Book Biz: Independent Bookstores, 50 Shades of Twilight, eBook Facts, Inkjet Presses

I’ve always worked in the short to medium run book market. I don’t know that I ever worked on a title that printed more then 25,000 copies in one run. And while the short/medium run market precluded working on books that found their way to the New York Times bestseller lists, it provided an incredible variety of subject matter and genres to reward the readers in our industry.

And traditionally, one of the mainstays for marketing shorter run titles was the independent bookstore. For those of us of a certain age who remember life when Borders was an Ann Arbor bookstore and Barnes & Noble stores were more closely regarded as campus bookstores, small book shops inhabited old houses, storefronts just off the main thoroughfares, and long, narrow spaces with at most two aisles stretching back from the door in all manor of strip malls. Incense and/or pipe tobacco frequently scented the atmosphere.

Many of them specialized in stocking books for a particular clientele. I lived down the road from a strip mall store that catered to Ann Arbor’s science fiction community. And I remember when Katherine Stern, whose Stern’s Books on the North side of Chicago specializes in psychology books, expressed surprise that a community with the academic heft of Ann Arbor didn’t have a bookstore dedicated to similar fare.

The decline of the independent bookstore has been well documented but the retail marketplace continues to evolve.

Today some argue that the ease with which small presses and self publishers can produce eBooks and sell them across any number of websites bodes well for these narrow markets. However, it’s widely reported by those who search Amazon for titles of interest that many of the small press titles are pirated editions bearing similar titles to the original work but crudely re-edited, or books that badly need editing (or even spell checking!), and even books that are not formatted for ease of reading whether on a printed page or a plastic reader.

So it was with some interest I read this story this morning of the struggle of Towne Book Center & Cafe in Collegeville, PA to adapt, to evolve and reinvent itself into a 21st century bookstore.

I miss the time when nearly every city, town and township had a bookstore supported by the community, and not just because of my career path. I’d like to think the rebirth of the independent bookstore has begun.

  HMH Reorganizes

In what is expected to be a very short period of bankruptcy protection, textbook (and Curious George) publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is restructuring debt as equity and hopes to emerge from the proceedings at the end of this month.

Exporting eBooks

International sales of American publisher’s books saw eBook sales of $21.5 million in 2011, up from $4.9 million in 2010, a 333% increase, while con-ventional book sales rose to $335.9 million, up 2.3%.

Self Publishers: Caveat Emptor

Although they’re not often called “Vanity Presses” any longer, the same swindlers are out trolling for self publishers by offering sub-quality products and worthless services.

Drupa Down

The world’s largest trade show for printing equipment is held every four years in Dusseldorf Germany. In spite of some paradigm changing new technologies, attendance, while a still healthy 314,500, was down 19% over the 2008 show.

Inkjet Books?

Forget about your old messy desktop inkjet printer. Two new technologies were introduced at Drupa that combine high speed throughput on inkjet presses. The Landa press uses nano droplets of ink to coat a medium similar to an offset blanket that then transfers the image to the paper. Rival Xeikon’s approach is believed to be electrostatic using a liquid toner. Each promises reduced cost per page.


Claiming that the police raid on the Occupy Wall Street Library last November resulted in over 3,000 books being confiscated, but with just over 1,000 returned, OWS has sued NYC (including the NYPD) in federal court. It’s a strange revolution that values its libraries.

Promote Your eBook Online for Free

GalleyCat lists sites for eBook publishers to promote their books online at no charge. They’re also good sites to search for eBooks to purchase.

10 Most Controversial Magazine Covers

After the brouhaha over the recent Time magazine cover, Adweek selected the ten most controversial covers of the past few years.

eBooks, eReaders, Tablets and Their Users

This graphic provides information about digital books, readers, their owners and how and where they use them.

In Defense of “Legacy” Publishers

While large publishing houses are derided as “legacy” businesses, most have not only adapted to the opportunities available through digital distribution, they also possess a trove of content curated over the years to republish in any forms the market desires.

Paper Pricing Insights

Even though paper prices are showing minimal movement because of spotty demand, this article offers insights on how prices are set and supply managed to ensure profitability and avoid glutting the market.

Donnelley Shutters Another Plant

RR Donnelley announced that it is closing its Danbury CT plant just days after announcing its purchase of EdgarOnline for $38.6 million. Donnelley’s chronic identity crises continues.

50 Shades of Twilight

The surprise bestseller of the year (3 million copies sold in a month) the 50 Shades of Gray trilogy apparently began life as a racy take on the popular Twilight book series. Libraries are debating whether to stock the title or not.

More J.K. Rowling Success

Selling Harry Potter eBooks on the new Pottermore website produced sales of nearly $5 million in it’s first month of operation.

Final Thought

What holy cities are to nomadic tribes – a symbol of race and a bond of union – great books are to the wandering souls of men: they are the Meccas of the mind. G.E. Woodberry

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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.