Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue

07/17/2015

Is It Possible That Amazon Is Not ‘All’ Bad News For Publishers?


Might Amazon’s debilitating effect on local shops be about to change?

For the past 20 years Amazon has disrupted the publishing industry from stem to stern. Could it be that much of the resulting adaptation and metamorphosis has actually been good news for publishers?

Depends on what you consider. What kind of publisher? What kind of book? Book audience location. Book platform. Book distribution system access. Digital technology, etc., etc.

Hell, many of these considerations weren’t even in existence 20 years ago! And while Amazon didn’t create or discover all of the above mentioned ingredients, they were the first to mix them in a masterful menu – creating a smorgasbord of possibilities – the understanding of which is still being deciphered today.

Tonight’s topic will discuss the how’s and where’s of some of the possible positive changes that Amazon has wrought within the publishing industry and the reaction/attitude of the big five publishing houses as well as others (Bowker’s, etc.) in the overall industry.

Key excerpts from tonight’s research/resource article:

“It has been presented as a David and Goliath battle. This is despite the underdog status of the largest publishing houses in the world. As Amazon has become the primary destination for books online, it has been able to lower book prices through their influence over the book trade. Many have argued that this has reduced the book to “a thing of minimal value”.”

“Despite this pervasive narrative of the evil overlord milking its underlings for all their worth, Amazon has actually offered some positive changes in the publishing industry over the last 20 years. Most notably, the website has increased the visibility of books as a form of entertainment in a competitive media environment. This is an achievement that should not be diminished in our increasingly digital world.”

Presenting:

Amazon is 20 years old – and far from bad news for publishers

By , as published in The Conversation (UK). Academic rigor, journalistic flair  

It has now been 20 years since Amazon sold its first book: the titillating-sounding Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies, by Douglas Hofstadter. Since then publishers have often expressed concern over Amazon. Recent public spates with Hachette and Penguin Random House have heightened the public’s awareness of this fraught relationship.

It has been presented as a David and Goliath battle. This is despite the underdog status as the largest publishing houses in the world. As Amazon has become the primary destination for books online, it has been able to lower book prices through their influence over the book trade. Many have argued that this has reduced the book to “a thing of minimal value”.

Despite this pervasive narrative of the evil overlord milking its underlings for all their worth, Amazon has actually offered some positive changes in the publishing industry over the last 20 years. Most notably, the website has increased the visibility of books as a form of entertainment in a competitive media environment. This is an achievement that should not be diminished in our increasingly digital world.

Democratising data

In Amazon’s early years, Jeff Bezos, the company’s CEO, was keen to avoid stocking books. Instead, he wanted to work as a go-between for customers and wholesalers. Instead of building costly warehouses, Amazon would instead buy books as customers ordered them. This would pass the savings on to the customers. (It wasn’t long, however, until Amazon started building large warehouses to ensure faster delivery times.)

This promise of a large selection of books required a large database of available books for customers to search. Prior to Amazon’s launch, this data was available to those who needed it from Bowker’s Books in Print, an expensive data source run by the people who controlled the International Standardised Book Number (ISBN) standard in the USA.

ISBN was the principle way in which people discovered books, and Bowker controlled this by documenting the availability of published and forthcoming titles. This made them one of the most powerful companies in the publishing industry and also created a division between traditional and self-published books.

Bowker allowed third parties to re-use their information, so Amazon linked this data to their website. Users could now see any book Bowker reported as available. This led to Amazon’s boasts that they had the largest bookstore in the world, despite their lack of inventory in their early years. But many other book retailers had exactly the same potential inventory through access to the same suppliers and Bowker’s Books in Print.

Amazon’s decision to open up the data in Bowker’s Books in Print to customers democratised the ability to discover of books that had previously been locked in to the sales system of physical book stores. And as Amazon’s reputation improved, they soon collected more data than Bowker.

For the first time, users could access data about what publishers had recently released and basic information about forthcoming titles. Even if customers did not buy books from Amazon, they could still access the information. This change benefited publishers as readers who can quickly find information about new books are more likely to buy new books.

World domination?

As Amazon expanded beyond books, ISBN was no longer the most useful form for recalling information about items they sold. So the company came up with a new version: Amazon Standardized Identifier Numbers (ASINs), Amazon’s equivalent of ISBNs. This allowed customers to shop for books, toys and electronics in one place.

