Perseus CMO Rick Joyce on Battling the Homogenization of Books
It's a tall order, Joyce admits, but he and the Perseus team have developed a number of strategies to begin tackling these issues. Joyce shares those insights with Book Business in the following interview.
How has your experience working with digital media in other sectors informed your work in the book industry?
One thing that I've seen in all of these industries is that they have all had a pretty significant switch to digital, almost all of them before books. Those transitions aren't done by any means, but the first shot across the bow in music industry with the creation of MP3 files was over 20 years ago now. Reference publishing and B2B publishing went to digital very early when you think about the rise of LexisNexis or Bloomberg Terminals.
I have worked for a lot of clients in the media industry that were in the early, middle, and late stages of the transition to digital, and that has been useful for me in book publishing-although every one of those businesses made the transitions differently. Obviously a song is not a book, and a book is not a movie. The experience of having been involved in this transition in multiple media is insightful but it's not a crystal ball.
Another thing I learned from all of these digital media transitions was to think about value. There will be forces, as I've seen in the music and movie industry, that want to see all books as interchangeable content, but in fact their use cases and value are completely different. It's important that publishers deliver on that value and make sure that everything doesn't become homogenized.
Not everything is a low-stakes read to pass time. If you're selling a travel guide, you're helping people make very expensive decisions about where to stay, what to do, and how to spend that vacation time that they can't get back. The book is an important piece of that and the trust that is baked into that is pretty high. We publish Rick Steves' guidebooks and his success has a lot to do with the trust that people have in him. He spends roughly 14 weeks every year visiting the places he writes about and makes sure everything he's written is correct. That adds a lot of value.
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