Books were never bundled in the way that songs were. It didn't make sense. They were never restricted to a single broadcast channel, like TV networks and later, cable. Okay, short story collections are sold as a bundle. But no one thinks that short stories represent an MP3-style opportunity. It's easy to access single chapters on Safari Books Online (owned by O'Reilly Media), but Safari's pricing uses an all-you-can-eat model of monthly and annual subscriptions.
Published in October of 2013, The Content Machine explores the publishing industry in crisis, disrupted by digital innovations, yet continuing to adapt. Written by Michael Bhaskar, digital publishing director at Profile Books, The Content Machine outlines a theory of publishing that allows publishers "to focus on their core competencies in difficult times while building a broader notion of what they are capable of
Recently my friend Mike Shatzkin asked me to participate in a panel on Amazon at Digital Book World. Mike asked all the panelists a question that I want to attempt to answer at greater length than I was able to at the conference. The question was in two parts: first, how much more market share can Amazon amass before it slows down or is stopped? Second, who can put together a meaningful merchandising service that could take share from Amazon?
We know that books printed digitally have tended to be, like the old stitch about newspapers, black and white and read all over. For most of digital printing's existence, producing professional four-color books just wasn't possible; you had to use offset. But the times they are a-changing, and technological advances are making the production of full-color books in longer short runs more feasible and economical than ever before. The advent of sheetfed digital printing brought us the ability to print full-color books in very short runs—it was responsible for opening up the high-growth photo book market. Now "4-up" and roll-fed "printer/presses" are further changing the full-color publishing paradigm.
Before we go further, let's define some terms, as printers are, in essence, quite different from presses. Printers regenerate the impression for each copy from a digital file, which allows them to use electronic collation and print the pages of a book block in order. Presses, on the other hand, use a physical image carrier (a plate) to reproduce large printed sheets which are folded into signatures, gathered and bound. But printers become, in essence, presses when either the sheet size or output speed starts to approach the specs of an analog reproduction device (aka a press). A "printer/press" is my term for printers that have many characteristics of a press.
How did you prepare for your publishing career?
Chances are that, if you’re “of a certain age” (that sounds so much better than “old”, don’t you think?) you didn’t actually train for it. You were an English major or an Education major (or both, in my case) or a Philosophy major or… Maybe publishing called to you—you loved to read, it seemed glamorous, SOMEONE has to be the next Maxwell Perkins, etc. Or, then again, maybe you just fell into it—there was this guy/girl and they worked at Random House…
Amazon has another (pretty much) informationless press release out about Kindle sales this morning.
The closest thing we get to real data: Worldwide Kindle sales over the holiday shopping weekend were more than double last year's sales.
Well, we have no clue because Amazon has never revealed absolute Kindle sales numbers. For all we know, Amazon sold 10,000 Kindle tablets and e-readers over the weekend.
I'm writing this note on Election Day Eve, and while the world is eagerly reading Nate Silver's political predictions in his excellent New York Times blog FiveThirtyEight, I've been tucking into Silver's new book, "The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail — but Some Don't" (Penguin Press).
Silver holds an exalted position as a high priest of political statistical analysis; his model for crunching polling data in 2008 proved eerily accurate. As publishing moves into an era of big data, there's much to be gleaned from Silver's cool approach to information. Silver's stance is that, contrary to conventional wisdom, more information is not necessarily a good thing, and certainly not right away.
Much of the change we are living through in publishing is plain as day to see. The shift from print to digital, like the shift from stores to online purchasing, is evident to all of us, inside the industry and out.
But there’s another aspect of the change that is not nearly as visible and that’s around systems and workflows. Publishing, even in the pre-digital age, was a systems-driven business.
Digital printing has saved the book industry. The old business model that printed an excess of books has been replaced for many titles by a more efficient on-demand model. Consider my personal example: Back in 1972, I wanted to self-publish a book. I only wanted 500 copies, but the printer said the minimum run was 5,000. I still have 4,000 copies in the warehouse, because someone may want a book on 1970s phototypesetting some day.
The New Year will be more of the same – and the same will be continued transformative change.
My headlines are that the publishing enterprise structure will continue to become more market driven, more distributive, less intermediated, and less top down.