The ASIN is central to any Amazon catalogue record and with Amazon’s expansion into selling eBooks and second hand books, it connects various editions of books. ASINs are the glue that connect eBooks on the Kindle to shared highlights, associated reviews, and second hand print copies on sale. Publishers, and their supporters, can use ASINs as a way of directing customers to relevant titles in new ways.

Will Cookson’s Bookindy is an example of this. The mobile app allows readers to find out if a particular book is available for sale cheaper than Amazon in an independent bookstore nearby. So Amazon’s advantage of being the largest source of book-related information is transformed into a way to build the local economy.

ASINs are primarily useful for finding and purchasing books from within the Amazon bookstore, but this is changing. For example, many self-published eBooks don’t have ISBNs, so Amazon’s data structure can be used to discover current trends in the publishing industry. Amazon’s data allows publishers to track the popularity of books in all forms and shape their future catalogues based on their findings.

While ISBNs will remain the standard for print books, ASIN and Amazon’s large amount of data clearly benefits publishers through increasing their visibility. Amazon have forever altered bookselling and the publishing industry, but this does not mean that its large database cannot be an invaluable resource for publishers who wish to direct customers to new books outside of Amazon.

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04/11/2014

In Publishing, which is Most Important: Technology or Content?


In publishing – new tech needs content to flourish!

Not only traditional publishers – but digital publishers as well – are struggling with the new publishing industry virus ‘CD’.

Now, just what is ‘CD’? It is the ‘Constant Disruption’ caused by rapid-fire changes in publishing and media technology and their impact on content strategy in old and new publishing circles.

Content in a printed, fixed-form format dictates much of the story — the font used, the subtleties of the fixed page design, etc. What some have called the ‘story container’.

But, as media channels and formats have mixed, merged, morphed and multiplied at warp speed – the necessity of format-free content is rising forth!

But, despite the format, the content still holds more weight than the ever-evolving technology. After all, “Great storytelling is great storytelling, whether it’s on a tablet or a cave wall.” – Say Media’s CTO David Lerman.

Just as they did when desktop publishing replaced typesetting and manual markup, writers and editors need to develop new skills!

Why? You will find out why by reading tonight’s research article.

Key excerpt: “Web-led, and cloud-based content systems are clearly on the rise, despite the present stopgap of turning print page layout systems into tools for generating native tablet and smartphone apps. Nimble content creation and management tools are still in their infancy, and will improve dramatically over the next five years. However, we cannot afford to forget that content engagement depends on the art of the story, and that great storytellers can thrive in spite of (or hopefully with the aid of) the tools they use.

 

Technology or Content: Which Comes First?

John Parsons, FOLIO magazine

 

Marshall McLuhan’s famous dictum tells us that the form of a medium is inherently part of the message itself. Content in printed magazine form, for example, dictates many aspects of the story-from its written style and word count to the subtleties of fixed page design. The shape of a “story container” leaves its mark on the story itself.

Now, however, as media channels mix, merge, and multiply at breakneck speed, the idea of format-free content is an attractive one. If only content could be created once and output more or less automatically to multiple channels. To test the practical implications of that idea, we spoke with a number of publishers. At the heart of our discussion were content authoring and management technology, plus the chicken-and-egg question that makes modern content strategy so difficult.

It’s About the Story

We spoke with two traditional magazine publishers (Source Interlink and Forbes) and two pure-play digital companies (Say Media and Glam). Although the four represent wildly diverse audiences and demographics, some common themes and strategies emerged.

Most agree that effective narrative remains as the essential ingredient for success, no matter how strange and distracting the various media channels and platforms may seem. “The tools and tricks change with the medium, but the fundamentals of storytelling never do,” says Say Media’s CTO David Lerman. “Great storytelling is great storytelling, whether it’s on a tablet or a cave wall.”

Each company we interviewed is embracing the disruptive nature of an always-connected audience, both in terms of content creation technology and in dealing with the implications for its writers and editors. The traditional publishers are concerned about
the continuing role of print, but are remarkably upbeat about it.

