Book Business December 2014
Many organizations, such as publishers, technical societies, membership associations, libraries, and government agencies all have unique collections of valuable content that are rarely seen. In these days of big data, you might be asking, "Who needs even more data?" But yes, even in age of information, there is a need for well-considered, thoughtfully curated content, and some of that might be in your archives, or maybe in boxes somewhere in the basement.
There are agents and editors working in book publishing who may love a new project under consideration but realize they cannot justify it given the likely modest sales. This is especially true for first-time novelists, but also for other midlist authors who have been published before and are running out of options as the trade print marketplace continues to narrow around bestsellers.
The media has recently shined a light on privacy and security issues related to the use of Adobe Digital Editions (ADE) by many libraries' ebook platforms. We are all familiar with the recent news of spying and potential constitutional violations by the NSA. But perhaps the last thing we expect when we read a library ebook is that someone is watching our reading behavior and perhaps using that information.
There's a school of thought that contends the publishing market is a "fixed pie," in which total revenues are flat and unlikely to change. While the marketplace has reached a limit when it comes to traditional book buying, publishers can still grow the pie by capitalizing on the opportunities digital media and platforms present to package, distribute, and sell content in new ways.
Publishers and educators need to move beyond the "tradigital." Too many digitally delivered products today are based on content that was originally conceived for the ink on paper paradigm, then converted for digital delivery after the fact. While this is an understandable approach initially, it's a poor compromise that negates the strength of both formats.
Years from now, we'll look back on 2014 as the year the web came for our books. It was in August of 2014 when the World Wide Web Consortium, the standards body for the World Wide Web, held its first Digital Publishing Interest Group. Prior to that point, the W3C had been holding investigative meetings, trying to determine whether or not it was in the web's interest to pursue the publishing industry as a potential partner and implementer of web technology.
You may have noticed that in recent discussions about ebooks, the word "reading" has somehow gone missing. The talk is all about selling, pricing, royalties, etc.-as if these books are made merely for selling. But they aren't. They are made for reading. If we create smart, beautiful, entertaining books that are not read, we have created nothing.
The big ideas I am thinking about are actually old big ideas. They are the big ideas that underlie a remarkable dictionary published 150 years ago, the 1864 revision ofWebster's Unabridged Dictionary. This dictionary is noteworthy for being the dictionary that established the model for what all succeeding unabridged dictionaries would be. Its success flows from three big ideas...
Ranking of largest book manufacturers in the U.S. and Canada is based on each company's revenue earned within the book sector. This data was compiled by our sister publication Printing Impressions. Some notable organizations, such as RR Donnelley, choose not to disclose financial information on a per-sector basis.
Book publishers are not alone in their attempts to adapt and thrive in a new digital era. Since the introduction of the ebook, printers have faced a radically different industry, one in which print demand has slowed and publishers seek the efficiencies of digital production and distribution. Printers have been forced, much like publishers, to reassess their value in the industry, be more nimble, and find new ways to cut costs and improve efficiencies.
Publishing news in the first half of 2014 was dominated by one word: subscription. Subscription-based digital trade book delivery models were announced with much fanfare from Oyster, Entitle, and many others. Such services put book publishing squarely in the digital "subscription economy" along with Netflix, Pandora, and Hulu.
In his previous life as a consultant for Accenture, Perseus Books Group CMO Rick Joyce helped clients in the media industry grapple with this digital upheaval. One lesson Joyce learned from working with a range of media and entertainment companies is that creating digital access alone will not stabilize the bottom line. Providing digital content with unique value and conveying that value to consumers is just as important. Otherwise, as Joyce witnessed in the music industry with iTunes' 99-cent song pricing, digital books will be homogenized and valued accordingly.
Neil Baptista hopes that booklovers everywhere are adding another site to their go-to social media bookmarks: Riffle. As founder and CEO of the startup, Baptista wanted to create a website where readers, bloggers, and bookstore owners alike could come together and share their bookshelves -- and thoughts -- with each other.
As a publication, our goal not is to trend hop, but rather capture and report on the ideas at the heart of a new trend and advance the conversations around these new ideas. We want to compel our readers and ourselves to continually alter the lens through which we see the book industry. As John Morse, president and publisher at Merriam-Webster, notes in his essay, it's not enough to follow trends and do what's been proven successful. Publishers also need to strike out from the tried and true and be willing to take risks. We are excited about the future of publishing, and we hope these essays invigorate you with new and illuminating perspectives on that future.
Big ideas are new ideas. Big ideas are bold ideas. Sometimes big ideas are small ideas. Often, big ideas seem wrong at first glance because they present such a different way of doing things.
These are the types of ideas we’ve tried to capture with the Book Business Big Ideas Issue. Industry thinkers -- and readers and supporters of Book Business -- contributed mini-essays, exploring what they think are the imperatives for a thriving, progressive, effective book business.