Lantern Books Exec ‘Cynically Optimistic’ About the Future
As a publisher who has sold books online since the company’s founding, what advice would you offer to others selling their books online for the first time?
Rowe: … You have to ask yourself the question, “What is my relationship with the trade?” … From the outset, we decided to sell online. We initiated 20-percent discounts about 18 months ago as a way of offsetting at least some of the sales that we were “losing” to Amazon. That offers a certain incentive, but it’s not something we’re wedded to. We’re not going to nickle and dime Amazon. …
We have not lost any trade business, we feel, by selling online. In the end, a book is sold no matter where it’s sold. How much we get from the sale of a book is obviously a case in point, but many of our more academic titles are … discounted anyway. … I think that publishing executives need to look at the costs and see how much [revenue] they [bring in] through the trade and how much they [bring in] through online sales, whether it’s BN.com or Amazon.com … and make their decision.
What are your thoughts on the effect Google’s Book Search is having on the industry?
Rowe: We signed up for Google’s search program very early, actually. We feel that there is no danger to our company in having more content available online. The more, the better. And if Google Search can provide the kind of technological insight that we don’t necessarily have the [ability] to perform, that’s great. … We understand the reasons why some publishers are concerned about copyright. We obviously feel that there’s an issue in terms of very, very popular books that are being [made available by Google].
… I would say that the bigger threat to publishers is from retailers publishing their own books, like when you have someone like Barnes & Noble putting out the classics at much cheaper prices [than traditional publishers], then providing free rental space in their own bookstores. I think that’s more of a threat to the bread-and-butter titles that publishers thrive on in their backlists.