Book Biz: French Love Fifty Shades, Amazon Deletes eBooks, Library Gets Gun in Donated Book

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I just read an email that contained an updated publisher’s “fact sheet” revealing trends and patterns that are developing in our industry. It’s an interesting list for a lot of reasons, but the thing that struck me first is how different it was than statistical analysis of ten or fifteen years ago.

Dan Poynter (Para Publishing) has probably assisted more people publish their first book than anyone else. He hasn’t updated his online page of book industry statistics in a few years, perhaps because so many metrics have changed. I used to print out his “publishing facts” when I taught adult ed publishing classes and if you intend to do the same, check your paper tray first: it’s a very long survey.

But Poynter’s snapshot of the industry, updated in 2008, presents the industry as I knew it, as I learned it. Publishing Executive magazine’s scope includes quantifying apps that smartphone users purchase per year, an interesting number but not one I couldn’t live without.

Book printing and publishing have changed more in the last 15 years than the previous 150 years. It makes no sense to critique today’s industry as better or worse. It’s as vibrant as ever and presents new challenges in presenting and monetizing content. No sooner had publishers adopted spreadsheets and databases than desktop publishing, Photoshop, web sites, PDFs, and XML demanded their attention and it continues to get harder to see the forest for the trees.

You Can Own a Book, Just Not an eBook

An Amazon customer in Norway recently had her entire eBook collection wiped off her Kindle by Amazon. Apparently she bought books which Amazon had no rights to sell in Norway. Think she’ll get her money back?

Merger News

Penguin (Pearson) and Random House (Bertelsman SE) are discussing merger plans. Combined they account for roughly a quarter of US publisher trade revenues, and scale becomes more relevant as heavy hitters like Amazon try to dictate market terms and conditions.

Profit Centers

In an effort to capitalize on its storehouse of intellectual property, Random House has signed a deal with Fremantle Media to develop and produce television shows. Random began working in movies in 2005, although the publisher/media business model hasn’t totally proven itself yet.

Kobo Goes Indie

Although not as well known as Kindle and Nook, the Kobo eReader has 10 million registered users and offers over 3 million eBook titles. A new agreement between the ABA and Kobo will make Kobo eReaders and books available at participating indie booksellers (400 have already signed on) and create additional and unique revenue streams for those enrolled.

Going Paperless is Eco-Friendly?

Some years ago at a BEA seminar on ecologically responsible practices, most publishers proudly announced they were working toward a paperless office. I pointed out that electronic device recycling was virtually non-existent with crude dis-assembly in the third world causing major ecological damage. Now a New York Times study reveals the eco-cost of data-centers.

Paper may prove to be a cleaner alternative for data flow and storage, but I think the debate has already ended.

How Long has Print Been Dying?

While the digerati are anxious to throw the last shovelful of dirt on the coffin of the print industry, it needed to be pointed out that it’s changing, not expiring.

Kodak Down But Not Out

Kodak has been a major player in supplying pre-press consumables and digital presses for years and continues to serve the print industry even as its consumer division struggles through bankruptcy. Kodak was a major exhibitor at last months Graph Expo trade show in Chicago.

How Printers Think

When the demise of Newsweek was announced a few weeks ago, printer’s reaction was 1.) who printed the magazine and 2.) how would they survive? Turns out Quad Graphics, headquartered in Sussex, WI was the printer and they’re just fine, thanks for asking.

French Critics Hate It, French Readers Love It

Selling 75,000 copies per day, the French translation of Fifty Shades of Gray has broken every sales record for just released titles. So much for the myth of innate French fashion sense.

Are You a Writer That Uses Plot Outlines?

I’ve never been good with lists, outlines or budgets but admire people who can organize their life with such tools. If outlines help you write, here are five tools that can help you along.

A New Meaning of “Content”

While sorting books donated for the Porter County (IN) Library book sale an employee made a startling discovery when a small pistol was found hidden in a pocket carved into the text of the book.

eNewsletters and Me

I still feel a little guilty about switching from paper and ink to email for this newsletter, but I send it to three times more people now than then, and email is much less time consuming and hyperlinks make context so accessible. But this promotion of eNewsletters talks about clicks and openings? I should include coupons and start contests? Strange days indeed!

Final Thought

Until writing was invented, man lived in acoustic space: boundless, directionless, horizonless, in the dark of the mind, in the world of emotion…
The Medium is The Massage, Marshall McLuhan, 1967

About Wayne Johnson 69 Articles
I've worked in book manufacturing for over 30 years, closing my company Baker Johnson, Inc. in 2005. Currently I work freelance with a large group of publishers, advising them on the printing options available to them as the book industry endures major restructuring. My wife Cathy is a retired psychologist and spent most of her career working with the youth at Maxey Boys Training School. She is a small mammal rehabilitator with Friends of Wildlife. Our daughter Whitney is a PharmD working in the Denver area evaluating the pharmaceutical requirements of nursing homes. Our son Eliot lives in Waterloo and is an editor at Mathematical Reviews in Ann Arbor.