Archive for Digital Book World
The publishing industry, both in its digital and paper forms, is still finding ways to address and overcome the current hot topic of book discovery. Fortunately, NextMarket Insights just released some information that might tip off those in the book business as to how consumers are currently learning about new books.
NextMarket conducted a survey of over 1200 households towards the end of 2012, and the results explained how many consumers find new books. Overwhelmingly, Kindle and Nook users rely on the Amazon and Barnes and Noble online storefronts respectively to aid them in browsing for titles; that trend was tied at 64% of users for both Kindle and B&N tablet readers. It is important to note that the majority of Amazon users said they rely on ratings and reviews of books on Amazon’s website, which speaks to the current firestorm of anger from authors and publishers over the so-called corruption in Amazon reviews, given that reviews apparently do matter a great deal to consumers.
Also explained in this report was an age breakdown for how customers find new books through social media. Interestingly, when the first e-reader boom emerged and it seemed everyone was boarding mass transit with a Kindle or Nook tucked in the outer pocket of the briefcase, there was one demographic that lagged behind the crowd, firmly grasping its printed books: kids. Whether it was small children whom parents weren’t ready to trust with an expensive device or teenagers who saw reading on their technology as a school-related activity and therefore opted to limit their devices to games and social interactions, children of various ages were some of the last to adopt e-reading.
According to NextMarket’s data, that’s changing. It showed that the younger demographic of consumers in the 18-29-year-old range–arguably some of those same teenagers and college students who may have been reluctant digital readers at the beginning of the e-reader device surge–are three times more likely than any other age range of adults to use an online source such as social media or retailers’ online storefronts to browse and discover new books to read.
First, let me say that it’s hard to give an unbiased comment on DBW. That’s because I have been going to it since it started, and on top of that I’ve also been going to Tools of Change and NAPCO’s digital shows as well. This means that what may be new and exciting for someone attending for the first time might be old and boring for me. I hope I can be fair in my comments.
As usual with these shows, the organizers confuse quantity with quality. So many presentations are jammed into the morning sessions that there is no time to go into the details of any of the subjects of the talks. I heard many attendees complaining that there should be fewer, and longer, morning presentations so that they could actually learn something from the presenters. The workshops, however, were very well done and seemed to be very well received by all attendees.
A couple of things stood out this year. Digital Book World is trying to present more and more data to the audience—more surveys, more studies, etc. This increase in data gathering and presentation is a welcome change and is genuinely useful to the industry and was the best part of the conference. Unfortunately, the data is often presented by the data-gatherers, who won’t comment or speculate on what the numbers mean. The people I talked to, however, thought that the data presentations, while sightly flawed, were the best part of the event. It is also fascinating to see the rise of interest in children’s books, both in presentations and data gathering. This is something new under the sun and it will be fun to follow it in the future. The inclusion of a library workshop was also a good thing, and there should be more of it in the future. Libraries are an emerging battleground in the ebook market and it is time to place more focus on them. Self-publishing is also starting to make a breakthrough into the sessions and more detailed analysis and commentary on this phenomenon would be useful to the audience.
Finally, from the historical perspective, it is fascinating to me to see the shift in attitude of the major publishers as they appear in these events. When this whole event-race started there was a noticeable arrogance in the attitude of the publishers who were presenters. They said “the right things” in their presentations, but it was clear to the audience that they were really unhappy with the whole subject and sort of wished they weren’t there and that ebooks would go away. This was especially apparent in the attitude of the higher level presenters. Publishers are not too happy, still, but it is clear that they are now beginning to embrace ebooks and are beginning to see them as an opportunity instead of a millstone. There is still a ways to go but it is quite a change in 3, or so, years. Finally, the show is clearly oriented around publishers and not too interested in authors, be they traditionally or self published. The discussion around self-publishing was primarily targeted on what this means to publishers. This may be inevitable, however, as these shows are expensive to attend and only people in the publishing industry, funded by their employers, can afford them. For an author there is very little value here. I wonder if there is any market for an author-oriented show at an affordable price. Economics may say no.
A workshop on libraries and ebooks was held with Skip Dye, VP, Library and Academic Sales, Random House; George Coe, President, Library & Education, Baker-Taylor; Barbara Genco, Manager, Special Projects, Library Journal; Stephanie Anderson, Head of Readers Advisory, Darien Library; and Heather McCormack, Collection Development Manager, 3M Cloud Library.
Genco showed some interesting statistics from a survey that was just completed. 89% of libraries offer ebooks and the 2012 expenditures on ebooks could hit $90 million. 71% of readers who borrow ebooks use the library for ebook discovery and 40% use the libraries ebook catalog for discovery. In an important statistic, 92% of ebook readers buy print books. Looking at the statistics presented at the workshop, it is clear that library patrons find the restrictions put on ebooks by most of the major publishers to be totally unacceptable. For example, 62% of patrons find it totally unacceptable that they can borrow an ebook only by going onsite to the library.
