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Monday, October 29, 2012

The Book Industry Is Not Only Surviving - But Surviving Well

Simply Two Book Formats
"For all the complexities that publishing faces, the notion that books are somehow less of a factor in the cultural or information ecosystem of our time doesn't hold up to the evidence."  Peter Osnos

I wrote a post Saving The Publishing Industry? two weeks ago. Today's post is another take and expansion on the health/condition of the book publishing industry --- with some neat insights many of us might not have previously considered.

This from The Atlantic by Peter Osnos:

Numbers show that the publishing industry is handling the rise of e-readers better than what folk knowledge might suggest.

The fall publishing season is in full swing. There can hardly have been a year with more luminaries atop both the fiction and nonfiction bestseller lists; J. K. Rowling, Michael Chabon, Ken Follett, Junot Diaz, among others, represent literary acclaim and commercial appeal. Diaz (This Is How You Lose Her) is having an especially good run: He is both a National Book Award finalist and a recipient of a MacArthur "Genius" prize. Stephen Colbert, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Neil Young, Bob Woodward, and Salman Rushdie are just a sampling of the nonfiction bestsellers. (For the full array, check out the New York Times's copious five pages of print and e-book listings in the book review , which are supplemented online with "expanded rankings" featuring "more titles, more rankings and a full explanation of our methodology.") Whatever else may be happening in this tumultuous period of transition in how books are produced and distributed, the sheer range and quality of so many titles is indisputable proof that our marketplace has writers and readers in impressive numbers.

For all the complexities that publishing faces, the notion that books are somehow less of a factor in the cultural or information ecosystem of our time doesn't hold up to the evidence.

Recently, Colin Robinson, a respected founder of a New York-based independent publisher, OR Books, wrote an essay for The Guardian entitled "Ten Ways to Save the Publishing Industry." The summary paragraph was grim: "Book sales are stagnating, profit margins are being squeezed by higher discounts and falling prices and the distribution of book buyers is being ever more polarized between record-shattering bestsellers and an ocean of titles with tiny readerships." For the most part, Robinson's recommendations are common sense: an emphasis on selection, pricing, effective use of the Internet, and a focus on readers by devoting more effort to reaching them directly through social media. Jeremy Greenfield, editorial director of Digital Book World, in a response to Robinson's manifesto makes a strong case with observations that I generally share: "The publishing industry isn't a monolithic thing: some publishers are doing well and others are not. ... I don't see an industry that's flailing—I see one that's managing a complicated transition much better than would be expected."

The available numbers seem to support this view. In the first six months of 2012, according to Publishers Weekly, drawing on data from 1,186 companies, the Association of American Publishers reported that trade sales increased 13.1 percent, to $2.33 billion. The most important indicator is the continuing boost in e-book sales, up 34.4 percent, to $621.3 million, which makes it competitive with the totals for hardcover print sales. When you consider that it was only with the appearance of Amazon's first Kindle reader in 2007 that e-book sales took off, the pace of change is stunning. I still own an original Kindle, and picked up an iPad when it was released (these early models serve my simple purposes), but there are so many more advanced versions of these readers that consumers now have choices galore that are far more extensive, for example, than are provided by televisions, which most people judge simply by the size of their screens or the quality of the picture.

For those of us who remember a relatively genteel era, as recently as the 1980s and early 1990s, when books were shipped for sale mainly to classy "carriage trade" independents, several national chains (that have since gone under), and the enduring but embattled Barnes & Noble enterprises, there is a frenetic feeling about the push for visibility in the digital age.

Read and learn more

The WWB (Writers Welcome Blog) is available on Kindle :)))

Monday, October 22, 2012

Amazon Overtaxing? Screwing With Publishers?

Business Shark
 Amazon has a base in Luxembourg which requires that Amazon only has to pay a 3% VAT (Value Added Tax) to the government for UK ebook sales.

So why is Amazon making British publishers pay 20% VAT on ebook sales? And is this even legal? Seems to me no private company can be a taxing authority. Right or wrong?

Every time I get HALFway convinced that Amazon is really not all that bad and just employs aggressive (but hopefully legal) business practices, they do something devoid of good ethics.

On top of abusing the VAT subsidy, Amazon is always negotiating other discounts that often result in publishers/writers receiving less than 10% of the ebook price.

Amazon is just NOT a friend of publishers/writers --- Yet, many believe they are the best thing next to sex. I just don't get it.

