Thursday, August 15, 2019

Media News: Amazon Juggernaut & Dilemma, Open Source Publishing, Digital Textbooks, Elsevier

The Amazon Publishing Juggernaut: What does the e-commerce giant want with the notoriously fickle world of publishing? To own your every reading decision. (Atlantic)

"Founded in 2009, Amazon Publishing is far from the tech giant’s best-known enterprise, but it is a quietly consequential piece of the company’s larger strategy to become a one-stop shop for all your consumer decisions. As Amazon Studios does with movies, Amazon Publishing feeds the content pipelines created by the tech giant’s online storefront and Amazon Prime membership program. At its most extreme, Amazon Publishing is a triumph of vertical engineering: If a reader buys one of its titles on a Kindle, Amazon receives a cut both as publisher and as bookseller—not to mention whatever markup it made on the device in the first place, as well as the amortized value of having created more content to draw people into its various book-subscription offerings. (One literary agent summed it up succinctly to The Wall Street Journal in January: “They aren’t gaming the system. They own the system.”)

The Amazon dilemma: how a tech powerhouse that fulfills our every consumer need still lets us down. Despite increasing criticism, Amazon refuses to acknowledge many of the unintended consequences its rise to dominance has spawned. (ReCode)

"Let’s start with Amazon’s power. Its roots can be traced back to a potent cocktail of vision, fortuitous timing, relentlessness, and a knack for exploiting loopholes — from state tax laws to a dearth of regulation that could have prevented it from acting simultaneously as retailer, retail platform, and consumer brand kingmaker."
Fake Journal publishers: OMICS, Publisher of Fake Journals, Makes Cosmetic Changes to Evade Detection. Following a public outcry over their proliferation, paralleled by a media exposé together with regulatory pressures in some countries, fake journals have appeared to be cleaning up their act. (TheWire)

Mind the Gap: The landscape of open-source publishing tools (report)
The number of open source (OS) online publishing platforms, i.e. production and hosting systems for scholarly books and journals, launched or in development, has proliferated in the last decade. Many of these publishing infrastructure initiatives are well-developed, stable, and supported by a small but vigorous distributed community of developers, but promising new ventures have also recently launched.
The notable increase in the number of OS platforms suggest that an infrastructure ‘ecology’ is emerging around these systems. Distinguishing between systems that may evolve along competitive lines and those that will resolve into a service ‘stack’ of related, complementary service technologies will help potential adopters understand how these platforms can or should interoperate.
Hummm, The radical transformation of the textbook (Wired)
“Digital text, digital work, is often engaged with at a lower level of attention. By moving everything online, it’s going to become even more decontextualized. Overall, I think there’s going to be less deeper learning going on,” Trakhman says. “I believe there’s a time and a place for digital, but educators need to be mindful of the time and place for using these resources. Rolling out these digital suites is not really the best for student learning.”
Battling Elsevier:  University of California’s showdown with the biggest academic publisher aims to change scholarly publishing for good (The Conversation)
The UC-Elsevier showdown made headlines because it’s symptomatic of the way the internet has failed to deliver on the promise to make knowledge easily accessible and shareable by anyone, anywhere in the world. It’s the latest in a succession of cracks in what is widely considered to be a failing system for sharing academic research. As the head of the research library at UC Davis, I see this development as a harbinger of a tectonic shift in how universities and their faculty share research, build reputations and preserve knowledge in the digital age.
Inclusive (textbook) access at the University of Arkansas (News) and at Austin Peay (News)

Read more articles on my Flipboard magazine:


Are you considering an investment in new technology?  Check out my report on software and services providers.  (PubTech Report)
Michael Cairns is a business strategy consultant and executive.  He can be reached at or (908) 938 4889 for project work or executive roles.

Monday, August 05, 2019

Peak Media acquires F+W titles

Peak Media acquires F+W titles. 
It has been great to be a part of the establishment of Peak Media through due diligence and now operations. 
(In fact this press release was written by me).

Friday, August 02, 2019

Kara Swisher interview with Pearson CEO John Fallon

The $300 Textbook is dead.

