Sarah Weinman, News Editor of Publishers Marketplace, on publishing’s past, the future of brick-and-mortar bookstores, and how publishing can remain relevant.
Looking at how conglomerization has shrunk the pool of publishers, I then go back 50 years ago when Random House first went public and they declared an IPO. Then they merged with Knopf, and then eventually they were bought out by RCA. That was the first instance of an outside conglomerate buying into a publishing house. And RCA eventually did not stay put, but it sort of heralded this sea change of both media companies and foreign entities coming in and saying we want in on this publishing business.
Wall Street expects profits each quarter and ideally you want profits that keep going up and up and up. But publishing just doesn’t work that way. The margins are tight. Especially if you’re looking at a brick and mortar entity they’re even tighter. So as a result, to expect that profits will keep increasing when there’s so much to be done. Especially with acquiring content, acquiring books, editing them, it costs a lot of money to produce just one book. Now multiply that by thousands of them. So as a result, it’s not the greatest investment for Wall Street.
If we are indeed seeing the end of a chain bookstore model, that lasted roughly around 20 years, then maybe we will see more independent bookstores, but in order to do that they have to be really smart and understand exactly why they need to exist and how they need to exist and go forward.
A joint production of Digital Book World and Astral Road Brand Media: http://www.astralroad.com/