Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue

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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05/19/2011

Despite E-Book Popularity, Traditional U.S. Print Title Output Increases


Traditional Print Publishing is Not Going Anywhere...Just Yet

I have touched on this subject several times in the past…Who the hell said print is dead? Because the figures damn sure don’t back up that postulation!

 
This even fresher evidence comes by way of the Bowker bibliographic information database as reported via press release in the Sacramento Bee:
 
Print Isn’t Dead, Says Bowker’s Annual Book Production Report
Traditional publishing grows a modest 5%, while POD sends print total over a record 3 million 

Bowker, the global leader in bibliographic information, released its annual report on U.S. print book publishing, compiled from its Books In Print® database.  Based on preliminary figures from U.S. publishers, Bowker is projecting that despite the popularity of e-books, traditional U.S. print title output in 2010 increased 5%.  Output of new titles and editions increased from 302,410 in 2009 to a projected 316,480 in 2010. The 5% increase comes on the heels of a 4% increase the previous year based on the final 2008-2009 figures.

The non-traditional sector continues its explosive growth, increasing 169% from 1,033,065 in 2009 to an amazing 2,776,260 in 2010.  These books, marketed almost exclusively on the web, are largely on-demand titles produced by reprint houses specializing in public domain works and by presses catering to self-publishers and “micro-niche” publications.   

“These publication figures from both traditional and non-traditional publishers confirm that print production is alive and well, and can still be supported in this highly dynamic marketplace,” said Kelly Gallagher, vice president of publishing services for Bowker. “Especially on the non-traditional side, we’re seeing the reprint business’ internet-driven business model expand dramatically. It will be interesting to see in the coming years how well it succeeds in the long-term.”

In traditional publishing, SciTech continues to drive growth

Continuing the trend seen last year, science and technology were the leading areas of growth as consumers purchased information for business and careers.  Major increases were seen in Computers (51% over 2009, with an average five-year growth rate of 8%), Science (37% over 2009, with an average five-year growth rate of 12%) and Technology (35% over 2009, with an average five-year growth rate of 11%).  Categories subject to discretionary spending were the top losers, perhaps still feeling the effects of a sluggish economy.  Literature (-29%), Poetry (-15%), History (-12), and Biography (-12%) all recorded double digit declines.  Fiction, which is still the largest category (nearly 15% of the total) dropped 3% from 2009, continuing a decline from peak output in 2007.  Religion (-4%) fell to 4th place behind Science among the largest categories.

Top book production categories:

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02/04/2011

Publishing Pother Makes No Dent in Professional Book Publishing


Professional book publishing; which includes the legal, medical, business, scientific and technical fields; has weathered the chaotic publishing field  transformation of late and has pretty much maintained a steady flow of publishing flurry…to the tune of approximately 13 billion in 2010!

New professional books have busily occupied actual shelf space in bookstores and libraries as well as staked out new real estate in the e-book and digital online world.

Simba Information, the leading authority for market intelligence in the media and publishing industry, spills some data from it’s “Global Professional Publishing 2009-2010” report that I picked up from a MarketWire press release:

Professional books, still a foundational reference source for most working professionals, grew 1.1% to $13.9 billion in 2010, an initial step toward a full recovery. Media and publishing forecast firm Simba Information’s latest report, “Global Professional Publishing 2009-2010,” details the resilience of professional books through the recession and the explosive adoption of electronic models.

After losing sales in 2009 due to contracted library budgets and decreased exports, professional book publishing, which includes the legal, medical, business, scientific and technical fields, has nearly regained its 2008 position. Although largely due to a recovering economy, new e-book strategies and products from large commercial publishers have helped libraries make the most of their budgets and shelf space. 

“Although publishers have dealt with electronic journals for years, producing electronic books as a viable publishing product is slowly taking hold,” said Dan Strempel, lead author of the report. “E-books are now gaining a prominent foothold within the professional and academic world at large.”

Historically vilified by the scholarly publishing world, search giants, such as Google and Yahoo!, have proven to be a boon to the industry, as added exposure has increased book sales. The report finds publishers are especially excited about Google Books, which allows users to browse sample pages before purchasing the full text or designated sections.

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04/08/2010

Serious Publishing Disruption Over Near Horizon!



Mike Shatzkin, The Idea Logical Blog, has laid out in quite finite detail what many have feared for some time…that the traditional publishing industry will be totally eclipsed by new digital delivery systems and sales in the very near future; blowing away most of those in the present publishing supply chain!

Talk about the on-going intrigue in this fast-changing industry! And God bless those who can’t or won’t adapt to change…

Mike Shatzkin writes:

The monthly release of ebook sales figures by the IDPF provides a regular reminder about how fast this market is growing and it always provokes me to project the curve into the future and think about the implications. It was an IDPF data release that triggered the thought that we needed a “Tipping Points” panel at Digital Book World last January which turned out to be one of the highest-rated presentations by the attendees of the conference. And it was another release of that data that made me say on this blog on March 22 that I thought ebook sales would reach 20-25 percent of the sales for new works of narrative writing by the time of Obama’s reelection in November 2012.

