Where Does Book Publishing Go from Here?

shutterstock_241419268“This is not a zero-sum game and it isn’t simple,” writes Mike Shatzkin. “It’s Rubik’s Cube complicated.”

In Shatzkin’s latest deep dive, he analyzes a slew of factors that are propelling the publishing industry into rapid change, including the return to agency pricing, declining ebook sales, the rise of subscription services, and, perhaps biggest of all, the increasing popularity of self-publishing.

“Indie publishing is still growing and it seems that established publishing is at a standstill,” Shatzkin writes. “But we’re still many years — most likely a decade or more — from any real changing of the guard.”

Shatzkin continues:

“If publishers lower their prices to compete more effectively with indie-published books and the subscription offers, their revenue will go down but so will the indies’, who will lose some of the benefits they now gain from their pricing advantage.”

But in Shatzkin’s view, there’s still one “very big dog that has not barked” yet that could upend the entire industry: “No major author of recurring bestsellers has stepped up to take charge of his or her own output.”

Much more.

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AAP Reports Ebook Sales Down 15 Percent (PubLunch)
The Association of American Publishers reported that trade sales fell by $6.5 million in April to $488.4 million overall. Ebook sales fell by $20.6 million to $120.2 million, down almost 15 percent compared to a year ago. Both adult and children’s/YA ebook sales fell in April, and it was the fourth consecutive monthly decline for the format, which is down 10 percent so far in 2015, declining $51.7 million to $476.4 million so far. Digital audio sales continued to gain, however, up $17 million over the past four months to $64.3 million so far this year.

Authors React to Amazon’s Self-Publishing Policies (MediaShift)
Amazon controls the market for 67 percent of ebooks and 41 percent of physical books, but the company’s influence “might be even greater for self-published books, as it is sometimes the only platform self-published authors use to sell their books.” Recently, though, Amazon’s reviewing policies and its Kindle Unlimited subscription service have come under fire from some indie authors decrying them as unfair.

Simon & Schuster’s Earnings Grow as Sales Decline (PubLunch)
Simon & Schuster’s second quarter was the company’s fourth straight quarterly decline in sales —down $12 million to $199 million—despite the fact that its earnings grew, with OIBDA of $27 million, compared to $24 million a year ago. CBS, S&S’s parent company, said “the revenue decline was more than offset by lower production and distribution costs.” Ebooks comprised 20.1 percent of sales in the quarter, compared to 22.3 percent a year ago, and digital audio was up 40 percent for the year so far.

NYPL Launching Three Ebook Projects (The Digital Reader)
The New York Public Library (NYPL) is trying to simplify how patrons get ebooks with a new app called Library Simplified “that brings together all of the various ebook vendors available through a library, and lets patrons log in and read everything available in one location, with one login.” The NYPL is also launching Open Ebooks, a serviced aimed at low income youth, and it is exploring the idea of building a nationwide self-hosting repository.

Digital Magazines Aren’t Working (REDEF)
The rise of the iPad and other tablets was supposed to reinvigorate the magazine experience. But as one consultant explains it, digital magazines have been roundly rejected by consumers: “Despite volume growth of over 40% in 2013 and nearly 75% the year before, digital magazines have achieved only a 3.5% share of total consumer magazine circulation. To put this in perspective, this is less than one ninth of the penetration rate enjoyed by ebooks – and growth has already begun to plummet.”

Sexism in Book Publishing (Jezebel)
In an essay for Jezebel, Catherine Nichols writes that she sent her manuscript to 50 agents and received two manuscript requests. When she created an email address with a man’s name, however, and sent the same cover letter to 50 agents, she received 17 requests. The essays discusses sexism in the traditional book publishing process, an issue that becomes even more pertinent when contrasted with the rise of self-publishing.

Academic Libraries Going Forward (Library Journal)
Steven Bell, the current vice president/president-elect of the Association of College & Research Libraries, discusses the future of academic libraries, writing that “academic librarians need to imagine a future where our work moves beyond content into services that allow researchers, educators, and students to achieve productivity and potential with their content.”


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