Guest Column: Sizing Up a Changing Industry
Almost everyone in the book business will acknowledge that we are in the midst of the most interesting, challenging and promising period in the industry's history. But almost everyone has the same question: How can we better understand these new realities so they can support our strategic priorities?
Never has the need for accurate, consistent data about publishing and books been so important. We all recognize that transformative changes have occurred in the creation and distribution of content; tools to effectively track and comprehend those changes would allow us to make smarter marketplace decisions.
Our industry takes a major step in growing this knowledge base in July when the Association of American Publishers (AAP) and Book Industry Study Group (BISG) jointly release the first annual edition of BookStats, a landmark statistical initiative capturing the size and scope of the total U.S. book publishing industry.
BookStats goes far beyond market size to provide a solid market intelligence infrastructure for the entire book industry. It is a statistical model built from the ground up, developed through due diligence across the publishing ecosystem; framed around never-before-collected source data; and designed to offer multidimensional, integrated analysis of content categories, distribution channels and platform formats.
In many ways, the development of BookStats and the philosophy behind its methodology mirror the current state of our industry and its potential.
The concept of BookStats emerged more than a year ago when AAP and BISG, independent industry organizations that historically produced separate annual surveys representing distinct segments of the supply chain, recognized that a new approach was vital to understanding our shared future. In an industry first, we partnered to create a new statistical model based on accuracy, integrity, credibility, frequency and customization.
Behind the Scenes
The project has been supported by a committee representing leaders in our industry including: Dominique Raccah, chief executive officer, Sourcebooks; Kenneth Michaels, chief operating officer, Hachette Book Group; Joe Gonnella, vice president, Adult Trade Merchandising, Barnes & Noble Inc.; and Kelly Gallagher, vice president, Publisher Services, Bowker.
The first step was listening. We interviewed more than 40 industry stakeholders (large and independent publishers, retailers, wholesalers, associations, data partners and members of the media) to help define a statistical product that would be the most valuable to each of their areas.
And the industry responded. Our goal was to have 700 publishers participate by providing data, a significant number exceeding the extent of contributors to AAP's and BISG's previous, independent surveys. To date, we have more than 1,100 publisher participants in BookStats. We received invaluable support from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, Independent Book Publishers Association, Publishers Association of the West and International Digital Publishing Forum, along with wholesale, distribution and retail communities.
As a result, BookStats will have the most robust publisher data collection ever undertaken in the industry: a comprehensive representation of vertical markets in terms of revenue, size and geography. The range covers the scope of the contemporary publishing and book industries—from the largest to smallest organizations.
That data is being converted into analytics offering the most substantive three-dimensional view of the industry based on the continued fundamental principle of publisher revenue and units. That "cube," as we call it, will be broken down in three ways:
1. By format: physical (hardcover, paperback, audio and mass-market) and non-physical (e-book, enhanced e-books, apps, downloadable audio and bundles)
2. By category: adult fiction and nonfiction, children's (including juvenile, middle grade and young adult), religious, K-12, higher education, professional and scholarly
3. By distribution channels: physical retail (chains, independents, mass retailers and specialty stores), online retail, institutional sales (libraries, schools, government agencies), direct-to-consumer, jobbers, wholesalers, book clubs, book fairs and export sales.
The result will be a customizable tool kit—an online data dashboard—providing publishers with new ways to track themselves by revenue, units, category, format and channel views. The survey also will better inform those in related industries, such as investment bankers, who have long sought in-depth industry data and analysis. (More information about subscriptions is available at BookStats.org.)
The premiere BookStats survey, covering 2008-2010, will be a work in progress. Future plans include greater frequency. We hope the infrastructure will enable us to produce quarterly reports, so the speed of data and analysis mirrors the industry's pace of progress. International publishing organizations also have expressed interest in collaborating on worldwide standardization.
Yet even at this nascent stage, the importance of BookStats is undeniable. Its value is not as a validation for what we already recognize, but as a path to discovering what we don't know. And ultimately, it will serve as the road map for the dynamic book community as it continues to evolve. BB
Tina Jordan is vice president of the Association of American Publishers (Publishers.org), which she joined in December 2006. She oversees AAP's statistics programs, committee activities of trade publishers, smaller and independent publishers, library marketing, the AAP's Get Caught Reading literacy campaign, the Association's educational programs, and diversity recruitment in publishing, among others. She serves on BISG's Board of Directors and is a member of the Women's National Book Association. Prior to joining AAP, Jordan was special events and public relations director for BookExpo America.
Angela Bole is deputy executive director for the Book Industry Study Group (BISG.org). She previously served as associate director, and as marketing and communications manager. She has been instrumental in furthering BISG's mission of creating a more informed, empowered and efficient book industry supply chain for both physical and digital products. She is an active member of the Women's Media Group, a New York-based nonprofit association.