More details provided by Telegraph.co.uk, the online daily:

Amazon forces ebook VAT on publishers

The online retailer Amazon charges publishers a UK tax rate despite having a tax dispensation because it is based in Luxembourg.

Amazon is making British publishers pay 20 per cent VAT on ebook sales, despite their true VAT cost for UK ebook sales being closer to 3 per cent.
From 2006, the online retailer has been based in Luxembourg, where the company only has to pass 3 per cent VAT to the government for UK ebook sales. (There is no VAT on printed books in this country.) Despite this, Amazon starts negotiations with UK publishers on the basis that the UK VAT rate of 20 per cent must be lifted from the cost price.

The difference between the UK VAT levy imposed on publishers and the actual 3 per cent that Amazon pays amounts to an extra £1.38 of profit every time it sells a £10 ebook in the UK.

The company negotiates further discounts on top of the VAT subsidy, which in some cases can result in publishers receiving less than 10 per cent of the price paid by the online customer.

Richard Murphy, founder of the Tax Justice Network, told Sky News Luxembourg's 3 per cent tax rate on ebooks is being taken advantage of by Amazon.

Read and learn more 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Saving The Publishing Industry?

"Reports of my death
are greatly exaggerated"
READ ALL ABOUT IT! READ ALL ABOUT IT! Publishing has died. At least according to many people who are closer to dying themselves :)

The publishing industry is NOT dead NOR is it dying --- It has just been reborn (or being reborn), so to speak.

Now, some people may say the new publishing babe is a bastard or born with handicaps --- but, I say: with love, understanding and therapy the newborn will shake out just fine.

My opinion of course. What's yours?

Colin Robinson, a founder of the New York-based independent publisher OR Books, has his own ideas RE how to save the publishing industry:

Ten ways to save the publishing industry

With book publishing in crisis, Colin Robinson calls for a reformation

This year, on the face of things, it's been business as usual at the Frankfurt book fair, with some 7,500 exhibitors setting up shop in the gleaming white Messe. But scratch beneath the surface and a tangible unease about the future of the industry is evident: book sales are stagnating, profit margins are being squeezed by higher discounts and falling prices, and the distribution of book buyers is ever more polarised between record-shattering bestsellers and an ocean of titles with tiny readerships. The mid-list, where the unknown writer or new idea can spring to prominence, is progressively being hollowed out. This is bad news not just for publishing but for the culture at large.

It's time for a reformation in publishing, and the precepts set out below provide a basis for the creation of a new, healthier book industry. They echo another event that occurred during October in Germany, nearly half a millennium ago: the nailing of Martin Luther's 95 theses to the doors of Wittenberg cathedral. Luther was protesting against the idea that the route to salvation could be secured by payments to those at the top of an ecclesiastical hierarchy. The theses here should have been pinned to the Amazon stand at Frankfurt.

1. Publish for readers, not authors. The 21st-century publishing environment has tipped the balance still further towards the importance of the reader. The garrote that Amazon has applied, using its market share to obtain ever higher discounts from publishers that, in turn, allow price cuts that secure still more customers, is possible because of the behemoth's direct relationship to readers. To break this stranglehold, publishers must start selling direct. The longer-term advantages of using their own customer databases to sell at full price, rerouting the additional revenue into marketing, will outweigh any initial discomfort about eschewing the services of the world's largest booksellers.

2. Publish more selectively. In a recent open letter to Amazon customers touting Kindle Direct Publishing (through which authors sell their books directly to readers), founder Jeff Bezos claimed that the programme produced "a more diverse book culture" with "no expert gatekeepers saying, 'Sorry but that will never work.'" Bezos evidently regards the function of publisher as obsolete. Publishers will flourish when they are seen as discriminating arbiters of their customers' tastes. Limiting the number of books published will assist in emphasising this vital role of gate-keeper. Publishing successive books by the same author, or books grouped tightly by type or subject, will underscore the publisher's authority as a curator.

3. Focus on editing and design. The new publishing dispenses with a variety of traditional functions: investing in print runs, warehousing, catalogues, chasing payments and processing returns. But other tasks such as editing and design take on additional importance. Ensuring that books are readable and attractive is a vital way for publishers to stay afloat in an ocean of self-published titles.

4. Hold no stock. Print-on-demand remains significantly more expensive than conventional printing. But it means the end of misjudgments about how many books to print. Further savings will be achieved by foregoing warehouse costs and not tying up capital in stock. And, of course, in this new, more efficient system, the environment benefits alongside the publisher's bottom line.

