Posts Tagged ‘direct sales’
The book business has always struck me as a bit bipolar, prone to bouts of dire pessimism followed by flights of exaggerated optimism.
This Monday, Bowker published a report that offers a fascinating picture of the migration of book sales to online retailers. (Bowker is the industry’s key source of bibliographic data and market research.) For publishers, this data isn’t really news. They know full well just how dramatically online sales are growing.
In a recent post, Mike Shatzkin took note of how some publishers were reshaping their publishing lists around their core strengths and strategic vision. Along the way, Mike offers his view on how the diminished role of booksellers and the rise of online discovery may effect sales of publisher backlist titles.
When digital first started to happen, it seemed like the backlist might be the biggest beneficiary. After all, stores had limited shelf space and online merchants can “carry” all the books they want, particularly if there is no pre-purchased inventory required. (There isn’t for ebooks and there increasingly isn’t for printed books either, which can be purchased from wholesalers for next day delivery, even if they are printed on demand!)
But, Mike goes on to say that, “it turns out that the current state-of-the-art for merchandising and presentation of books online is not very helpful to backlist.” I have a somewhat different view on this.
Who’s the number 3 most popular online bookseller? The answer is surprising and it says something really important about what motivates people to buy books and where.
As my grade school social studies teacher used to say, let’s define our terms.
Smart and smartly written recent posts by Brett Sandusky and Jessie McDougall, and comments by Brian O’Leary following these posts, got me wondering again about the debate over eBook DRM–a debate that has going on for millennia when measured in digital book years. It’s a topic I’ve thought about first as a publisher and now as an industry observer, specifically, “What are the benefits and risks to publishers of going DRM-free.”
Every chance I get I like to ask folks in publishing to explain to me the possible rational(s) for sticking with DRM. The only coherent answer I’ve ever here goes like this:
While it’s true that DRM doesn’t really have anything to do with piracy, that’s really not the question. The question is, would causal file-sharing–which DRM-free eBooks would more readily allow–negatively affect sales.
The only two constants in the publishing value chain are authors and readers. Authors create, readers consume. Everyone else in the middle serves merely to make that exchange as efficient, scaled, and pleasurable as it can be.
Whether you agree or not is likely to turn how the word merely strikes you. I expect it would cause many literary agents, editors, publishers, marketers, and publicists to scoff. The arbiters and gatekeepers of what counts as worthy of publication naturally feel that their role is crucial. It is. I’d say the function they provide is more essential to the vitality of the author-reader relationship than ever before, but it’s migrating away from the domain of traditional publishers in myriad different directions and taken up by: Continue Reading…