“Long term, the future of print is as a premium format,” says Source Interlink’s chief content officer Angus MacKenzie. He notes that the diversity of brand-centered content made possible by new media platforms can now be curated to produce a vastly superior “best of” printed edition. Such a product, he reasons, would have enduring financial value to subscribers and advertisers.

Content curation is also a common theme. Glam Media CEO Samir Arora notes that only professionally created content-curated for quality and discoverability-could create lasting value for a brand. “Social collecting, sharing, and remixing of information can be done by any consumer,” he says. “Content creation should be from professional content businesses, authors, and studios.”

Expertise Matters

We spoke with Forbes Media’s chief product officer Lewis D’Vorkin, who is enthusiastic about both the core expertise of the company’s content creators and the technology they use. Forbes writers, editors, and contributors use the company’s Falcon publishing platform and a customized version of WordPress to create and edit content. Users may search for details of their own and related content, incorporate photos from a secure library, embed elements such as video, and publish selected content to Forbes channels and social media. The permission-based, on-screen editing tools have significantly compressed journalistic time frames, and extended the reach of Forbes’ team of journalists and contributors, D’Vorkin notes.

Although the right tools are important, D’Vorkin emphasizes that a rigorous onboarding process has resulted in the team of experts who are at the heart of Forbes’ content strategy. “Once we vet contributors, we give them the tools to self-publish, without there being a gatekeeper in the way,” he says. “Our system, both human and technological, is designed to monitor content very carefully and quickly-after publishing it.”

Part of the feedback involves subscriber feedback, which each content creator is required to monitor. “In every layer of our system, there is a built-in ‘meritocracy filter,’ which includes the audience,” he adds. “Our commenting system requires that the author engage with comments from the community. He or she can simply say ‘yes, I approve this comment,’ meaning that it’s productive, or disagrees with me in a productive way, or it takes the story forward.”

See also: Media Execs Share Game-Changing Tech Initiatives

Once the author approves the comment, it’s displayed with the article by default. “You can find the comments of anybody who’s just yelling, screaming, and being irrational, if you want, but it’s an extra click,” D’Vorkin says. “Because of that system, most people have figured that out. They then decide not to comment-unless they’re going to bring their A game.”

Continue reading here

 

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01/18/2014

Despite Gadgets, Content (Letters and words) is Still King – And Content Creators are Kingmakers!


Publishing Guru Bo Sacks

The latest bunch of hot, new, tech gadgets has just marched forth from CES (The International CES is a global consumer electronics and consumer technology trade show that takes place every January in Las Vegas, Nevada) — and some will affect publishing even further, just as 3D covers, shopping inside the pages of a digital issue, stand alone apps, etc., have in the recent present and past.

But, regardless of the bells and whistles of the new tech, they are just bows tied around what is being presented: CONTENT. And, if the letters and words do not engage, entertain, educate or offer some other value/interest, the newness and fascination of the bells and whistles will diminish fast.

Hence, content is STILL the bottom line — No matter which tech embroidered platform spouts it forth.

Today, publishers are presented with so many opportunities and innovations they often get overwhelmed and don’t know what to prioritize first. Readers, on the other hand, get so much free info and data offered that they get ‘information overload’.

Many feel that publishing’s main problem revolves around the fracas between digital and print.

However, one expert (who I will present tonight) believes ‘the real problem is diversity and fragmentation of our readership‘.

So, what does this mean?

Tonight’s source article from  of ClickZ is an interview with publishing industry guruBo Sacks. The interview delves into this concept of readership fragmentation due to new tech and what it means to publishers today:

Publishing Industry Guru Bo Sacks Shares Tips for 2014 Success

Hot off the heels of innovations and connected devices galore at CES, publishers have a world of opportunity in front of them. There’s so much opportunity it can often get difficult to decide what to prioritize first. For some insights and advice on 2014, we go straight to the ultimate expert in publisher success and sustainability: Bo Sacks.

JM: With so many innovations launching, (including the rise of content marketing), do publishers really need to think differently about the way they do business? Or, is all of this just noise?

Bo: The concept that “isn’t it really all the same as it ever was” is at the heart of the problem for all publishers. Many perceive that the whole problem just revolves around the battle between paper vs. digital substrates. That concept has distracted most professionals and isn’t at the core of the issue.