5. Publish fast. For books dealing with current affairs or breaking cultural trends, to say nothing of the publisher's cash flow, the advantages of direct-to-reader digital publishing's faster turnarounds are enormous.

Read and learn more

The Writers Welcome Blog is available on Kindle :)))


Monday, October 8, 2012

A Printing/Publishing Broker

Here is an interesting bit of news dealing with the digital print space and offering new technologies to bridge the gap between artists, publishers, and printers.

Not sure I understand it all. I just came across this and haven't had time to digest it all.

But, it sounds interesting and adds another part to the puzzle of future publishing as it might look --- and super fast, enhanced print publishing at that.

This from WhatTheyThink?:

Daydream Alchemy Launches Publishing Venture at Graph Expo

Collaboration with Oce brings innovative project to fruition.

Oce, a Canon Group Company and an international leader in digital document management, today announced an exciting new collaboration with Daydream Alchemy Press that is poised to revolutionize the world of publishing.

The brainchild of veteran publisher Edward Innes, Chicago-based Daydream Alchemy will bring projects to life that otherwise would have never seen the light of day. Best described as a printing/publishing broker, Daydream Alchemy seeks to take advantage of new technologies to bridge the gap between artists, publishers, and printers.

"You've got all this technology now that allows artists and writers to do all sorts of absolutely insane crazy things," said Innes. "At the same time, Oce has gone completely over the top, breaking the 300 page-a-minute limit and bringing color into the high-speed inkjet digital solution. That presents huge opportunities."

Innes was particularly impressed by Oce's ability to eliminate minimum press runs of 1,000 or more, allowing for micro-press runs and paving the way for more self-publishing and print-on-demand titles. "Oce is eager to demonstrate the capability of their machinery and willing to put their product up against offset, which is fascinating," said Innes. "The lines that used to exist between digital and offset are disappearing and it's going to be fun to be part of that revolution."

First Books Part of Oce Equipment Demo
Oce and several of its finishing partners will be producing Daydream Alchemy's debut titles live on the tradeshow floor at Graph Expo, October 7 - 10 at McCormick Place South, Chicago, Ill in the Canon booth (#400).

This first run will include a children's picture book, Claire and Her Clarinet, and a young adult action-adventure novel, Auggie Drucker, along with Dreams of an Insomniac, a collection of short stories by the president of Daydream Alchemy's fiction division, Matthew Jankiewicz, and Los Cantantes a portfolio of works by Juan Andres da Corte, the company's art director.

The book blocks will be printed on the Oce ColorStream 3900 inkjet printing system, Oce JetStream 1400 inkjet printing system, and Oce VarioPrint 6000 Ultra Series digital perfecting system, while the corresponding book covers will roll off the Canon imagePRESS C7010VPS printer.

"We have the widest portfolio of solutions to offer in the digital print space, from cut-sheet to continuous feed, inkjet to toner, color to black and white," said Francis A. McMahon, Vice President, Marketing, Production Printing Systems division of Oce North America, a Canon Group company. "Along with Oce PRISMAsync software solutions, we really can bring the publishing space a true end-to-end solution."

Read and learn more


Monday, October 1, 2012

How Bout Them Print Mags

Publishers launched 155 magazines in
the first three quarters of 2012, among
 them Fairchild Publications' men's fashion
 quarterly M and northeast Mississippi's new
 lifestyle title Mud & Magnolias.

Print mags are sticking around --- So says Matthew Flamm, one of my favorite publishing intelligencias, reporting for Crain's New York Business.

I have predicted numerous times that print magazines (and books, for that matter) will never go away completely. See this blog's archives as well as my Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue  blog.

Publishers launched 155 new print magazines in the first three quarters of 2012 against only 55 that folded during this same time period.

Now, this from Matthew Flamm:

Print magazines finally find some equilibrium

Nine months into the year, one media trend seems clear: titles may come and go, but magazines made from paper-and-ink are sticking around.

Fairchild Publications' men's fashion quarterly M and northeast Mississippi's new lifestyle title Mud & Magnolias. That marked a slight improvement over the 151 print titles that came to life in the same period a year ago, according to numbers released Monday from MediaFinder.com, which calls itself the largest online database of U.S. and Canadian publications.

An even more promising statistic for the period: Only 55 magazines folded, compared to a loss of 119 titles a year ago.

"We're going to have print until people work out the monetization of digital," said Trish Hagood, president of MediaFinder.com. "It's like the new normal."

Read and learn more

The Writers Welcome Blog is available on Kindle :)))