Deepening Consumer Insights Takes Priority for Book Publishers in 2015
Do you think that direct selling is a viable strategy for publishers?
I think it is a critical area of exploration and investigation. The disruption that has come into the market through Amazon, and the disappearance of traditional supply chain partners, has led to a lack of data coming back to publishers about their consumers. That lack almost demands that publishers consider selling directly.
The challenge that comes with that is publishers' names are not known like General Motors or HBO. These are highly identifiable brands. Are consumers buying these stellar brand names that you and I know-Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, etc.-or are they buying just by the author? If they just purchase by author, it crimps the publisher's ability to introduce new authors. The real dilemma in direct sales is, "What is my brand?"
We're seeing this with Hachette right now in the very public discussions that went on with Amazon. Suddenly because of all this publicity, consumers are seeing Hachette as a single brand, and they see Hachette associated with a very prestigious list of authors. Now does Hachette take this opportunity to assert its brand identity so that people start to think, "Hachette has high quality authors. I should look at them"? That kind of brand thinking is something publishers have never had to do. It raises a big question for publishers, "Am I my brand or am I my authors?" And it's probably a bit of both.
Are you optimistic about the future of the book industry?
Yes, I am optimistic about the future of the book industry. I think the explosion of digital devices has provided a tremendous opportunity to further the reach and consumption of books. I think the increase of mobile and internet access globally will have a tremendous impact on the book industry and I would be aiming every day to understand which developing countries are improving bandwidth and digital access because there will be a huge demand for content in those regions. I think that future is bright for tapping these emerging digital readers.