DBW Weekly Roundup: 2/18/11

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DBW Weekly RoundupDigital Book World presents a weekly round-up of some of the most interesting news, commentary and tweets related to publishing that you may have missed, from all over the digital book world.

Borders Missteps Go Back 20 Years
John Mutter, Shelf Awareness

One of Borders’s early advantages–its computer system, the creation of Louis Borders in the company’s early years–became dated after the Borders brothers sold the company to Kmart. For many years, Borders and Walden continued to use separate computer systems. In addition, the Borders system has continued to use proprietary bar codes, which means that every book ever sold by Borders has had to have a special sticker printed out and applied to it, usually over the industry-standard bar code that is printed on all covers and jackets now. Stocking and restocking in the Borders system lagged behind its competition.

From our point of view, Borders’s last chance for a turnaround came during the period when George Jones, CEO from 2006 until early 2009, headed the company. He undertook a series of initiatives, including extensive store remodeling, taking back the company’s website from Amazon, creating (again) a publishing program, improving merchandising and buying processes. He also spun off most of the international operations, which were usually profitable, but which many considered a distraction. Unfortunately, the financial collapse in 2008 shook the company to the ground, bringing on the Ackman-LeBow era of the past two years, when a hedge fund manager and a corporate raider, both of whom represent the worst of American capitalism, took over and drove the company into the ground.

Borders decline means big changes for industry
Hillel Italie, AP

“They’ve always been great champions of the trade paperback format,” says Carrie Kania, who heads HarperCollins’ paperback imprint, Harper Perennial.

“Borders has, from their beginnings, been a consistent supporter of literary and first fiction,” says literary agent Ira Silverberg. “Their loss will absolutely be felt in lower projections for first print runs by publishers.”

The New Archie Comics
Calvin Reid, Publishers Weekly

One reason why Archie comics remain so popular with children is that they are among the few comics still available on the newsstand and at supermarket checkouts; indeed, the newsstand represents “the lion’s share” of comics sales for the company, according to Goldwater. In September, the company signed a distribution deal with Random House, which Goldwater says has spurred a renewed emphasis on graphic novels. The monthly comics are not going away, but Goldwater says he wants to increase the company’s graphic novel line by 50%–100%. “It is a very, very important part of our business here at Archie Comics, and we are focusing a lot of energy and resources behind promotion and creation of our graphic novels,” he says. Last week, the company announced its first original graphic novel, Archie Babies.

Digital Is The New Direct Market
Torsten Adair, The Beat

So stores order fewer copies of already marginal titles. Publishers notice this, as well as the number of digital copies sold (as well as subscriptions, which can be lucrative for children’s titles). So, like Marvel in 1981, they realize that printing paper copies is no longer profitable, and only distribute the issue as a digital file. Perhaps the publisher charges $2.99. Perhaps $1.99. Maybe these “Digital Direct” titles feature journeymen talent which work at lower rates. Or maybe the publisher sells a cheap version with ads, and a more expensive edition without. Maybe later they collect the digital copies into a trade paperback. (Quite possibly as a print-on-demand edition!)

Can Google Beat Apple With Its Publisher-Friendly “One Pass” Digital Subscriptions?
Kit Eaton, Fast Company

But the real thrust of the announcement is about how publisher-friendly One Pass is. Publishers can “customize how and when they charge for content while experimenting with different models to see what works best for them–offering subscriptions, metered access, ‘freemium’ content or even single articles for sale from their websites or mobile apps.” One Pass also lets “publishers give existing print subscribers free (or discounted) access to digital content” and Google takes care of “the rest, including payments technology handled via Google Checkout.”

Where in the publishing world are libraries?
Katie Dunneback, Consultant East Central Library Services, Bettendorf, IA

[slideshare id=6951332&doc=dunnebacklibrariestoccon11-110216154545-phpapp01]

Margaret Atwood, “The Publishing Pie: An Author’s View”
TOC 2011

Tweet of the Week

Margaret Atwood on tools of change.

That’s just a taste of what you may have missed this week. To stay on top of the most interesting news, commentary and tweets related to publishing, keep in touch via our RSS feed, follow us on Twitter, join your publishing colleagues in our LinkedIn group, and connect with the broader DBW Network.

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