Random House said that it is clear to them that libraries are an important method of discovering books and are of a big help in first novels, especially. They feel that discovery in a library does lead to a purchase by the consumer. George Coe said that libraries process 3 billion transactions a year and that demand is 10 times what is offered in urban areas. He praised Random House for its library friendly policies and this was seconded by librarian Stephanie Anderson who said that most of the bestsellers currently available in ebook form come from Random House.
This was a workshop with Carolyn Pittis, SVP, Publishing of HarperCollins, Nina von Molkte, SVP, Director of Digital Publishing Development, Random House and Jennifer Weltz, VP, Jean Naggar Literary Agency.
One major point made by the agent was that some authors are learning how to use and manipulate social media and those who do are treated better by publishers when it comes to contract time. However, the publishers reps said that there still needs to be a lot more education for authors in the fundamental knowledge of web stuff. They mentioned that there was supposed to be an extra day at DBW aimed at authors and teaching them some web and social media fundamentals, but this was cancelled because of a lack of interest. They felt that this was a shame.
The publishers both said that they are collecting more and more data to help drive marketing, but the agent said that she has still yet to see this trickle down to authors. As always, the dichotomy between what publishers say they are doing for authors and what the authors (through their agents) actually think is being done is still there. One of the most interesting points made by Weltz, the agent, was that there is a very high opportunity in publishers’ backlists. A lot of these backlist titles are still in print, she says, even though selling only a few copies here and there. Converting these to digital and marketing them strongly could be a good sales opportunity – if they are still selling then they must be good. Getting publishers to listen to this, however, is like beating their heads against a wall.
One very significant part of attending events like the Digital Book World conference held in New York this week is the opportunity to wander among the vendor and sponsor booths and meet up with innovative companies and platforms that offer a lot to the digital publishing space. At this year’s event, there were an almost overwhelming number of companies who offer digital publishing services to both authors and publishers, big or small. One important note, though, was that each of these platforms has found a way to stand out by offering something different, even if it’s just in their marketing strategies or compatibility.
INScribe Digital‘s Executive Vice President and General Manager Anne Kubek met with GoodeReader for an interview about what it takes to reach publishers in a market that is already very saturated with these kinds of service providers, namely being able to offer the end-to-end service that lets publishers focus on simply being publishers, without worrying about how their authors’ titles will reach the digital customers. One way INScribe has been able to do this is to build a core group of executives who came from the various branches of the publishing family tree, including booksellers with decades of experience and publishing veterans from some of the largest publishing houses in the world.
Jim Hilt, Barnes and Noble’s Vice President of ebooks, gave a presentation at Digital Book World today that explored some interesting data on how readers—either tablet or dedicated device users—browse and discover new books. With the advent of online book shopping, whether consumers choose to buy print or digital editions, the standard genres and categories that book publishers and book sellers once relied upon aren’t sufficient.
Hilt spoke to Good e-Reader about this need to base discovery on readers’ interests rather than categories, especially when online platforms allow highly specified keyword and topic searching. He also discussed some of the considerations that Barnes and Noble is working with to expand Nook use in foreign markets, the work that B&N is doing with Nook Video, as well as how B&N plans to address the needs of Nook e-reader users while keeping up with the growing number of consumers who are exploring the options provided by tablets.
This was a seminar with Chantal Restivo-Alessi, Chief Digital Officer, HarperCollins Publishers, Simon Lipskar, President, Writers House, Michael Cader of Publishers Lunch, and Rebecca Smart CEO, Osprey Group. Concentrating on what to expect in the coming year, all the participants agreed that 2012 was “Act 1″ in the reorganization of the publishing industry. How many more acts are to come, nobody could say.
One of the most interesting comments was made by Simon Lipskar, who is a literary agent. He feels that the Penguin/Random House merger will lead to the new company’s serious entry into the book retail market—both online and in store. He can see them opening brick and mortar stores, and Lipskar said that he would be very surprised if this didn’t happen. Rebecca Smart said that she would expect the new Penguin/Random House to make serious use of the Penguin brand in future marketing, as the Penguin brand is the only brand name in the industry that means, exclusively, books.
The moderator raised the possibility of using the subscription model to sell ebooks in the future. All of the participants except Lipskar agreed this might be a good idea. Lipskar, as an agent, said that, while subscriptions are very consumer friendly, he doesn’t think that it could work from an author perspective. He can’t think of a financial or contractual model that would be acceptable to authors. (Talking to a number of literary agents at a panel later in the day, they all agreed with Lipskar about the difficulty of making a subscription model work.)