Then last week, The Economist had a story quoting Carolyn Reidy, the CEO of Simon & Schuster, forecasting S&S ebook sales in that range in “3 to 5 years.” This is the first time that I’m aware of that a Big Six CEO has been willing to put their name on a forecast that is just about as aggressive as my own. Another conversation with the head of another one of the Big Six companies captured a forecast that is in the same ballpark.

So I think it is worth a few moments to contemplate what it means if this forecast is accurate, or even close to accurate.

If by the end of 2012, 25% of sales for a new book are digital, then about half of new book sales will be made through online purchases if we count the print book sales made through online retailers (mostly Amazon.)

Online print sales can be served through inventory generated on demand. So, if these estimates are right, we are less than three years away from a publisher (or author) being able to reach half the market for a book without inventory risk!

Having half the market reachable without print-run risk or inventory storage; having half the customers connecting with their reading through online paths that make them at least theoretically identifiable; and having a quarter of those customers reading through a medium that enables interactivity will make all the changes we’ve seen so far in trade publishing appear trivial. And if the very perspicacious Carolyn Reidy, her unnamed counterpart, and I are right, that disruption is going to take place before many books now under contract reach their publication date.

The immediately disruptive effects of this, for which every major publisher should be preparing right now, include:

1. Publishers are going to really have to rethink the development process for their ebooks. Right now, publishers put their creative energy into optimizing print books; ebooks are an afterthought. The most forward-thinking houses are going to XML workflows which will reduce the costs of conversion to ebook formats. But are any of them fundamentally rethinking how the editor and author shape the project to optimize the ebook experience? That working relationship is going to have to undergo fundamental change.

2. It will be eminently sensible to launch books with a no-inventory strategy and move to press runs with returns allowable when reviews or sales have proven that it makes sense. Of course, publishers will be happy to sell anytime on a no-returns basis and for some books launched “digital first” there could be enough no-returns demand to generate a printing, but the idea of printing and distributing speculatively will make less and less sense as the potential market to be reached by that tactic diminishes as a share of the whole. By the way, this reality would give B&N, the only retailer with its own DC resupply infrastructure, an additional competitive advantage.

3. A non-US publisher will be able to reach half the US market without needing an operation of any kind in the States. This is a sea-change that could even encourage our UK counterparts to reconsider their staunch defense of territorial rights. We already know that the greatest part of marketing value beyond the display and positioning in a bookstore is generated online. That means it can be done from anywhere without a local nexus. By the end of 2012, we’re saying half of all the sales potential can also be reached with the product without a local nexus: no requirement of local inventory or any shipping or revenue collection facility beyond your digital distribution and print-on-demand partner.

4. Because books or ebooks will be purchased by half of their customers electronically, the potential exists to know exactly who those are and to establish interaction with them. Obviously, the intermediaries have both selfish and customer-oriented reasons not to share data, but for ebooks, at least, publishers will find hooks to get readers to check in with the publisher and establish contact. (Of course, they will also be selling more and more units direct to consumers, without any intermediary at all.) This opportunity presents a new battleground for competitive advantage that publishers will have to pursue both for marketing and for author relations.

5. Publishers will have to start devoting the bandwidth and resources to direct sales that they devote to intermediary sales today. The notional 50-50 split of sales between terrestrial and online means that half the sales are actually direct sales. Publishers will increasingly find ways to influence those sales decisions, but the companies that devote management attention and resources to the challenge will find those ways faster, to their competitive advantage.

6. There’s an inevitable concurrent downward spiral of brick-and-mortar retail inherent in this forecast that sales are moving online. The nearly-limitless online selection has been an increasingly powerful magnet since the day Amazon opened and in the new paradigm there will be a growing body of talked-about content not visible on store shelves. It is beyond the scope of today’s speculation to consider what this means for the strategy and survival of bookstores and wholesalers and for publishers’ expectations for them, but it’s not likely to be pretty.

7. Self-publishing strategies for entities that can do the marketing become much more compelling. It is no secret that an author can make more money on each copy sold managing her own publication through Lulu or Author Solutions or Bookmasters. If half the market is directly available without regard to the effectiveness of a field sales force then we can be sure, at the very least, new title acquisition will be more challenging for established publishers. The big players will still be the only big bankrolls in town, but that’s a two-edged sword that can lead to overspending and losses as well as to securing desirable projects.

8. If the infrastructure for direct sales management at most publishers will be woefully lacking, the infrastructure for print warehousing and delivering print orders at most houses is likely to be heavily underutilized. That should lead to a reduction in the charges for distribution services, adding pressure to a business that will already suffer from the growing viability of no-inventory publishing. And publishers with volume-related pricing contracts with their printers will find they don’t need as much capacity as they contracted for a year or two before.

For the past three years, Ted Hill and I have conceived and organized the program for the Book Industry Study Group’s Making Information Pay conference, coming up on May 6. Our theme this year — Points of No Return — addresses precisely this issue from the perspective of how functions will be organized, what the changing skill sets will be, and how secure people doing jobs today can feel about having a job they can do tomorrow. If you found that this post gave you something to think about, you’ll find MIP a morning very well spent.

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