Grabbing the Bull of Change by the Horns
I have just returned from the Publishing Business Conference & Expo in New York (full coverage begins on page 10) and couldn’t help but feel that this year, more than ever, there was a sense of camaraderie, a message of “We can do this. Look at all the opportunity out there.”
In an interview for this issue, Jane Friedman, president and CEO of HarperCollins Publishers Worldwide (see the story on HarperCollins on page 18), said, “I think that, in the past, publishers have been afraid of change. … What we’re all seeing now is that experimentation is necessary, and … everybody is facing the future.”
For the last few years, we have watched the world around us changing, but within the industry’s walls, we have seen just glimmers of change surfacing along the horizon. Now, we are going to watch this industry evolve around us in a massive blaze.
As I write this, the Book Business Extra e-newsletter reported developments in mobile content, MP3 audiobooks and free book downloads. The fi rst story covered digital book distributor OverDrive’s new offering of downloadable audiobooks (for retailers, libraries and schools) in MP3 format that will be compatible with nearly every mobile phone and MP3 player, including the iPod. Borders will be the fi rst to offer the audiobooks at Audiobooks.Borders.com and at Digital Centers inside select Borders stores.
Another story shared details about World Book’s launch of World Book Mobile, a licensing program that will extend the volume of content the publisher is making available to mobile application developers and distributors. Content from more than 90 World Book titles will be featured.
And, in an Extra interview, No Starch Press Publisher Bill Pollock discussed his struggle against pirated versions of his books appearing on online peer-to-peer filing-sharing services. So, Pollock created an offi cial torrent—an electronic fi le used in online fi le-sharing—of two of No Starch Press’ key titles, making them available for free download on one of the world’s largest fi le-sharing communities, The Pirate Bay.
Risk, Courage, Innovation
As Mark Twain once said, “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear—not absence of fear.” Facing change is frightening for most people. So, for the publishing industry, it may be a time fi lled with fear, but it is also a time for great courage to surface.
I asked Jane Friedman how she evaluates the risk in major new digital projects, where there is no established model for return-on-investment. “Well, that’s the fun of it, isn’t it? That’s what gets me up in the morning!” she laughed.
Experimentation, however, often comes with risk, which can be scary. But fearful or not, we are already seeing some publishers grab the bull of change by the horns.