The Publishing Industry Enigma

Legal experts don’t understand the publishing industry, writes Mike Shatzkin, a publishing industry consultant (and partner on Digital Book World 2013).

Shatzkin attended the In Re Publishing conference put on by the New York Law School this weekend and found many enthusiastic proponents of the recent settlement between the Justice Department and several publishers to resolve the matter of alleged ebook price-fixing – a settlement that was roundly opposed by most publishing industry observers and many publishing industry organizations.

There was one speaker, however, who understood how publishing is different, according to Shatzkin: professor John B. Thompson of Cambridge who is the author of Merchants of Culture, a 2010 title about book publishing from UK-based Polity Publishing. He made two basic points to the hostile crowd of lawyers:

1. Trade publishing is a vastly different business from other segments of publishing.
2. The pace of growth of ebooks has changed so vastly that it makes business planning extremely challenging.

Shatzkin unpacks these points and more at the Shatzkin Files.

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The rest of the day’s top news:

Why Ebooks Are Different (Pub Perspectives)
There has been a tendency – by the DOJ, retailers, consumers and others – to look at ebooks as a commodity. But books are not a commodity; one is almost nothing like the other and pricing them as such can be dangerous.

How Random-Penguin Looks From the UK (DBW)
Are Hachette + Macmillan (Machete) or HarperCollins + Simon & Schuster (Harsch) next? Compare Random Penguin as a “mega” publisher in size to some other companies in the space by market cap (Apple, Amazon, etc). And more!

Harlequin’s Challenging Quarter (Pub Lunch)
Canadian romance publisher Harlequin blamed the success of Fifty Shades of Grey in part for its poor performance in its third quarter where EBITDA (one way of measuring profit) was down $5 million.

Harlequin’s New Secret Weapon (DBW)
Harlequin has hired an anti-piracy enforcer and has instituted a new set of policies to help fight piracy. Perhaps it should have hired an anti-competitor’s-best-seller officer (see above).

Brazil Bookseller to Sell Online Divison? Amazon in Wait (Reuters)
Saraiva, Brazil’s largest bookstore chain, has put its online business on sale, a move which could open the door for Amazon to make an entry into the country. It was reported earlier in Oct. that Amazon might be interested in acquiring the whole company. Related: Book and Ebooks in Brazil.

Cutting Edge in SF (PW)
At the recent Books in Browsers conference in San Francisco, start-ups outnumbered established companies and the future of publishing may have been on display. Not all of the start-ups will survive, but the ones that do may become household names like Twitter and Tumblr in the next few years.

Baker & Taylor Launches Mobile Access for Library Platform (DBW)
With its new mobile site for its Axis 360 library ebook platform, Baker & Taylor is now offering both librarians and library patrons mobile access to its ebook service.

Random House Postpones Open House (DBW)
Random House has postponed its open house in which it would host the public and influencers at its offices in midtown Manhattan until Dec. 14. Some sessions will be tweaked.

Recovering From Sandy (PW)
Many New York-based publishers have yet to open for business this week following warnings of Sandy and then her devastation. Here is an update on many of these houses.

Photos of the Devastation (BuzzFeed)
Here are 29 photos of how bad things got when Sandy’s waters were at their height. For those of you who live in the tri-state area, our thoughts are with you. For those of you who do not live there, please join us. The Digital Book World offices are officially closed and have been all week. We apologize for any lapses in service.


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