"One of the biggest challenges I think America has, we have something like 30 million working adults who have paid for some form of university education, but have nothing to show for it, so a lot of it is around how do you help people to complete the university education, have the credential and badge that enables them to progress. So we do a lot of that. We work in 70 countries around the world, 24,000 people, big digital transformation. So we’re investing about a billion dollars a year in the research and development of things that help people to learn more effectively. That’s essentially what we do."

"Exactly. So if there is a ... We are in the 14th edition of Philip Kotler’s Marketing, the bestselling marketing textbook in the world. There won’t be a 15th edition. Think of it more like FIFA 18, FIFA 19, FIFA 20. It will be Marketing 2020 version one, version 2. Digital first, designed for a mobile world. You update for when there’s changes in the field of study, scientific breakthroughs, new case studies. You update for advances in AI as we think of new ways that we can provide more personal adaptive learning. And because you’re breaking away from what was a very expensive and time-consuming analog-led model, it’s not just much more effective, much more personal, much better outcomes, it’s much lower cost, so the $300 textbook is dead.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Moon Memory

Originally posted on 7/20/2009

Siam Intercontinental 1970.  Now demolished.
I always remembered the moon walk occurring during the daytime, and it wasn't until recently that Mrs. PND happened to recall 'staying up' to watch a couple of guys walk on the moon. My memory was captured in brilliant white sunshine and air conditioning because in their early twenties in mid 1968, my parents had packed up the family and moved to Thailand where my father took his first management role at Intercontinental. Out of England, Thailand was a magical place but also often fetid, smelly and unbearably hot; however, living at one of Bangkok's few luxury hotels - one also that had created a sort of garden oasis out of the surrounding slums - eased the transition considerably. I had the run of the place since both my brothers were much too young to get out by themselves and while I didn't get up to too much mischief I did have my moments.

My mode of transportation was my peddle car US Army issue Jimmy's Jeep (all green) in which I tooled around the open air corridors of the hotel. This was especially fun during the rainy season when the corridors became particularly conducive to skidding. As three blond haired kids, we were a somewhat unusual commodity to the Thai especially the women and whenever my youngest brother went out they always wanted to touch his blond hair. From my perspective this attention was often unwanted and one particular room service waiter teased me mercilessly, and I had just had enough when on one occasion he snuck up behind me and took my hat. When he refused in the face of my demand to give it back, I took a run at him in my Jeep and rammed him. Catastrophically, he was also carrying a lunch tray which went flying in a cascade of crockery, food and glass. I remember him looking at me half laughing while I was immediately mortified that my father would find out. Needless to say he never bothered me again and I got my hat back. No one ever mentioned it. I always wonder what he told HQ when he had to return with a tray full of debris to replace the order.

There were no televisions in the hotel rooms at that time mainly because there was only one state television station in Thailand which broadcast in Thai. On the morning of July 21st, 1969 (evening of July 20th on the east coast), my mother took me to the hotel lobby vowing to me this is something you will always remember. I suspect if we were still living in England that I would not have seen the moon walk live because of the time difference. As I recall, there were only a few people gathered around the TV which was sitting unceremoniously low to the floor on a chair. In contrast to the crowds gathered in public places in the US, I was left to recognize the importance of what I was witnessing without the collective endorsement of the crowd, but I am sure our little group clapped and sighed with relief just like everyone else. We also didn't have the benefit of Walter Cronkite's commentary and in the last several days having watched some of the CBS broadcast, he did indeed sum up the penultimate moment brilliantly when he takes off his glasses and just says 'Wow'.

In the forty years since the landing, I am indifferent to the manned space program and I don't see the value of spending billions just to prove we can do something that has no recurring benefit. The Apollo program was important but everything we do in space can be replicated down here and down here we have more than enough problems to contend with.  Nevertheless, walking on the moon was a miraculous achievement.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Questioning My Education: Five Strategic Trends Changing Higher Ed

Perhaps the only surprise in the fact that major changes and dislocations are taking place in educational publishing is that they took so long to exhibit themselves.  The more recent change is the aggressive growth of all-access textbook deals sold to students – frequently via the institution – which provide students access to the entire content catalog published by a textbook publisher.   Cengage put the wind up most educational publishers two years ago when they launched their program, which they now claim has been sold to more than one million students.

