Industry Outlook Bright
Despite the predictions of gray skies that have become increasingly prevalent in forecasts for the book publishing industry, a recent survey conducted by Book Business shows that the large majority of industry executives still cast an optimistic eye toward the future. In addition, most respondents foresee a lucrative long-term future for their companies and appear unconcerned that digital-format books will eventually replace print.
Sixty-eight percent of those surveyed replied they feel “optimistic” about the industry’s future and another 10 percent are “very optimistic.” Just 16 percent consider themselves to be “pessimistic.”
Furthermore, these executives appear to, for the most part, have high hopes for their own companies over the next year, with more than half anticipating growth. Forty-five percent anticipate a “moderate increase” in growth and another 13 percent predict a “substantial increase.” Five percent see “moderate” or “substantial” declines in their companies’ growth.
Along those lines, more companies plan to add staff over the next year than cut staff. Four percent of respondents believe their companies will “lay off staff” in the next year, while 22 percent predict staff additions, and 42 percent anticipate “no change.”
Despite all the controversy over the past year with Google and questions over other mega-search sites’ impact on the industry, most publishing executives actually view Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and other search tools as a good thing for the industry as a whole. Fifty-eight percent said they view them as positive, and 27 percent were unsure. Just 9 percent of respondents believe that these searches will have a negative impact.
When queried about whether digital-format books will eventually replace print books, 1 percent responded “completely” and 11 percent said “mostly.” Forty-nine percent of those surveyed replied “somewhat,” 28 percent said “not much” and another 11 percent said “not at all.”
Of course, those polled did identify a number of concerns facing their companies and the industry as a whole. Specifically, four issues were cited more often than any others: “generating new revenue”; “book manufacturing costs”; “marketing and promotion of my titles”; and “developing a multimedia strategy.” “[I’m concerned about] printing costs, because we do four-color travel guides for kids,” says Matthew Rosenberger, president of ABC Travel Guides for Kids, a small, Philadelphia-based publisher. “Our printing costs are high … but my cost margin is pretty tight, because I’m selling at a 40- to 50-percent discount, and my per-unit cost is such that it’s expensive,” he explains. “Until now I’ve done all of my printing in the United States, but I’m now looking to China, and I recently made a connection with a couple of printers there because the costs are considerably less, although even that’s changing now, too, with rising oil costs.”