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Are apps a financial pitfall? Publishers can’t agree!

6 Jun

From the introduction of ebooks into the public market, a divide has existed within the world of book lovers.  The elderly, assumed to hold dear the traditional mass market paperback mystery or romance, responded with surprising enthusiasm towards the new devices.  My grandmother will vouch for ebooks any day: enlarging the font, easing the arthritis in her wrists by not having to constantly turn pages and being able to buy and read directly from the comfort of her own home are all perks that the traditional book just can not offer.  However, now that some companies are seeing ebooks bypassing the traditional books in sales, we know that the public has taken to the concept of ebooks – but have the publishers?

According to Hannah Johnson’s article in Publishing Perspectives, they have not.  Panelists of the IDPF Digital Book Conference remained unsettled about the future of apps and ebooks. Dominique Raccah of Sourcebooks remained on the positive side while Evan Schnittman of Bloomsbury and Richard Nash of Red Lemonade and Cursor held back, claiming not to see the full potential of storytelling through apps just yet — and I can see why.

Publishing has never been the industry to draw people in with a promise of a fat paycheck; those in this industry are in it for the love of books and purely that.  However, though most publishers strive both to bring the public wonderful literary works, they also desire fair wages for the talented creator of said literary work.  The introduction of apps and ebooks, though appealing (mainly, I would argue, as a source of drawing young adults and children back into the world of literature) are costly to produce and sold for a miniscule amount of money.  I can immediately see why Schnittman worries that apps will not pay for themselves and that their production yields higher costs than their purchases can cover.  Are the introduction of apps a double-edged sword? And in the case that they are, what is worth cutting: the chance to pull non-believers back into reading or the deterioration of the already staggering financial aspects of the industry?  For a traditional book lover like myself, being armed with white pages, black type, glue binding and my own imagination is enough; all the bells and whistles can be fun but are by no means necessary to help me enjoy the book.


Marketing a backlist

6 Jun

With BEA just recently passed, many bloggers are attending to the tender subject of ebooks and the future of publishing.  In his article about the Future of Ebooks Publishing Executive Panel, Edward Champion dictates many debates between different publishers present at the panel and grazes over many subjects, however one in specific caught my eye.  David Steinberger, CEO of Perseus Books Group claimed that “digital is very good for hunters and not so for gatherers”.  Evan Schnittman of Bloomsbury further explained by claiming that “publishing does not know how to market ebooks yet [….] let’s be honest with ourselves, we’ve never marketed backlist before”.

This makes me wonder about the future of ebooks.  Let’s say, following the trends, it will become easier and the only way publishers will be able to survive the inflow decline, that the majority of novels are on now published in ebook format.  How exactly will the marketing teams be able to market the frontlist while simultaneously promoting backlist?  There would be no more “power isle” tables at Chapters Indigo, no more way to distinguish the “new and hot” from the “old but loved”.  When an author appears in public places to read from his or her novel, will they be reading and signing ereaders (inventor T.J. Waters says yes)?  If publishers no longer have to pay Chapters Indigo to display their book on shelves, will the money go towards glorification on the website instead?  Or will the publishing industry see a decline in production employees, requiring fewer people to oversee the correct layout of the digital file and approve the cover photo.

Many people in the industry are excited about the revolution that publishing is a part of right now.  However, looking forward into the future as an aspiring employee of a publishing house, it looks as if, by the time I am ready for the workplace, I may not be needed anymore!  If the future of publishing will eventually phase out the tangible book, I hope that it does not eventually phase out workers as well!

An ebook Netflix?

6 Jun

In a recent post, Mike Shatzkin took an article by Javier Celaya of the Spanish Digital Magazines Association (ARDE) about the concept to “spotify” books and let his imagination run wild.  Spotify, a Swedish peer-to-peer music streaming service, is equal to, Shatzkin says, our Netflix.  He plays with the idea that someday, there may be ebook subscriptions, where for a certain amount of money a month, you may access a pool of ebooks.  Celaya takes the idea from different angles: how it will affect an up-and-coming author versus how it will affect a veteran author.  A new author, he claims, would find having their book included in the pool a great way for them to develop a name for themselves.  Many avid readers are not snobby readers – they do not judge by author or title, but will rather give anyone a shot, especially if it’s free!  Veteran authors may see this as an extreme blow to their salary, making little to no money from being part of a subscription pool.   This would also include ads put into the book that pertain to the subject matter being discussed which leaves even more room for disapproval from authors.  Writing is not meant to be product placement and ads may take away from the text itself.

Shatzkin observes that for more prominent and well-known authors, a specific and more expensive pool could be made.  However, how will someone like Margaret Atwood or Yann Martel feel about their award-winning novels being offered in a group with multiple other authors when they had previously entertained such success on their own?  Ereaders already have a large selection of free titles upon purchasing the device including a multitude of classics such as Pride and Prejudice, Moby Dick and Dracula (to name a few).  But here is a scary thought: I am a Netflix user and my primary thought after watching my first movie was “That was awesome!  I will never have to rent or buy another movie again!”  If this were to happen to books, would the reaction be similar?