Other publishers (including Wiley, Pearson and others) have followed Cengage and that company’s very public proselytizing about the model is a strong validation of the strategic importance that digital delivery and subscription models have to the future of this market.   While the Cengage business model represents a fundamental market change it is only one of several strategic interrelated changes now affecting the market for education content.  The infrastructure supporting the way textbook and educational content is sourced, delivered and developed is heading for significant disruption which will displace some current market incumbents and fortify others.

Here are five trends I see driving the market:

First all-access products developed by publishers are unlikely to be widely adopted on an exclusive basis by institutions.  Just as there has never been a requirement for academics to source print textbooks from specific publishers, faculty independence will continue.  However, this is likely to necessitate interoperability across textbook database products.  Publishers with a poor user interface and experience, unable to support single sign on, remote access will be at a disadvantage especially compared to more experienced database vendors.   This suggests there will be a bias towards aggregation as dealing with multiple, non-compatible products can be complex for administrators, faculty and students.

Second, aggregators are already a significant presence on campus via the library.  EBSCO, Proquest and Gale, for example, already support student development and include textbook content as database products.  Textbook content is a natural product extension for these companies and they operate a business model very familiar to campus librarians and provosts.  Aggregators act as wholesalers of textbook content which can be a valuable market channel for many textbook publishers.  Notably, there is no reason to believe that textbook sales will eventually not be subject to the same type of consortia price negotiation which governs other academic content sold to universities.

Three publishers in particular – Wiley, Taylor & Francis and WoltersKluwer – may have advantages because they publish academic (journal) products sold directly to campus libraries.  Their advantage over aggregators and other publishers would be to integrate this content effectively to enable the delivery of comprehensive educational products.  WoltersKluwer has long hosted their textbook content on OVID (their online product) for example.

Third, the global textbook market is dominated by large publishers and represents an aggregation of sorts, although many publishers retain distinct ‘franchise’ products supporting specific content disciplines.  While publishers are selling all access to all their products, smart publishers will also attempt to ‘carve out’ branding opportunities around these franchises and create online ‘centers of excellence’ which extends the branding of these franchise products.  This trend is important because creating an all-inclusive all-access product may level set all author brands to the detriment of the publisher’s strong legacy author franchises.

Four, it is hard to see where the traditional on-campus bookstore fits in to this paradigm.  College stores are a profit center for the institution and most bookstores are operated by Barnes & Noble, Follett or independent operators under contract from the institution.  The relationship these retailers have with the publishing industry diminishes in importance as more content is delivered online and, as these stores are disintermediated, bookstore contracts become a diminishing asset for bookstore managers.  As these store contracts come up for review, more institutions will be rethinking their entire retail strategy and will invite more general-purpose retailers to compete for these contracts.  Importantly, most college bookstores already sell far more general merchandise than textbooks.

Fifth and last is perhaps the most contentious issue: Who will ‘control’ the valuable data “exhaust” which is produced by students and researchers interacting with online content.  This data about students, faculty, research activity and other collectable information represent a significant competitive asset.  Institutions are slowly awakening to the inherent value in this information and are being chased by innovative start-ups to gain access to the data.   While individual institution data has value, more value may be gained by aggregated data from multiple intuitions and these “cohorts” may become data sharing collectives.  In turn, these institutions may sell data to publishers and other parties for their use.  Naturally, there are concerns about how this data is collected and leveraged and industry groups are calling for governance in this area.

Strategists have long anticipated the death of the print textbook but we are now finally in the midst of a massive transformation of this market.  Some textbook publishers have positioned themselves to take advantage of these changes; however, no publisher is guaranteed a successful outcome given the comprehensive challenges they face.  Some big-name publishers will exit the textbook market rather than gamble that they can make these transitions successfully.

 Read more articles on my Flipboard magazine:


Are you considering an investment in new technology?  Check out my report on software and services providers.  (PubTech Report)
Michael Cairns is a business strategy consultant and executive.  He can be reached at or (908) 938 4889 for project work or executive roles.

