More Books in Browsers here. Am working my way through them. So much food for thought, I’m going to have to do some writing on it this week.
I’ve been a bit off blog this week, but there are a couple of interesting developments that I feel the need to comment on. First of all Kobo has been busy tying up deals with retailers in the UK and Australia but also it would seem finalising plans to become a publisher. Amazon, it would seem has become both an model and a target.
Secondly, much gnashing of teeth has attended the UK OFT decision not to interfere with Amazon’s take-over of the Book Depository. Plenty of comment here and here. Personally, while its obviously an issue for UK bookshops, I wonder whether we might see increased pressure on the Australasian markets. Scribe clearly thinks so by changing its formats in order to reduce its prices. Money quote from Henry Rosenbloom:
Something has to give. We can’t keep pumping out books at prices that seem high by international standards, and that consumers aren’t prepared to pay.
My hugely scientific morning Kindle Count has grown significantly this past few months (today 3 kindles, 1 iPad representing 75% of the people reading on my bus) but not perhaps by as much as Bloomsbury’s ebook sales. 564% over the six months to August.
We are nowhere near an equilibrium point in terms of what will be the eventual ebook share, but I’m certain the speed is picking up and I expect the end point will come much quicker and be a much higher penetration than many think possible.
And on that slightly sombre note this, from the London Book Fair earlier this year is worth another look. Cory Doctorow, Richard Charkin, James Bridle and Andrew Franklin debate the continuing relevance of publishers.
And we should remember that Steve Jobs is watching.
The New York Times reports on an interesting development. Amazon’s entry into publishing looks to have speeded up some changes in the way traditional publishers report to authors. What we might well find is that entry of new players with different imperatives may put previously unreviewed (and sometimes antiquated) systems into play and innovating around them could provide new points of difference. This may have the effect of publishers competing with each other on a wider range of offerings and not just the advance and marketing plans.
For anyone who has ever experienced the author/agent meeting with inadequate figures this new transparency may seem a rather uncomfortable development. But it may also force a new, more collaborative and engaged relationship, which would be no bad thing. When authors have found it difficult to get a good impression of their books performance they have often interpreted the lack of data as uneccesary obfuscation. Truth is that publishers also have skin in the game, and if everyone is much clearer about that upfront and on an ongoing basis, then authors and publishers have much more chance of working together effectively.
(the book above is Gary Younge’s Who We Are, which, in my humble opinion, is a great book).
And because, it’s springtime, sunny and I’m having a day off here is a suitable musical interlude. You deserve it. It’s also in honour (thanks to the Sesame Street version of this) of my daughter’s (aged 3) first big recommendation. She’s made a good start, which was closely followed by the infectious Sesame Street rendition of ‘if I knew you were coming I’d have baked a cake’. I hope there will be many more. Thank you Rosie.
And take it away Feist.
Grown-up version for the purists
It really looks like the New Zealand at Frankfurt programme got off to a good start. The stunning video here with the press conference. Additionally here are radio interviews with publisher Fergus Barrowman, Ministry of Culture and Heritage Communications Manager Lucy Orbell and poet Kate Camp. Publisher Peter Dowling gives his view over on Beattie’s blog.
The official website is at www.nzatfrankfurt.govt.nz
So post Frankfurt two articles have caught my eye and both are, I’m sorry to say, not too sunny. The exact nature of the future is always hard to predict, but I think its safe to say that while the world in general is in economic and political turmoil, the book industry has its own localised maelstrom fully underway. The next year, I am certain, will be very interesting and highly disruptive.
So our two heralds are Eoin Purcell, whose excellent blog and twitter feed are well worth following. His article is a dissection of what he believes to be the three choices now open to bookshops. Its a bleak analysis, but I suspect he’s right.
The second is the New York Times with this article that outlines Amazon’s growing presence as a publisher. I have no doubt that Amazon will push really hard into this arena and their muscle and control of their channel will make them very powerful very quickly. In some ways it is part of the general trend to close the gap between writer and reader, that may lead to a host of new business models emerging. However the author quoted at the close expressed an age-old sentiment:
“My hope is Amazon will think it’s wonderful and we’ll go happily off into the publishing sunset,”
Delete Amazon, insert publisher name of choice. In the end all writers want a home from which their books will be birthed and launched and that will ensure that their books are read. I suspect Amazon will be no more successful at that than anyone else.