May. Connie Brockway’s The Other Guy’s Bride will be the imprint’s first book out this fall. Brockway’s previous books were distributed under the Dell Publishing mass-market imprint, another house under the Random House banner.

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Related post: Is Amazon a Danger Lurking in the Publishing Industry?

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05/07/2011

The First Ultimate Online Book Site Has Arrived!


Bookish.com will be the ultimate site for all things literaryThree major publishers…Penquin, Hachette Book Group and Simon & Schuster…have committed to financing a one-stop book marketing and selling site.

The site will be called Bookish.com and will be operational late this summer.

“The site intends to provide information for all things literary: suggestions on what books to buy, reviews of books, excerpts from books and news about authors. Visitors will also be able to buy books directly from the site or from other retailers and write recommendations and reviews for other readers.”…Julie Bosman , NYTimes.

From Julie Bosman:

Publishers Make a Plan: A ‘One Stop’ Book Site

Publishers have spent a lot of time and money building their own company Web sites with fresh information on their books and authors. The trouble is, very few book buyers visit them.

In search of an alternative, three major publishers said on Friday that they would create a new venture, called Bookish.com, which is expected to make its debut late this summer. The site intends to provide information for all things literary: suggestions on what books to buy, reviews of books, excerpts from books and news about authors. Visitors will also be able to buy books directly from the site or from other retailers and write recommendations and reviews for other readers.

The publishers — Simon & Schuster, Penguin Group USA and Hachette Book Group — hope the site will become a catch-all destination for readers in the way that music lovers visit Pitchfork.com for reviews and information. The AOL Huffington Post Media Group will provide advertising sales support and steer traffic to the site through its digital properties.

“There’s a frustration with book consumers that there’s no one-stop shopping when it comes to information about books and authors,” said Carolyn Reidy, the president and chief executive of Simon & Schuster. “We need to try to recreate the discovery of new books that currently happens in the physical environment, but which we don’t believe is currently happening online.”

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02/26/2011

Booksellers Need to Become ‘Jack-of-All-Trades’ to Flourish


I just love that old term ‘jack-of-all-trades’…It sounds so self relient and totally competent! Outsourcing, a darling concept  in the corporate (and government world), is now OUT in the publishing and bookselling universe…at least the messy business side of that universe.

The new buzz word for a biz model being a more inclusively competent, ‘jack-of-all-trades’ type is to be ‘vertically’ organized as opposed to ‘horizontally’ (outsourcing of some functions) organized. 

As is expressed so succinctly by Michael Wolf in his Crush or Get Crushed: Why B&N Needs to Be a Publisher article on his great blog GigaOM :

Let’s face it, the total pie in books is going to shrink, and the long and unwieldy value-chain from writer to customer is going to collapse. Amazon knew this a long time ago, and that’s why they’ve been moving to disintermediate the publisher and the wholesaler in the e-book world by becoming, essentially, the entire value chain themselves.

One ingredient this new self-sufficient biz side of the publishing and bookselling universe will ALWAYS need, of course, are the writers (creators) of great content! Writers are the really one indispensable part of the equation and they too are now becoming their own publishers (mostly through online publishers/e-retailers like Amazon, etc)…but, watch out…one day we may be able to eliminate the likes of Amazon, too.   

This now from Michael Wolf on GigaOM: 

Talk about frustrating: This week Barnes & Noble announced topline growth year over year and its first profit in four quarters, and how was it rewarded for its hard work?

With a pounding by Wall Street.

The drubbing was due in part to the news the company was eliminating its dividend in order to invest more in its digital business, but there’s no doubt the recent Borders bankruptcy filing weighed on the minds of investors. After all, B&N is the Coke to Borders’ Pepsi, and it’s easy to assume what happens to one will eventually inflict the other.

But as this excellent answer on Quora by former Borders employee Mark Evans points out, Borders failed for numerous reasons, the most important of which was its outsourcing of online to Amazon. What B&N realized — and Borders didn’t — was you don’t become a true online retailer by outsourcing the business, especially to what may be your number one competitor.

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09/19/2010

Book Marketing: Why Digital Booking is Better than Bricks-and-Mortar Booking


I don’t ever want to see physical bookstores disappear…and I don’t feel they will completely. But, having said that, we as writers need to understand some basic dynamics to survive.

To understand why digital processing of books is completely dominating the book publishing, marketing and selling world, you have to understand what happened in the demise of giants like Blockbuster and Barnes and Noble and the rise of companies such as Netflix and Amazon.