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

BISG Webinar: Pubishing Technology Spending and Vendors

Check out this link to a webinar I did for BISG several months ago reviewing technology spending and the vendors which support publishing companies.

The presentation covers some of the same ground as my research report: Global Publishing Software and Services Report 2019.

Sunday, July 07, 2019

MediaWeek: Wiley, Indian Tariffs, UK Textbooks + More

Wiley buys Zyante Books for $56MM in cash (press release)
Zyante was founded in 2012 and its zyBooks platform has served over 500,000 students across 500 institutions. The company targets some of the fastest growing and in-demand STEM disciplines, bridging the gap between classroom and career, and enhancing lifelong productivity and employability. Degree demand in these disciplines has grown by 8% between 2013-2017 according to the National Center for Education Statistics, and jobs in Information Technology and Engineering have grown by 17% and 14%, respectively, since 2016 according to Burning Glass. Revenue for 2019 is expected to be $14 million, a 37% increase over 2018.
India's new government has imposed a 5% tariff hike on imported books to 'encourage domestic publishing and printing' IndiaToday.  There are skeptics:
"I don't think levying 5 per cent custom duty on imported books is going to benefit our local publishers. If one really wants to help publishers here, the rising costs of paper should be brought down. The scarcity of paper should be addressed and removed," he said.
The Publishers Association reports that UK textbook sales declined 6% last year despite some strong promotion (TES)
Sales of school textbooks in the UK fell by 6 per cent in 2018 despite a drive to increase their use.  The Publishers' Association said "the continuing squeeze on school budgets" had resulted in teachers not being able to afford "the learning resources children need”.

The slow death of the Hong Kong independent bookseller (Asian Review)
When Bao, 52, entered the book-publishing trade in 2005 it was still crowded with competitors. Now he is a lonely holdout with dwindling revenues, still publishing books critical of the Communist leadership of China and touching on mainland political taboos such as 1989 Tiananmen crackdown.
His most recent book, "The Last Secret: The Final Documents from the June Fourth Crackdown," unearthed speeches by 17 top Communist Party leaders and elders at a secret internal meeting 30 years ago, discussing the aftermath of the violent suppression of unarmed students and citizens in Beijing.
India is addressing the predatory journal issue (again) (Nature):
Last month, India launched its latest salvo against the ‘pay and publish trash’ culture that sustains predatory journals. Over several months, more than 30 organizations representing universities and academic disciplines have vetted journals to release a reference list of respectable titles. Predators sabotaged our last attempt. We hope this better-curated list will help to cut off the supply of manuscripts to the unscrupulous operators that profit financially by undercutting academic quality.
 Read more articles on my Flipboard magazine:


Are you considering an investment in new technology?  Check out my report on software and services providers.  (PubTech Report)
Michael Cairns is a business strategy consultant and executive.  He can be reached at or (908) 938 4889 for project work or executive roles.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

MediaWeek: Universal Music archive in flames, No law in the Amazon, Bad data, Faber&Faber

From the NY Times magazine a cautionary tale about managing archives via the experience of Universal music which saw an entire warehouse of music archives go up in smoke.  The Day the Music Burned
Eventually the flames reached a 22,320-square-foot warehouse that sat near the King Kong Encounter. The warehouse was nondescript, a hulking edifice of corrugated metal, but it was one of the most important buildings on the 400-acre lot. Its official name was Building 6197. To backlot workers, it was known as the video vault.
Before long, firefighters switched tactics, using bulldozers to knock down the burning warehouse and clear away barriers to extinguishing the fire, including the remains of the UMG archive: rows of metal shelving and reels of tape, reduced to heaps of ash and twisted steel. Heavy machinery was still at work dismantling the building as night fell. The job was finished in the early morning of June 2, nearly 24 hours after the first flames appeared.
These reassuring pronouncements concealed a catastrophe. When Randy Aronson stood outside the burning warehouse on June 1, he knew he was witnessing a historic event. “It was like those end-of-the-world-type movies,” Aronson says. “I felt like my planet had been destroyed.”
No law in in the Amazon:  How rampant is book counterfeiting on Amazon? And it doesn't stop there. NY Times 
But Amazon takes a hands-off approach to what goes on in its bookstore, never checking the authenticity, much less the quality, of what it sells. It does not oversee the sellers who have flocked to its site in any organized way.
That has resulted in a kind of lawlessness. Publishers, writers and groups such as the Authors Guild said counterfeiting of books on Amazon had surged. The company has been reactive rather than proactive in dealing with the issue, they said, often taking action only when a buyer complains. Many times, they added, there is nowhere to appeal and their only recourse is to integrate even more closely with Amazon.
Hey Jeff, in college they have this thing that can check whether a paper has been written by the student in question.   Think about it.  Turnitin.