The real problem is diversity and fragmentation of our readership. And there are two factors going on here.

  1. Ease: There is just too much easy access to the a world of information. We all hold robust communication devices in our hands formally known as smartphones. These communicators empower anyone one to access information either on the fly on in the comfort of their own home. These instant portable electronic librarians offer the reading public limitless reading opportunities where none existed before. So we are reading more now than ever before, but not on traditional substrates.
  2. Mass: Publishers were once the best businesses at identifying groups and niches and selling them words and related materials based on their specific interest. What technology has done is to separate and disperse our old niches into sub-set camps of platform devotees. Where once Meredith had all of America’s housewives locked up in reading a single printed magazines like Better Homes and Gardens, now even the niche of housewife’s is broken into smaller subsets, as iPad reader, Kobo Reader, Kindle reader, and paper reader. This has broken the former single straight line to the reader into readers with multiple personalities, different needs and assorted commercial desires.

Article continues here — And you know you want to complete this publishing insight 🙂

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10/13/2013

Books Don’t Want to be Sold for Free


Is publishing, as it was, doomed? Probably not completely, but many fear for the fate of publishing for good reasons. Hell, Barnes and Noble’s book shelf space is shrinking, being replaced with doodads for the desk, toys, magnifying glasses, etc.; the hopeful savior Nook is proving unsustainable and five major publishers have hefty payouts due to loosing their price-fixing suit!

But, in spite of all this turmoil, if you step back and take a broader view, books are not failing, falling or disintegrating pricewise as products of other cultural industries have due to the digital revolution.

According to Evan Hughes (who has written for such publications as The New York Review of Books, the London Review of BooksThe New York TimesThe New RepublicThe Boston Globe,n+1, and The Awl): “If you’re in the business of selling journalism, moving images, or music, you have seen your work stripped of value by the digital revolution. Translate anything into ones and zeroes, and it gets easier to steal and harder to sell at a sustainable price. Yet people remain willing to fork over a decent sum for books, whether in print or in electronic form. “I can buy songs for 99 cents, I can read most newspapers for free, I can rent a $100 million movie tonight for $2.99,” Russ Grandinetti, Amazon’s vice president of Kindle content, told me in January. “Paying $9.99 for a best-selling book—paying $10 for bits?—is in many respects a very strong accomplishment for the business.” 

In other words – books have a stronger cultural value and appreciation AND, therefore, staying power. Another reason books have fared better than their cultural cousins (music, movies, television, journalism articles) is ‘the book is so low-tech, it’s hard for technology to degrade it.’

To find out just how digital by-products such as disaggregation, bundling, piracy and other outside influences have crushed all the cultural products EXCEPT the book you will find the follow-on article from the New Republic by Evan Hughes indispensable and a great read:

Books Don’t Want to Be Free

How publishing escaped the cruel fate of other culture industries

You hardly have to wait in line at Barnes & Noble anymore. The cashiers stare into the middle distance, while on the sales floor, space for books steadily erodes. Instead: toys, magnifying glasses, doodads for the desk. Also: Nook devices, which are supposed to represent the future. Except the Nook division is actually doing worse than the stores themselves. Independent booksellers still have not recovered from the last decade’s brutality. And five major publishers just learned that, as part of their settlement of a price-fixing suit, they’ll have to refund about $3 for every electronic copy of a New York Times best-seller that they sold over a 25-month period. Reasons to fear for the fate of publishing are not difficult to find, and neither are the prophets of doom.

