Innovation, Meet The Brick Wall

April 10th, 2006 · 1 Comment
by Booksquare

This just in: the publishing business is inefficient! Hmm, okay, so that’s not really news. But the fact that they’re trying to do something about it is. Business Week explores the idea of multi-channel delivery — you know, releasing in multiple formats simultaneously.

The article starts off with amusing anecdotes — customers walking out of bookstores because they don’t want to wait a week for product, and bookstores over-ordering to meet quotas…then sending large quantities of books back. The so-called Caravan Project

calls for books to be delivered simultaneously in five formats — hardcover, digital, audio, print-on-demand, and by chapter. The initiative is the brainchild of Peter Osnos, a publishing veteran and founder of non-fiction imprint PublicAffairs. He figures that publishing’s ancient habits are holding it back, keeping it “some sort of relic to Gutenberg.”

That’s when things start getting crazy.

The goal of the Caravan Project is to offer maximum choice and flexibility for readers (who, we will remind you, tend to be the ones who purchase books). A pilot project featuring 24 books is set to roll out in 2007. Which, in case you’re wondering, is a little too soon and a little too scary for the publishing industry. They’re already being pressured to go digital.

Just the same, “they are terrified of being Napsterized,” says Al Greco, senior researcher for the nonprofit trade outfit Book Industry Study Group. “So turning over their books to electronic files for use in print-on-demand may not be viable because of the risks.”

And authors? Gosh, they don’t want to give up those hardcover royalties. Understandable, unless you consider the alternative: no sale equals no royalties (there is a mathematical formula behind this that we won’t get into). Osnos, of the Caravan Project, even considers the idea that on-demand books might lessen used book sales. Possibly, but not for a long time to come.

What is most bothersome about the objections — especially the Napster argument — is that the industry has had over ten years to consider this issue. Whether they like it or not (and not is generally the favored opinion), consumers are moving forward and obtaining media the way they want to use it. We realize it’s stating the obvious, but the publishing industry needs consumers more than consumers need the publishing industry.

[tags]publishing, caravan project, authors, books[/tags]

File Under: The Future of Publishing

1 response so far ↓

  • ann michael // Jun 6, 2006 at 9:07 am

    You know – authors may not “want to give up those hardcover royalties” – but with the ‘democratization’ of publishing to a certain extent – new authors have nothing to give up and just might find their way into the mainstream! So, just like publishers need consumers more than consumers need publishers – authors need readers!

    Love your blog – so glad I found you!