A history of Faber and Faber one of the UK's most iconic publishing houses in The Guardian:
All publishing houses have archives, but for anyone interested in 20th-century literature the archive of Faber & Faber is a fabled treasure house. This is the firm that was, as Toby Faber puts it, “midwife at the birth of modernism”. In 1924 Faber’s grandfather, Geoffrey Faber, aspiring poet and fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, had been installed as chairman of the Scientific Press, recently inherited by another All Souls fellow, Maurice Gwyer. It published mostly books and journals for nurses. Geoffrey Faber renamed it and started making it into a literary publisher. Within his first year he had installed TS Eliot as a fellow director and acquired his backlist.

Tracking the results of bad data.  A report from Dun & Bradstreet:
A new report from Dun & Bradstreet reveals businesses are missing revenue opportunities and losing customers due to bad data practices. Almost 20 percent of businesses have lost a customer due to using incomplete or inaccurate information about them, with a further 15 percent saying they failed to sign a new contract with a customer for the same reason.

The way that data is structured appears to be a significant barrier in many organizations, with indications that data is often poorly structured, difficult to access and out of date.
"Businesses must make data governance and stewardship a priority," said Monica Richter, chief data officer, Dun & Bradstreet. "Whether leaders are exploring AI or predictive analytics, clean, defined data is key to the success of any program and essential for mitigating risk and growing the business."
Winning bidders were announced recently for the remaining assets of F&W Media (Folio)

Read more articles on my Flipboard magazine:


Are you considering an investment in new technology?  Check out my report on software and services providers.  (PubTech Report)
Michael Cairns is a business strategy consultant and executive.  He can be reached at or (908) 938 4889 for project work or executive roles.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

PW Article: Publishers invest in marketing technology

From Publishers Weekly an article written by Bill Trippe:  Keeping Up With Tech Should Be a Publishing Priority- Publishers should invest in the marketing technology that will help them reach their audiences

He quotes me:
Michael Cairns, CEO at strategy firm Information Media Partners, points to another aspect. “The thing I see the most is a lack of consistency in approach: marketing may be using one tool such as MailChimp; sales may be using another, like Sugar; and even editorial may be using its own tools to reach out directly to consumers for newsletters and other supplementary content. So I think I would invest in trying to implement uniform tools and solutions with perhaps something like Hubspot as a core application.”

Friday, June 14, 2019

MediaWeek: Publishing News - B&N bidding, EBSCO, Follett, Axel Springer, Paper Shortages, University Presses

Seoul, Korea: Book store
My email newsletter is here.

Investors believe the recent bid of $476mm for Barnes & Noble by Elliot Management under values the business (Reuters).   Additionally, ReaderLink - the largest distributor you may not have heard of - may enter the bidding (WSJ).  Investors want the B&N board to consider more options.