Step back and look at books in a wider context, though, and the picture changes. If you’re in the business of selling journalism, moving images, or music, you have seen your work stripped of value by the digital revolution. Translate anything into ones and zeroes, and it gets easier to steal and harder to sell at a sustainable price. Yet people remain willing to fork over a decent sum for books, whether in print or in electronic form. “I can buy songs for 99 cents, I can read most newspapers for free, I can rent a $100 million movie tonight for $2.99,” Russ Grandinetti, Amazon’s vice president of Kindle content, told me in January. “Paying $9.99 for a best-selling book—paying $10 for bits?—is in many respects a very strong accomplishment for the business.” At the individual level, everyone in the trade—whether executive, editor, agent, author, or bookseller—faces threats to his or her livelihood: self-publishing, mergers and “efficiencies,” and, yes, the suspicious motives of Amazon executives. But the book itself is hanging on and even thriving. More than any major cultural product, it has retained its essential worth.Of course, publishers think that $9.99 is still too low for popular e-books, an assessment that drove their ill-fated effort to work with Apple to take control of what they cost. (After racking up legal bills that “look like the unit sales numbers of Fifty Shades of Grey,”as one of their CEOs put it, the houses settled anyway and incurred that $3 penalty and a raft of other punishments.) It may be that a higher price would be more equitable. But other media still have reason to look at the relative economic health of the book with envy. Putting together an album requires not just the talents of the musician, but expensive instruments and recording equipment, costly studio space, and a team of engineers and technicians. Each edition of a newspaper consumes enormous resources. Movies and television involve sinking millions into performers, crews, and effects. Yet audiences have come to believe they should get all that on the cheap, if not for free. Meanwhile, books—not as complex a production—have held up much better.

Continued at article source

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07/11/2013

The World’s First Truly Global Trade Book Publishing Company?


The Penguin Random House merger comes with costs you won’t find on a price sticker

‘A wave of consolidation has snapped what made imprints distinctive.’ – Boris Kachka

Does everyone really know just what the hell an ‘imprint’ is?

Is it a ‘bought’ company that now comes under the management and rules of the ‘buyer’ company but can still fly its own flag over its published works (sort of like a consolation prize for selling out)?

Or, as WikiAnswers defines it: it is the ‘ “brand name” under which a book is published. Most major publishers have at least a few imprints. Some of these imprints are organized as subsidiaries, or “companies within a company,” with their own editorial staffs, release lists, etc. Others are strictly brand names slapped on a book purchased and edited somewhere in the corporation. (According to Wikipedia, Random House, the world’s largest English-language trade book publisher, has more than 50 imprints.)

While the above definitions may be partially accurate (?) Wikipedia probably has the ‘most’ accurate idea of a publishing house imprint simply because it is the most complicated (like all things Re legacy publishing) 🙂 :

‘In the publishing industry, an imprint can mean several different things:

  • A piece of bibliographic information about a book, it refers to the name and address of the book’s publisher and its date of publication as given at the foot or on the verso of its title page.[1]
  • It can mean a trade name under which a work is published.[citation needed] One single publishing company may have multiple imprints; the different imprints are used by the publisher to market works to different demographic consumer segments. In some cases, the diversity results from the takeover of smaller publishers (or parts of their business) by a larger company. This usage of the word has evolved from the first meaning given above.
  • It can also refer to a finer distinction of a book’s version than “edition“.[citation needed] This is used to distinguish, for example different printings, or printing runs of the same edition, or to distinguish the same edition produced by a different publisher or printer. With the creation of the “ISBN” identification system, which is assigned to a text prior to its printing, a different imprint has effectively come to mean a text with a different ISBN—if one had been assigned to it.
  • Under the UK Printer’s Imprint Act 1961,[2] which amended the earlier Newspapers, Printers, and Reading Rooms Repeal Act 1869, any printer must put their name and address on the first or last leaf of every paper or book they print or face a penalty of up to £50 per copy. In addition, under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, any election material – including websites – must show the name of the promoter of the material and the name and address of the person on whose behalf it is being published.’

Actually though, imprints (and how they are or are not allowed to operate) have a greater affect on readers and writers when publishers consolidate as just happened with Random House and Penguin.

After consolidation, some companies prevent their imprints from bidding against one another for manuscripts. This results in not only lower advances for writers — ‘but also fewer options for writers to get the kind of painstaking attention — from editors, marketers and publicists — that it takes to turn their manuscripts into something valuable.’

Boris Kachka writes these details in The New York Times:

Book Publishing’s Big Gamble 

“IT’S official,” Alfred A. Knopf Sr. tweeted last week. “We’re now #PenguinRandomHouse.”

Mr. Knopf — or rather his ghostly avatar, the actual publisher havingsold his namesake firm to Random House in 1960, died in 1984 and rolled over many times since — was celebrating the largest book-publishing merger in history.

The mergerannounced last October and completed on July 1 after regulatory approval, shrinks the Big Six, which publish about two-thirds of books in the United States, down to the Big Five. HarperCollins has reportedly been flirting with Simon & Schuster, which would take it down to four. (The others are Hachette and Macmillan.)

