Disney Rethinks Publishing in a Tech-Driven Market

Disney Publishing Worldwide children's books interactive digital mediaThe Walt Disney Company combines two divisions into a new Consumer Products and Interactive Media segment, in response to what the company calls “changing consumer preferences in a marketplace increasingly influenced by technology.”

Disney Publishing Worldwide will now be housed within the combined segment, which Disney says will be better positioned to utilize its technological resources and pursue licensing opportunities more strategically.

The move shows Disney reconceiving its book publishing business as one component of a broader digital content offering that must compete more directly with a slew of other children’s media, especially on mobile devices.

To that end, Disney is also setting up a technology lab to develop “new immersive products.”


Related: Children’s E-Reading Comes of Age

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Amazon Turns Readers into Value Creators (Flavorwire)
Reviewing the recent news that Amazon is beginning to pay some of its authors on a pages-read basis, one commentator notes that while the move, in his view, reflects a “robustly alienated, factory approach to fiction writing,” it places more power into the hands of readers to ascribe value to content. If you’re among those who rues that shift as a sign of the crass industrialization of ‘literature,’ he writes, it bears remembering that “it has been here for a while. Amazon merely manages it now.”

New Amazon Payment Scheme a Paradigm Shift? (Futurebook)
Some have argued that publishers might have changed their own compensation models along the lines Amazon is now implementing had they only had the means to do so. In one industry watcher’s take, Amazon’s new unit-standardization and monetization of ebook content represents nothing less than “the arrival of a new level of digital disruption…The same digital dynamic that has given authors the ability to publish their own work now begins to compensate them on its own electronic terms.”

Sales Down at Barnes & Noble (Pub Lunch)
Releasing additional financial details for fiscal 2015, the bookseller reports book sales fell $5.5 million, and online sales dropped $16.3 million for the year (roughly 4.6% over the year prior). Barnes & Noble also trimmed its Nook workforce by about 28%.

Can Publishing Be Hacked? (Pub Perspectives)
“I look with some cynicism upon weekend-long hackathons, knowing from experience how much reflection, effort, testing, iteration and planning” goes into that process, one publisher-cum-programmer recently wrote. Still, that isn’t stopping some developers from trying their hands at rethinking what’s possible in book publishing from new, tech-driven perspectives. Here’s a look at eight projects to emerge from a recent publishing hackathon.
Related: How Technology Can Save Publishing from Itself

Start-up Wants to Help Readers Read Less (Forbes)
A German publishing start-up called Blinkist digests lengthy business titles into smaller units of content meant to be consumed in around fifteen minutes. The company says it isn’t trying to do publishers in, though, claiming its service helps users get through more titles than they otherwise would by boiling each one down to its key ideas. “We are creating a market that didn’t exist and expanding one that did,” says Blinkist’s co-founder.

Ebooks Tick upward in France (Ink, Bits & Pixels)
Ebooks comprised 6.4% of total book sales in France in 2014, up from 4.1% in 2013, according to new figures from a trade organization for French publishers. So far, digital formats appear to be taking considerably larger slices of the pie in professional and academic categories than in trade publishing.

A Golden Age for University Presses? (Guardian)
One observer comments that the caliber of “serious nonfiction” titles coming out of major university presses far outstrips that of the leading trade publishers, arguing that marketing concerns are increasingly diluting the quality of the latter.

Amazon Expands Loans to Global Merchants (Reuters)
Amazon Lending, the e-tailer’s loan program for small sellers, has been available only in the U.S. and Japan until recently. Now Amazon announces it’s extending credit lines to third-party merchants on an invitation-only basis in seven additional countries, including China.

Etsy Shudders as Amazon Plans Its Offensive (WSJ)
Etsy’s stock isn’t weathering an impending challenge from Amazon terribly well, with shares of down 59% since the company’s IPO. Amazon is preparing to launch an artisanal goods marketplace later this year, called Amazon Handmade, in what’s widely seen as a direct challenge to Etsy.


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