EBSCO is moving in to the textbook hosting game with this announcement that they are creating a solution specifically for faculty which will make it easier to select materials for their courses:
EBSCO Information Services (EBSCO) announces the release of EBSCO Faculty Select™ (Faculty Select), a single interface for library staff and institutional faculty. Faculty Select makes it easy for faculty to explore Open Educational Resources (OER) and purchasable DRM-free e-books to support their courses. The interface provides the highest quality, affordable course options that drive textbook affordability, access and usability for faculty and students alike.
Follett has also launched a campus 'all access' solution for educational content:
Follett ACCESS is an evolution of delivering over seven years of affordability programs for campuses.  The powerful new program delivers all required print and digital course materials to all enrolled students at a campus as part of their tuition, or course charges, on the first day of class—resulting in lower costs, reduced stress, and greater student preparedness.  By serving over 1,200 campuses in North America, Follett is experiencing demand shift from a course-by-course solution, to a broader full campus participation with Follett ACCESS.
Equity firm KKR really wanted a piece of Axel Springer and have announced a tender offer for all outstanding shares other than those owned by the Springer family and management.  The deal values Axel Springer at just under EUR 7Billion.  The deal is expect to allow Axel Springer to speed up their digital transformation without the constricts of a public (reporting) company (PR):
Axel Springer aims at becoming the leading global provider of digital content and digital classifieds. KKR has significant expertise in the digital and media sectors, an impressive track record of successful investments in Germany and across Europe and will be a strong strategic and financial partner for Axel Springer. KKR supports Axel Springer’s strategy of investing in further growth projects to generate long-term value. Furthermore, the parties are in agreement that Axel Springer will remain a leading voice in independent journalism across all channels, nationally and internationally alike.
 If you attended the BISG annual meeting you will have heard the fireside chat about the state of the printing and paper industry.   Not great is the short answer: Consolidation has resulted in fewer print options for publishers together with capacity issues and in addition paper is becoming more expensive and harder to resource.  Here Forbes takes a look at the paper shortage from the publisher perspective:
Where did this paper shortage come from, and how long will it last? To find out, I asked Danny Adlerman, Director of Production and Manufacturing at multicultural children’s book publisher Lee & Low Books, who’s been with the company since its founding in 1992 and works on 200 active titles, including front and backlist, at any given time. Adlerman said that while the paper shortage was most acute about six months ago, its effects are still being felt, though he’s hopeful it’s closer to being resolved than it was at the start of 2019. While Lee & Low hasn’t seen any significant delay in sending out ARCs and galleys, the shortage has yet to be fully resolved. I asked Adlerman about the causes of the paper shortage and what the possible solution could be.
Troubled university publisher Melbourne University Press has announced their new publishing director Nathan Hollier (SMH):
Hollier, the director of Monash University Publishing, has been named as successor to Louise Adler, who resigned along with five directors in January after MUP turned its back on its previous policy to be a more commercial publisher of books in order to focus on academic work and introduce an editorial board to approve publications. He will start the job on July 1.  Speaking to The Age from Detroit, where he is attending a conference of university presses, Hollier said he didn’t expect the approach he adopted at Monash would differ massively at MUP. "I’m going to try to publish books which are the most relevant and important for our times," he said.
Another University Press in the news recently for the wrong reasons: Stanford University Press was the main subject a recent Stanford faculty meeting.  Leaders want a press that is "healthy and excellent" (Stanford)
The Press moved into the spotlight in April when Provost Persis Drell announced that, while Stanford would continue to support the Press with base funding, the university did not intend to fund the Press’ request for five additional years of $1.7 million in one-time support.
Following faculty concerns, Drell clarified that the university had no intention of closing the Press and that she recommended the formation of a faculty committee to develop a long-term plan to strengthen the Press’ financial and operational model. The provost made additional one-time funds of $1.7 million available to the Press for fiscal year 2020 to assist with this process.
The Press received about $900,000 annually in institutional support from the university’s base general funds and income from a small endowment, and at the senate meeting Thursday, Drell said that support would continue. The Press also receives about $5.1 million in revenue from book sales and other sources; however, that income does not cover its annual expenses
“The challenge we’ve been confronting is that the Press is operating with a structural deficit, which was $1.7 million in 2008, and that has motivated a succession of requests for one-time funding,” Drell said. “There have been attempts to address the structural deficit that have not been successful in the past. We need a strategy and a plan to ensure that our Press is excellent and supported over the long term, and we will be working with the faculty on that.”
Read more articles on my flipboard magazine:


Are you considering an investment in new technology?  Check out my report on software and services providers.  (PubTech Report)
Michael Cairns is a business strategy consultant and executive.  He can be reached at or (908) 938 4889 for project work or executive roles.

