SPECIAL REPORT: Embracing the ‘Kindle Effect’
The industry’s growing reliance on online business is reflected in Barnes & Noble’s 2007 holiday sales figures, released Jan. 10. The world’s largest bookseller reported that its online sales jumped 10.9 percent over the same period in 2006, to $428.8 million. By comparison, in-store holiday sales were up 4.1 percent, to 1.2 billion.
Offsetting, to some degree, the explosion in titles is a growing tendency to consolidate categories—the most radical example of this being Thomas Nelson’s elimination in April 2007 of its entire stable of imprints—as part of a general effort to streamline marketing efforts to consumers, Gallagher notes.
“My sense is that if you factor out the breaking down of the book [for digital distribution purposes] … just looking at apples to apples, publishers are taking more seriously the effort to get more revenue from fewer titles,” he says.
Competition for Readers “Gets Hotter”
Because the market for books is not as big as for movies, it’s simply unrealistic to pin hopes on large-scale, movie-style advertising campaigns, Schroeder points out. This fact has led publishers to be on the forefront of new marketing strategies built around multimedia Web offerings.
“Competition for the consumer’s time and dollar is heated and getting hotter as the book competes with an astonishing and growing array of other media, from the Internet, to cable television, to the ubiquitous and multifunctional cell phone, and as books are sold in more nontraditional outlets than ever,” write Stephanie Oda and Glenn Sanislo in the BISG’s “Trends 2007” report.
The subtitle of their essay, a quote from HarperCollins CEO Jane Friedman, in many ways says it all: “The challenge is to be the smartest marketer.”
Rising to that challenge has led publishers to embrace a number of new media technologies, from podcasting and online video to blogging and social networking. As a positive consequence of the alarm raised by the NEA’s “To Read or Not to Read” study (which showed “startling declines” in how much and how well Americans read [in fiction and nonfiction, and in various formats—book, magazines, online, etc.]) and its “Reading at Risk” study (which showed a dramatic decline in the number of American adults reading literature), national organizations such as the Library of Congress and NEA are also getting in on the multimedia act.