The creation of Penguin Random House (“the world’s first truly global trade book publishing company”) is partly a response to unprecedented pressures on these “legacy” publishers — especially from Amazon, which came out on the winning end of an antitrust lawsuit over the setting of e-book prices. It is also a way to gain leverage and capital in an industry that has been turned upside down. This endgame may be inevitable, but its consequences can’t be ignored.

Consolidation carries costs you won’t find on a price sticker. Dozens of formerly independent firms have been folded into this conglomerate: not just Anchor, Doubleday, Dutton, Knopf, Pantheon, G. P. Putnam’s Sons and Viking, which still wield significant resources, but also storied names like Jonathan Cape, Fawcett, Grosset & Dunlap, and Jeremy P. Tarcher. Many of these have been reduced to mere imprints, brands stamped on a book’s title page, though every good imprint bears the faint mark of a bygone firm with its own mission and sensibility.

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06/12/2013

Delving Deeper Into the New Professional Publishing Ecosystem


Delving deeper into new publishing ecosystem

The changing publishing system is about so much more than just ebooks and print books — and what each of these ‘formats’ (and that’s ALL they are – just formats of the ‘printed word’) are doing to each other or to the publishing industry in general.

There has been some real structural changes to writing and publishing processes that enable some truly amazing things — and these changes are not related so much to past publishing industry changes as to entirely new concepts that were just not foreseeable in the ‘Gutenberg past’ that so many can’t seem to shake out of; especially when arguing ‘publishing-change-that-really-isn’t-change-but-just-an-extension-of-past-changes’.

“Draft”, a streamlined online word processor with version control, seems to be a good place to attempt this, hopefully, enlightening discussion:

By Eric Eldon in Tech Crunch:

 

In Writing Platform Push, Draft Lets You Collaborate Then Publish Anywhere

Draft, a streamlined online word processor with version control, is getting deeper into the new professional publishing ecosystem.

The one-man team of Nathan Kontny has just introduced a new REST API that’ll let any news outfit or other publishing organization connect Draft to the other software it uses. If you’re BuzzFeed or The Huffington Post* or another media company with a big mix of full- and part-time writers, you could use the API to let writers and editors work through versions together in Draft then publish straight to your custom content management system.

Meanwhile, if you’re running a group blog using a standard setup from WordPress or Blogger and you want a more pristine, versioned environment, Draft now lets you publish from it to them.

Since launching in March, it has also added features to publish to Tumblr, Twitter and most recently LinkedIn and MailChimp (which should be particularly useful to content marketers).

Beyond publishing out, Kontny has also made it much easier to pull in content for a draft. He’s added audio and video transcription, a two-way sync tool with file storage services like Dropbox, Evernote, and Google Drive, and a Chrome extension that lets you pull text into a new or existing draft.

Pulling in content

The updates have been coming fast. He’s also built commenting so collaborators can discuss specific sections of a draft, and simple social analytics that let you measure tweets about your writing based on word count, day of the week and reading comprehension level.

Draft, and private-beta competitors like Editorially and Poetica (please invite me, folks) are trying to create a new writing-centric platform to go along with the leading publishing tools of the day. It plays friendly with publishing tools, but isn’t trying to deal with website design and hosting or massive backend content management.

The API and publishing options, the transcription and syncing tools, and comments all help it toward that goal.

I have a suggestion…

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05/16/2013

Traditional Publishing Will be Usurped by Digital – But – Print Will Remain in Serious, Non-Fiction Literary Efforts


Gayle Feldman, New York based author and correspondent of “The Bookseller”, receives an exclusive interview with China.org.cn on May 8, 2013. [China.org.cn]

Here we go again – Pitting traditional publishing against indie and self-publishing; print format against digital format; old school business model against new business model, etc. – Which will be the last man standing?

How about ALL — just in different suits. 

Gayle Feldman, a deeply vetted world traveler and widely experienced 30 year veteran of the writing/publishing field, shares many of the same views held by yours truly Re the present and future state of publishing.

A little relevant background from her biography:

“Gayle became the New York correspondent for the London-based Bookseller in 1999, for which she writes a monthly “Letter from New York. 

