Quote of the Week

On Listening and Learning

June 1st, 2009 · 1 Comment

Edward Champion gets to the crux of the matter. With grace, wit, and verve:

My suspicions about BEA have more to do with whether this massive conference is presently in the right form with which to bring together these many viewpoints. Perhaps the manner in which we unite publishers, booksellers, authors, and assorted parties needs to match the drastic manner in which the industry is changing. The digital enthusiasts need to understand the perspective of a 60-year-old publisher who will never use a Kindle. And the frightened publisher needs to comprehend why readers aren’t jumping up and down about DRM. It has become vitally important for us to listen to the opposite perspective. We can’t just keep to the comfortable corners of the room.

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On The Books We Remember Fondly

April 23rd, 2009 · 3 Comments

In discussing why Bloomsbury has created “The Bloomsbury Group”, focused on lost classics:

[Alexandra] Pringle said that she was struck by how many books being discussed on literary blogs were out-of-print period pieces. “Reading exchanges on the blogs set me thinking about what it is we like to read and how we find those books we know we will enjoy and treasure,” she said. “While the publishing industry chases the new, the young, the instantly commercial, readers are often looking for something else—for a kind of enduring quality.”

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On One Price Not Fitting All

April 7th, 2009 · Comments Off on On One Price Not Fitting All

At The Daily Beast, Peter Osnos considers various aspects of the future of digital books, leading to this conclusion (which might, uh, sound familiar):

Depending on who they are, consumers, authors, publishers, and booksellers all are focused on the benefits of the lowest price or the greatest revenue return, a balance of interests that can never satisfy everyone. The notion that because e-books do not have to be “manufactured” they can be cheaper has some validity, but there is already a reasonable pricing menu for books, the difference between hardcovers and paperbacks. Downloaded audiobooks also can be cheaper than those that need to be to be packaged and shipped. Applying the movie model to books again, each system of delivery should have its own pricing formula, giving consumers the final choice of what they want.

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On Publisher Imprints

March 6th, 2009 · Comments Off on On Publisher Imprints

Mike Shatzkin gets the notion of imprints exactly right as he discusses the new HarperCollins “It” venture:

And what all that means is that the imprints that matter in the 21st century have to mean something to consumers, not to intermediaries.

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On Why Simon & Schuster Is Releasing Two Patrick Swayze Books

February 26th, 2009 · 1 Comment

Kathleen Schmidt, the publicity director at Atria, explains all:

“One is a memoir by Patrick Swayze, and the other is about him,” Ms. Schmidt said. “When a celebrity does it, it’s very different than when a biographer does it. They’re just two different entities.”

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On Opportunity

February 17th, 2009 · Comments Off on On Opportunity

Coffee House Press’s Allan Kornblum, as part of a great interview with Scott Esposito, starts the conversation about publishing in a recession like this:

When you throw the internet, DVDs, and other forms of entertainment into the mix, major publishers were having difficulty sustaining their business model even before the recession hit. Now with Borders on the brink, and former readers becoming would-be writers and self-publishing books instead of reading books, a major shake-up was inevitable. Where it’s going to end is anybody’s guess. But publishing isn’t going to return 20% or even 15% on the dollar—it never has in the past, and I don’t think it will in the future. I think all these changes that are making things difficult for the major houses provide an opening for smaller publishers. It remains to be seen how it will all play out, however.

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On Worlds Ending, Or Worlds Beginning

January 28th, 2009 · 4 Comments

”Los Angeles Times” book editor, David Ulin notes that the sky isn’t really falling:

He acknowledged that in total, the paper was running two to three fewer reviews a week. But he argued there were some advantages to having been moved into a broader section. “In a section where there are a variety of elements, there might be people who might not ordinarily look at book reviews who might now look at book reviews,” Mr. Ulin said. “One of the issues with book culture in general is it tends to be a garrison culture and identify itself as contrary to mainstream culture, and that in may ways is a self defeating premise.” He added: “You could argue that putting books into the general mix opens more people to that conversation.”

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On Agents

December 23rd, 2008 · 1 Comment

In a “hey, the sky isn’t falling, so let’s get on with the business of books” post, the always fashionable and always brilliant Janet Reid slips in a bit of agenty credo before telling the publishing business to man up:

My job isn’t to sell work to hardcover publishers. My job is to represent authors for the sale of their work. Format changes, production changes won’t put me out of a job. Someone needs to be there to make sure the contracts don’t give the licensee the rights to your kidney, your kid or your next five novels. Someone needs to be there to make sure the royalty statements are right.

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On Corporate Realignment

December 9th, 2008 · 4 Comments

As great newspapers, magazines, TV networks, and publishing houses dismember themselves around us, it would be marginally consoling if the pink slips were going to those who contributed so vigorously to their companies’ accelerating demise—the feckless zombies at the head of corporate bureaucracies who cared only about the next quarter’s numbers, never troubled to understand the DNA of the companies they took over, and installed swarms of “Business Affairs” drones to oversee and torment the people “under” them. There are floors of these creatures in any behemoth media company, buzzing about each day thwarting new ideas or, worse, having “transformative” ideas of their own when what is usually required is to revive, with a bit of steadfast conviction, the originating creative purpose of the enterprise. It’s the same with the auto companies.

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On Markets and Perception

November 6th, 2008 · 10 Comments

At the 26th Story blog (HarperStudio), Seth Godin talk about the fundamental shift in thinking necessary for the publishing industry to move into the future.

The market doesn’t care a whit about maintaining your industry. The lesson from Napster and iTunes is that there’s even MORE music than there was before. What got hurt was Tower and the guys in the suits and the unlimited budgets for groupies and drugs. The music will keep coming. Same thing is true with books. So you can decide to hassle your readers (oh, I mean your customers) and you can decide that a book on a Kindle SHOULD cost $15 because it replaces a $15 book, and if you do, we (the readers) will just walk away. Or, you could say, “if books on the Kindle were $1, perhaps we could create a vast audience of people who buy books like candy, all the time, and read more and don’t pirate stuff cause it’s convenient and cheap…” I’m a pessimist that the book industry will learn from music. How are you betting?

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