Other Experiment Highlights
A few other lessons for the industry found in the report are:
• Harlequin introduced “Spice Briefs” in August 2007 as a $2.99 short-format monthly e-book series (5,000-15,000 words), sufficiently successful so that it spawned another series launch this year, “Nocturne Bites,” and will also populate a print anthology version to be released early next year. There are lessons here in how to develop a new publishing imprint as well as the advantages of owning an imprint brand to give it presence, and why it may not be for everybody.
• Two separate case studies explored the uncharted waters of distributing unprotected or free digital content: Hachette Book Group by testing (with so-far-encouraging results) the distribution of digital audio without digital rights management protection, and Random House by announcing a free giveaway on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” of digital copies in English and Spanish of a best-seller—in this case Suze Orman’s “Women and Money.” The experiment propelled the book, which had begun to see slowing sales, back into best-seller status. Both of these cases are instructive about how each publisher measured the potential risk/reward, and the unique factors that led to success—and that may not apply in other instances.
I started this column with a reference to Epstein’s book because, as I was reading BISG’s report, I was reminded that so much of the discussion in these columns is understandably addressed from the standpoint of the business and development interests of our industry. Epstein was looking at business and technology from a different place—the editorial and literary side, the product side.
He wanted to take a look at the future of the business he so loved in this new age of transformation. So, he first set out to trace the rise of trade publishing to its pinnacle of creative diversity and success in the mid-20th century, its creative decline in the last half of the century, and what he saw as the beginnings of a creative recovery––paradoxically to be shaped by new technologies and the Internet.
Eugene G. Schwartz is editor at large for ForeWord Reviews, an industry observer and an occasional columnist for Book Business magazine. In an earlier career, he was in the printing business and held production management positions at Random House, Prentice-Hall/Goodyear and CRM Books/Psychology Today. A former PMA (IBPA) board member, he has headed his own publishing consultancy, Consortium House. He is also Co-Founder of Worthy Shorts Inc., a development stage online private press and publication service for professionals as well as an online back office publication service for publishers and associations. He is on the Publishing Business Conference and Expo Advisory Board.