SPECIAL REPORT: Embracing the ‘Kindle Effect’
“People don’t know what to read,” agrees Patricia Schroeder, CEO of the Association of American Publishers (AAP). The principal challenge for book publishers in 2008, she says, will be penetrating the “clutter and noise” of the contemporary media environment.
“It’s a very personal choice, and publishers are always frustrated by how to get the word out. There’s a renaissance in writing going on, and not enough people know about it,” Schroeder adds.
Mark Kuyper, executive director of the Evangelical Book Publishers Association, agrees. “Most of our potential audience does not know what exists,” he says.
He cites the success of Rick Warren’s “Purpose Driven Life” as an emblem of what can happen with the right synergy of marketing, networking and media buzz. “If it were possible to get the word out as was done through Rick Warren’s network of churches … there is a large number of people who are interested, they just need to know it’s there. That book has sold over 30 million copies. That’s just phenomenal. It lets you know the potential.”
The sheer number of titles being published makes this marketing challenge even more difficult, says Kelly Gallagher, general manager of business intelligence at RR Bowker. While figures for 2007 are not yet available, the number of titles produced has gone up “dramatically” because of print-on-demand and the breaking up of works for separate sale and distribution in digital format, says Gallagher.
“There’s been a very significant increase in what constitutes a valid ISBN,” Gallagher says. “We’ve known for a while this was coming—that it would not necessarily be paper and print defining that [ISBN] number—but it is really coming to fruition.”
The trend is driven by direct-to-consumer online book sales, now nearing 20 percent of total sales. The rate of growth in that segment over the past five years has, Gallagher says, been “faster than anyone anticipated.”