All parties agreed that in 2013, we will see more targeted marketing efforts and further change. However, we have come to the point, Restivo-Alessi said, that a lot of change is taking place internally in the publishers’ organizations and will not be very visible to the outside.
This year’s Digital Book World conference has been filled with industry attention on a number of topics. Children’s content has received a lot of the focus, as has the current wider adoption of the ePub3 standard. New terms have even been coined, with the recognition of the “hybrid” author as a driving force in the publishing industry.
One of the areas that hasn’t received as much attention recently is the current state of ebook lending. While people on both sides of the issue—those who represent the interests of libraries and those who speak for the concerns of publishers—have assured the industry that progress is being made, it is certainly moving slowly.
OverDrive‘s CEO Steve Potash was on hand at this year’s Digital Book World conference and took a few minutes to talk to Good e-Reader about the buzz surrounding ePub this year and about their recent release of data concerning the massive growth of users connecting to library content through the OverDrive catalog.
Some of the major focus of this year’s Digital Book World conference has surrounded children’s content in digital publishing. Once relegated to cute video game-like app books, children’s publishers are now at the forefront of attention.
Several fully attended pre-event presentations and event panels were scheduled throughout the conference, including one in which Scholastic‘s Deborah Forte spoke, along with Rick Richter of Ruckus Media Group, Asra Rasheed of RRKidz, and Christian Dorffer.
Good e-Reader met with Deborah Forte following her panel to talk about some of the key issues facing both digital publishers of children’s content and the parent consumers of that content.
Digital Book World‘s annual conference brings together a wide variety of experts across so many specialties in digital publishing to give insight into what makes the industry work. Once again, Sourcebooks‘ CEO and publisher Dominique Raccah was an invited guest to speak on driving innovation in publishing and agile publishing.
One of the ways that Sourcebooks has proven itself to have incorporated that level of innovation that is required to succeed in publishing is by constantly developing new strategies to engage readers with the book. Last month saw the soft launch of Sourcebooks’ Put Me In The Story platform, which allows publishers to leverage readership by utilizing Sourcebooks’ personalization within their books, encouraging literacy among emerging readers by featuring their names and photos within the books.
For older audiences, Sourcebooks developed the Shakesperience tablet-based platform that incorporates video clips, audio, hyperlinks, and more within the text of Shakespeare’s works, bringing not only a new appreciation for the reader but also encouraging a deeper level of understanding and engagement among reluctant readers. Shakesperience’s newest title, Julius Caesar, launched yesterday.
CEO Dominique Raccah once again spoke to Good e-Reader about the innovation and work that they are doing to promote reading to a variety of audiences.
At last year’s Digital Book World conference, GoodeReader caught up with Atavist to talk about the rise in popularity of long-form journalism, digital short stories, and serialized ebook novellas. Rather than a sign that the attention span of the average reader is waning, as some critics will argue, long-form journalism is actually the opposite; it allows readers who would have only been presented with a strict word count to know more about the story, including background details, narrative, and prior knowledge-level information.
Atavist’s Evan Ratliff spoke with GoodeReader at this year’s DBW event to talk about how that popularity has led to even more platforms growing up to meet the need for novella length digital fiction and pieces of journalism that would have once been considered impossibly long for print media.
This growth has afforded Atavist the capability to expand into the production of a video-and-text documentary for digital consumption, as well as look ahead to opening the platform to more authors of more types of content.
Michael Tamblyn, Chief Content Officer, Kobo Inc. discussed Kobo’s role in the indie environment. Kobo had a fantastic December as it doubled content sales and device sales were up 150%. After Google left indies, Kobo jumped in with the ABA. Google had asked retailers to compete online, which is very hard to do, and booksellers are not set up to do this. Kobo felt that they could leverage the strengths that they already had. One of the major things that booksellers can do is to hand sell and they have a relationship with the customer.
Some of the problems they faced included how to distribute to all these indie bookstores. They couldn’t use any of the typical electronics distributors. Kobo realized that indies already use Ingram and so tapped Ingram to do the distribution. Another problem was how to get people trained to answer customers’ questions. They put together a 26 person field team to do education.
Devices went into 450 ABA stores in November, and Kobo has now been able to get a sense of how an indie book reader is different. They buy more expensive ebooks and have a completely different price tolerance from the “regular” ebook reader. Indie ebook buyers buy less backlist titles and they buy at a much higher price level. They also buy different ebooks in that they buy less fiction and much more non-fiction biography, business, history, political science, etc. For the fiction sales, indie buyers purchase much more literary fiction and less genre fiction. There is also a “shocking” lack of romance and erotica.
Kobo is going into the indie space because they feel that there is a core of traditional readers that are on the sidelines and waiting to make a decision as to whether to jump into digital. They also feel that this is good practice to moving overseas where indies are far more prevalent, as many countries do not have a dominant national bookstore chain.