Other essays – about her family, China, and books and writers – have appeared in The Times of London, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Los Angeles Times, The Far Eastern Economic Review, and on the Op-Ed page, in the Science section, and in the Book Review of The New York Times.

After being awarded a Pew-funded National Arts Journalism Program fellowship at Columbia University in 2001-2, Gayle Feldman spent a year and a half researching and writing a hundred-page study of bestsellers and prize-winning books to show how the book business evolved during the last quarter of the twentieth century as well as the directions it is taking early in the twenty-first century. Published by NAJP as a monograph, Best and Worst of Times: The Changing Business of Trade Books was published in March 2003, and has been reported or quoted in The New York Times, The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, The Boston Globe, NPR’s On the Media, etc.”

Zhang Junmian, China.org.cn, reported on Gayle’s exclusive interview on May 8:

Print publishing’s digital challenge

“In the future, print books will continue, but e-books will inevitably grow and dominate some publishing sectors,” New York based author and correspondent of “The Bookseller” Gayle Feldman told China.org.cn in an exclusive interview on May 8. Feldman was commenting on the idea that in the long run, traditional publishing will be usurped by its digital rival.

Feldman, who has worked in publishing for more than 30 years, believes that the traditional publishing sector will continue in spite of an increasingly digitized world. She believes, however, that the traditional sector should adapt and reinvent itself in order to meet the challenges from both domestic and global markets.

In recent years, the conventional publishing sector has been squeezed by internet use in general as well as tech giants like Google, Apple, and particularly the online retailer Amazon. E-books, now a multi-billion dollar category for the company, surged nearly 70 percent in 2012, Jeff Bezos, founder and chief executive of Amazon, said in late January 2013. In addition, recent news reports have stated that Microsoft is offering US$1 billion to buy Nook Media’s digital assets.

The rise of digital reading and online book stores has also led to the closure of many high street book stores. Borders, the second-largest U.S. bookstore chain, went bankrupt in 2011, while in China, it’s reported that more than 10,000 private brick-and-mortar bookstores were closed between 2008 and 2011.

As well as this, the change-ravaged book business has been gripped by the dual trends of consolidation and dispersion. Consolidation has resulted in a smaller number of large publishers due to mergers and acquisitions — and the number is set to fall further — while dispersion has led to an increasing number of both smaller publishers and self-published authors, according to Feldman.

“Statistics show that about 23 percent of all trade book sales in the United States in 2012 were e-books,” said Feldman. “And [this is] fast growth, given that people [only] began to read e-books in 2009.”

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02/28/2013

Turning the Publishing Industry on its Head


I’m Publishing and I’m upside down !

Today, a good book publishing/marketing/funding model is to make books for your readers versus trying to find readers for your books.

Now, think about this for a moment — Where have you heard this, or something similar, before?

Hmmm — For those who are really thinking about this concept, it implies that you must first have readers before you write your book, right? This is great for known authors with an established fanbase.

So, how does the newbie or wannabe author get their readers lined up before publishing a book first? (Hint: You must publish something.)

Let me know how you think this can be accomplished.

But, for now, I have found a great, short video (and text) interview with Seth Godin, entrepreneur, author, speaker and book guru of sorts, on the Motley Fool by Brendan Byrnes that delves into this book strategy model a little deeper:

How to Turn the Publishing Industry Upside Down 

The video below is taken from an interview that Motley Fool analyst Brendan Byrnes recently had with Seth Godin, author of The Icarus Deception. Godin is also a talented public speaker, marketing guru, blogger, entrepreneur, and respected thought leader.

Seth’s forward-thinking and contrarian views are critical considerations for finding success in life, business, and investing.

It’s the same approach our own chief investment officer, Andy Cross, took when selecting The Motley Fool’s Top Stock for 2013. I invite you to uncover his market-beating thinking in this new free report. Just click here now for instant access.

Brendan Byrnes: Hey folks, I’m Brendan Byrnes and I’m joined today by Seth Godin, the author of The Icarus Deception. First of all, thank you so much for your time.

Seth Godin: Pleasure.

Brendan: Before we get to the book, I wanted to ask you about an interesting way that you raised money for this book, or what you called “organizing your readers” for the book. How did you do that?