Monday, June 03, 2019

Mediaweek: BookExpo, Elsevier, Viral Books, Bennington College, Magazines and Print.

From this past weeks BookExpo conference, the Washington Post reflects on publishers concerns about the future.  (What would the business be without concerns?)  Personally, I found BookExpo dismal.
At the same time, publishing faces troubling unknowns and adjustments. Barnes & Noble, the country’s largest physical book retailer, has been struggling for years and is considering a sale of the company. One of the largest distributors, Baker & Taylor, is ending its retail business, forcing some stores to find new ways to keep books in stock. And publishers again face a potential shortage of printing capacity that resulted in two future Pulitzer Prize winners, David Blight’s biography “Frederick Douglass” and Richard Powers’ novel “The Overstory,” being among numerous releases unavailable for extended stretches late last year.
But the most immediate concern is President Donald Trump’s threatened 25% tariff on some $300 billion worth of Chinese goods, including those from the country’s printing facilities. For years, U.S. publishers have relied on China for low-cost, high-capacity printing of four-color books, coffee table editions, Bibles and other standards of the trade and education market. The new tariff would almost surely result in higher prices, with publishers saying a hike of 50 cents or more is possible for a given book.
Elsevier announces a national agreement in Poland to enable access to their academic content:
The Polish consortium for higher education and Elsevier, the information analytics business, today agreed on a national license agreement for access to critical academic research, while advancing Poland's open access objectives. The new three-year national license is based on a thorough analysis of the Polish requirements for access to research, the country's publishing choices and its focus on research quality. It provides over 500 universities and research institutions across the country with access to ScienceDirect, Elsevier's leading platform of peer-reviewed scholarly literature, as well as SciVal, the research performance tool, and Scopus, the largest abstract and citation database of peer-reviewed literature.
In the Columbia Journalism Review and discussion of the 'viral book'
Traditional publishing, among the slowest of all media, and social media, the quickest, are working together more often. A search of the Publishers Marketplace database for the word “viral” turned up 14 non-fiction books in the first five months of 2019. Seven were sold from viral articles, and six were sold on the basis of another “virality”—for instance, a viral photo or a viral Facebook broadcast. In comparison, 11 books were sold in conjunction with viral media in all of 2018, six based on articles and four on other online media (including a “viral cooking technique”).
Digital media is not an industry known for its profitability. However, the uptick in publisher interest in viral work indicates a hope that publishing can capitalize on an internet-tested zeitgeist: presumably, publishers believe that those viral articles will turn into bestselling books. Is this a legitimate hypothesis? Can publishers forge a solid link between the fast pace of the internet and the very slow business of book publishing? What can authors hoping to garner a book deal learn from this newfound interest in virality?
From Esquire, Bennington College has some literary chops:
A new freshman class arrives at arty, louche, and expensive Bennington College. Among the druggies, rebels, heirs, and posers: future Gen X literary stars Donna Tartt, Bret Easton Ellis, and Jonathan Lethem. What happened over the next four years would spark scandal, myth, and some of the authors' greatest novels. Return to a campus and an era like no other.
Folio magazine takes a look at three magazines which have ditched print and still survived (and thrived):
As consumers and advertisers continue to shift their attention to digital media platforms, traditional print publishers are increasingly coming to the difficult decision that their future doesn’t include a print publication at all—or at least not one with a regular frequency. 
In the last month alone, ESPN The Magazine, Money, Brides and Beer Advocate announced plans to end their print runs. And they all intend to continue producing content for their digital platforms.

Once considered a death knell for a brand, the print-to-digital transition has proven for some publications to be more of a rebirth, especially when they diversify to additional channels, like events and TV. With that in mind, here are a few brands who have shown there is life after print—a good life.
And the counter discussion: Keeping with print:
And yet, even in 2019, a diverse set of both new and traditional publishers continue to invest in the medium despite its inherent financial challenges, begging obvious questions about how, specifically, a new media brand stands to benefit from producing an expensive print magazine at a time when the barriers to entry in digital media are seemingly nonexistent.
Brazil's publishing market is not doing well at all.

