As I write this, I am not only in the midst of Book Business production, but the holiday season as well—parties, decorating and card writing, and lots of gift shopping. In the course of my shopping, I've managed to buy a few books as presents for, well, myself. (I've been good, Santa, I promise.)
I purchased a biography on my Nook; the hardcover edition of a book with many photos and visual elements that I particularly wanted to have in print on Amazon.com; and a copy of "Philadelphia's Washington Square," a photographic history of one of my favorite sections of the city (and where my first job in publishing happened to be located). As a book buyer, I have officially achieved print-digital integration.
The copy of "Washington Square" was purchased at a holiday party I attended at an independent bookstore in Philadelphia. The event offered customers two hours of wine, cheese and 20-percent off any book in the store. It was the first time I had been in a physical bookstore, particularly an independent bookstore, in quite a while.
I was surprised to find that the tiny store was bursting with staff and customers socializing and discussing books. I also found myself becoming lost in the shelves, discovering titles I didn't know existed and would have never thought to search for on Amazon. It would not have occurred to me to look for, let alone buy, a book on Washington Square until it was peering out at me from a bookstore shelf.
The experience reminded me of a quote from The Wall Street Journal's James B. Stewart that I cited in my editor's note in Book Business' September/October 2010 issue. In that quote, Stewart talked about new opportunities for independent booksellers and the importance of their role in fostering communities of book lovers. I felt this particular bookstore was putting Stewart's theory into practice. Of course, it is easy to connect and engage with other bibliophiles online, and the recent launch of Google's eBookstore will further facilitate the discovery of book titles via the Internet (see this issue's "Digital Directions" column on page 34 for in-depth analysis of the eBookstore launch)—but I believe there are aspects of an in-store experience that cannot be replicated online, and I hope more bookstores continue to capitalize on them.
Anticipating the New Year
In addition to holiday planning and celebrations, it is also a time for looking ahead to a new year. By the time you read this, 2010 will be one for the history books, and 2011 will be upon us. In the spirit of the new year, our editorial staff planned a cover story for this issue to take the temperature of the book publishing industry by speaking with executives from various sectors about their plans and predictions for 2011 (see page 14). We also conducted a "2011 Industry Outlook" survey of Book Business readers that inquired about everything from projected marketing spending and e-book growth to key distribution channels in the coming year. For a summary of readers' responses, see page 19.
After reading through the survey responses and insights provided by the executives interviewed in the cover story, I was left with the impression that the industry is moving in the right direction. The past couple years have been difficult, to say the least, but most of us are seeing at least glimmers of light at the end of the tunnel. More than 60 percent of our survey respondents indicated that they are either "very optimistic" or "moderately optimistic" about 2011 for the book publishing industry.
Many publishers also appear to be more and more comfortable with the integration of digital products into their business portfolios as they plan for the coming year—according to our survey, 81 percent of respondents expect to increase the number of e-books they produce in 2011. And while they may not yet have the digital piece of their publishing puzzle entirely figured out, they're still charging ahead into e-books as well as mobile applications and more. Even companies that seem to be ahead of the curve in the digital arena (such as McGraw-Hill Professional [see page 12]—which foresaw and started preparing for the print-to-digital trend years prior, according to President Philip Ruppel—and Vook [see page 22]—which has published more than 100 enhanced e-books in about a year and a half) admit that they are still experimenting and fine-tuning, which makes me feel like we all truly are in this together.
As I wrap up this issue and 2010, I hope all of you are celebrating the holidays, celebrating books and looking toward 2011 as a year of optimism and opportunity. Happy New Year!