Godin: A lot of people have heard about this new service called Kickstarter. The idea, apparently, is that you can go to folks and say, “I’m an artist. I want to make something. Put up some money so I can get it made.”

What really happens is, most of the public is willing to do it if they get a prize in exchange, so you can say, “You’ll get a copy of my vinyl LP,” “I’ll come to your house and put on a concert.” Different amounts of money get you different prizes.

I saw it growing and resonating with people, but what I realized was it’s very difficult to get a stranger to show up and say, “Yeah, I’m going to fund your work.” I also knew that the hardest part of book publishing is the first 10,000 copies. Getting the first 10,000 people to touch the book is really hard, but then if the book is good, it will spread.

I went to my readers and I said, “I’m doing this Kickstarter. There’s all these different prizes. The cheapest price is $4. You can get a preview of the book when it’s done, digitally, and the most expensive prize is hundreds of dollars and you’ll get eight copies of this and a big copy of that, and this…”

In four hours, I hit my goal and in three days we sold out of everything. People say, “Wow, that’s an overnight success.” Well, no. It took seven years of building an audience that wanted to participate.

(John’s Note: And herein lies the secret key)

I then spent every penny I got, plus a little extra, to make the stuff. I came out with four books at the same time, which was thrilling to do, but from a business point of view what’s interesting is I was making books for my readers, as opposed to trying to find readers for my books. That turns the entire industry upside down.

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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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11/20/2012

HarperCollins Publishers + Simon & Schuster = Publishing Intrigue Squared


Publishing Mergers = Publishing Intrigue

News Corp, owned by good old baddy Rupert Murdoch — AND just coming off a scandal in Jolly Old England (remember his News of the World tabloid having to go out of business due to its illegal spying and wiretapping?) just happens to be the parent to HarperCollins, the suiter for Simon & Schuster — Hell, this might be publishing intrigue cubed !

What all this means is a great deal of intrigue is present and accounted for in the traditional publishing world’s positioning itself as best it can to defuse Amazon’s growing digital publishing threat.

This by CHRISTOPHER S. STEWART and JOHN JANNARONE in The Wall Street Journal (also owned by baddy Rupert):

News Corp. Eyes Book Publisher

News Corp NWSA +0.17%., owner of HarperCollins Publishers, has expressed interest to CBS Corp. CBS +0.84%about acquiring its Simon & Schuster book business, according to people familiar with the talks.

The people described the discussions as preliminary and cautioned that a deal isn’t imminent. News Corp. owns Dow Jones & Co., which publishes The Wall Street Journal.

The conversations come about a month after the owners of two publishing rivals, Random House and Penguin Group, agreed to merge their books businesses into a publishing powerhouse.

News Corp. made a last-minute expression of interest in buying Pearson PSON.LN +0.42%PLC’s Penguin but never made a formal offer. Instead, Penguin agreed to combine with Bertelsmann SE & Co.’s Random House.

For book publishing, an industry dominated by a half-dozen big companies, consolidation is viewed in part as a way to weather the transition to digital media. Combining forces can allow publishers to gain more heft in negotiating terms with retailers, including Amazon.com Inc., industry executives say.

Simon & Schuster, which was founded in 1924 and publishes about 2,000 titles annually, had $1.6 billion in revenue and $90 million in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization in 2011, according to CBS regulatory filings.

News Corp. is in the process of splitting into two listed companies, one containing its entertainment assets, such as the 20th Century Fox film studio and Fox News cable channel, and the other housing publishing assets, including Dow Jones and HarperCollins.

While HarperCollins is relatively small to News Corp. in the media giant’s current form, it could account for more than a fifth of the new publishing company’s roughly $500 million of operating income for the fiscal year ending in June 2013, according to Michael Nathanson of Nomura Securities.

The new publishing company is expected to have a significant amount of cash on its balance sheet, potentially to be used for acquisitions. One motivation for the split is the flexibility to pursue the purchase of old-media companies that may have turned off current News Corp. investors, according to a person familiar with the company’s strategy.

News Corp. recently has shown an appetite in other sectors as it prepares for the split, which is expected to be completed by next June. On Tuesday the company said it had agreed to buy a 49% stake in New York regional sports network YES.

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