Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue

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.

Read and learn more

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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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