Change in Publishing: (not really) answers to (not really) questions. Writers, insiders and publishers discuss freely about 5 popular tags. Prev: Stephen Brown, _Jacob Appel, Thierry Crouzet, Paul Di Filippo_, Rhys Hughes. Joanna Penn. Follow us: RSS | Twitter | Facebook
Kassia Krozser Kassia Krozser has seen the future and it is good: more people are reading, writing, and publishing than ever before. Kassia consults with publishers about digital publishing opportunities at Oxford Media Works, and writes about current digital publishing trends at booksquare.com. Twitter:@booksquare
I am a firm believer in the either/and idea of reading. That being said, I've purchased, I think, two print books in the past two years. I prefer reading ebooks, and have found my purchases of books have increased when I can get what I want digitally. Will print books every disappear? I doubt it, but readership of ebooks will continue to increase. This changes the economics of publishing dramatically, with both positive and negative impacts. My biggest wish is for publishers to take a step back and look at the ebook marketplace without the mental map of the print book marketplace. The new competition is varied and unexpected. Pretending it's the same business in a different format is a great way to miss amazing opportunities.
I've been pretty lucky in predicting the future of books up until now, but I'd say it's been mostly dumb luck. Publishing is a business changing on all levels, far faster than most leaders expected. I personally think a year ago was too late to make major changes in the business model and processes. Now, it's just plain hard (and it won't get easier). Tomorrow's publisher must be able to react immediately to market shifts while possessing the ability to discern between trendy and sustaining. Unless you're really, really smart, don't build your business around trendy.
Indie publishers, indie authors, and indie booksellers all have something in common: flexibility. Very large entities are locked into a status quo that is very, very hard to change. If you don't believe, try to institute a new business process in a major corporation. We don't know where this new market is going, but we do know it requires lots of experimentation, which means some success and quite a bit of failure. Indies are all better positioned to fail and try again. Big, established entities are doomed to stay on course until they hit the iceberg.
The day after Christmas, an author friend contacted me to tell me she'd gotten a Kindle, saying "Okay, I know you've explained this a million times, but I didn't think it applied to me. Why are ebooks so expensive?" My response was very long. The problem is, from the perspective of the consumer, ebooks are expensive. What consumers gain in convenience is offset by a range of losses, and publishers haven't done a good job of explaining their position. Nor have they done a good job of providing quality ebooks to readers. The stories I can tell... As long as publishers try to force print business models on digital books, ebooks will be overpriced. My biggest fear is that short-sightedness by publishers will lead to increased piracy. There is only so much disrespect a consumer will take before shrugging and saying, "Well, why shouldn't I pirate?"
As I write this, Avon, an imprint of HarperCollins, announced the launch of Avon Impulse, a digital-first publisher. I applaud this move -- a digital first/print maybe model allows publishers to innovate. To try new things. To fail. To pick themselves up and try again, usually at a far lower cost than a print endeavor. What puzzles me about this initiative is the way it doesn't compete with other digital publishers. The royalty, 25% of net, is low -- a consideration when authors aren't being offered advances, though they are increasing to 50% when 10,000 units are sold -- and the fact that the books have DRM tells me the price point may be higher than most other (DRM-free and proud of it) digital-first houses.
I like innovation and I like experimentation. But I do caution publishers getting into the digital-first game to look at the existing competition...this marketplace is far more mature than most realize, and the consumer is far more savvy about what to expect. And, of course, the authors are looking at the competition closely.