Randall Stross , writer of the NYTimes Digital Domain column, gives us a good insight to changing business models and, in my opinion, how and why they can affect us as writers:

Why Bricks and Clicks Don’t Always Mix

NOT so long ago, in 2005, Blockbuster seemed invincible. However you preferred to rent movies — in stores or online — the company was ready to accommodate you.

At the time, Netflix could offer only one way of obtaining a movie (the mail) and one way of returning it (the mail). It was clicks, with no bricks.

Of course, we now know that Netflix has done just fine. In January 2005, its shares traded in the $11 range. On Friday, they closed at $140.46, giving the company a market capitalization of $7.35 billion.

As for Blockbuster, which was spun off from Viacom in 2004, it’s now a penny stock, and its woes are as visible as the “Closing” banner in the window of a store in your neighborhood. The company recently warned that it might file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Last week, its chief financial officer resigned. (A spokeswoman for Blockbuster declined a request for an interview with a company representative.)

Blockbuster’s experience shows that executing a bricks-and-clicks strategy entails a high degree of difficulty, managing not just two very different kinds of businesses, with dissimilar domains of expertise, but also a third challenge: integrating two separate systems. An online-only service can remain a best-in-class operation because its executives focus, focus, focus on just the online business.

In the handicapping of likely winners and losers in 2005, Netflix seemed unlikely to survive, let alone thrive. Netflix is “not a sustainable business,” Michael Pachter, an analyst at Wedbush Morgan Securities, told SmartMoney that year. In his view, successful Internet businesses tended to “have a bricks-and-mortar component.” That is, retail stores.

Read more http://alturl.com/6ygtw

09/09/2010

Fight Still on to Control Barnes & Noble


Who said there was no intrigue in the publishing and bookselling industries? Phooey, it’s loaded!

Ron Burkle, Chairman of the Yucaipa Investment Companies (possibly a preditor group at times), owns a 19% share of B&N and wants to get himself and two associates on the B&N board of directors…But, B&N company Chairman, Leonard Riggio, wants to stay in control by limiting Burkle’s involvement and has been campaigning shareholders to beware of Mr. Burkle, who he believes is trying to seize control of the company.

Matthew Flamm has more details in this article from Crain’s New York Business:

The battle for Barnes & Noble just got noisier.

In a letter to shareholders on Thursday, the board of directors of the largest brick-and-mortar bookseller raised the volume on its shouting match with Ron Burkle, chairman of Yucaipa Cos., who is engaged in a proxy fight to put himself and two associates on the Barnes & Noble board.

“Don’t be fooled by Mr. Burkle,” the letter states, and urges shareholders to “stop what we believe is Burkle’s thinly veiled attempt to seize control of Barnes & Noble.”

It asks shareholders to support the board’s nominees, company Chairman Leonard Riggio, David Golden and David Wilson.

Mr. Burkle, who has a 19% stake in the bookseller and argues that its share price has been hurt by mismanagement, has been fighting Mr. Riggio for control of the company for most of the last year. He recently lost a court fight aimed at overturning a poison pill provision that has kept his stake from going above 20%.

Read more http://alturl.com/qt22s

08/31/2010

There’s Something About Barnes and Noble


Just like the old country store in past eras became a gathering and resting place, so has the Barnes and Noble bookstores in present time…or is it getting to be the recent past?

Anyway, B&N is a great place for a good cup of joe!

This insightful slice of literary Americana was reported in the New York Times by Julie Bosman:

At Bookstore, Even Nonbuyers Regret Its End

On Monday afternoon, Jai Cha walked out of the Barnes & Noble at 66th Street and Broadway in Manhattan as he does nearly every week — without a book.

“I’m just killing time,” said Mr. Cha, a 30-year-old lawyer, his hands stuffed deep in his pockets. “I’ve been coming here to read Bill Simmons’s ‘Book of Basketball,’ about a chapter at a time.”

He might have to hurry. Barnes & Noble announced on Monday that at the end of January it would close the store, a four-story space across the street from Lincoln Center that has been a neighborhood landmark since it opened nearly 15 years ago.

“We recognize that this store has been an important part of the fabric of the Upper West Side community since we opened our doors on Oct. 20, 1995,” Mary Ellen Keating, a company spokeswoman, said in a statement. “However, the current lease is at its end of term, and the increased rent that would be required to stay in the location makes it economically impossible for us to extend the lease.”

It has been a bumpy year for Barnes & Noble, the country’s largest book chain, with 720 stores. Sales and store traffic have suffered as the book business has shifted online; Amazon has held its early lead in the e-reader war; and early this month, Barnes & Noble put itself up for sale and is now in the midst of a battle for control of the company with Ronald W. Burkle, the billionaire investor.

Read more http://alturl.com/io3xc

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