Read more articles on my Flipboard magazine:


Are you considering an investment in new technology?  Check out my report on software and services providers.  (PubTech Report)

Michael Cairns is a business strategy consultant and executive.  He can be reached at or (908) 938 4889 for project work or executive roles.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Media Week: The Week In Publishing - Vanity Fair Archive, LA Bookstores, Big Deal Subscriptions

Bondi Digital a NY based digital publishing company announced the launch of the full Vanity Fair magazine archive:
We are thrilled to share that Vanity Fair launched its Bondi-powered and collaboratively designed digital archive yesterday. For the first time, every photo, article, and issue is accessible on computers, tablets, and phones from 1913 to the present on
Other Bondi deployments include Aviation Week, Playboy, Maclean's, This Old House and others.

The Hollywood Reporter takes a look at the LA independent bookstore market and asks "why are so many longtim LA bookstores closing?"
Despite the recent shuttering of Circus of Books, Caravan Book Store and Samuel French, bookstore experts say the end for the city's brick-and-mortar stores isn't nigh: "There is a sea change happening, and it is noteworthy."
A recent report by the European University Association (EUA) estimates that European libraries spend more than E1B per year on "big deal" subscription agreements wiht the largest scientific publishers (ScienceBusiness):
European universities are paying more than one billion euros per year for access to journals run by the leading science publishers, according to a new survey from the European University Association (EUA) of ‘big deal’ contracts for access to large bundles of journals.  The survey, published this week, looks at 167 contracts made by groups of universities with Elsevier, Springer Nature, Taylor & Francis, Wiley, and the American Chemical Society, finding that the cost for universities is already high and rising by an average 3.6 per cent a year.  The annual outlay, “Is fully paid by public funds and the bulk of these costs fall on Europe’s universities,” said Jean-Pierre Finance, former president of Henri Poincaré University, who led the study.

The magic of notebooks (mine excepted) from The Economist citing an exhibit at the British Library
NPR's Book Concierge on the best books of 2018 

Read more articles on my Flipboard magazine:


Are you considering an investment in new technology?  Check out my report on software and services providers.  (PubTech Report)
Michael Cairns is a business strategy consultant and executive.  He can be reached at or (908) 938 4889 for project work or executive roles.

Monday, May 13, 2019

MediaWeek: The Week in Publishing - UVA Open Access Aperio, University Press, Danielle Steel

From the FT Why novelist Mark Haddon has lost faith in twitter. 

It's academic to some but The Atlantic suggests that university presses shouldn't have to make money joining the discussion that has been prompted by the off again/on again decision of Stanford to pull financial support from their university press.

In Science magazine, academic Alan Chambers describes how early in his career he became "easy prey for a predatory journal.  "The email appeared legitimate. It spelled my name correctly, referenced some of my previous work, and used correct grammar. The journal wasn’t on Beall’s List of Predatory Journals and Publishers. I thought I had done my due diligence."

How did Danielle Steel write more than 170 books?  A guide to efficiency from a profile in Glamour magazine. " There's a sign in Danielle Steel's office that reads, 'There are no miracles. There is only discipline.' It's a dutiful message, and yet the sheer amount that Steel has accomplished in her five-decade career does seem like the stuff of dreams." announced a partnership with Warner Brothers which creates a joint venture named and will combine the existing content of  From their press release:  "Wizarding World is the magical universe that encompasses Harry Potter, Fantastic Beasts and an expanding range of characters, stories, experiences and products derived from them, as well as new projects inspired by this magical universe."

A curious experiment in micro metadata tagging:  "In the 21st century, digital publishing has led to the rise of ever-more niche microgenres in books – from Amish romance to NASCAR passion – and it’s changing our literary landscape." Pursuit

The University of Virginia recently launched its own open source publishing platform (Aperio) and David Ghamandi, UVa’s open publishing librarian and managing editor of Aperio, speaks to the UVA newspaper:  “To be successful over time, universities need to invest heavily in their own OA presses (where they exist) and support each other’s presses. Universities need to be more serious taking responsibility for the dissemination and preservation of the knowledge produced on their own campuses. There also needs to be a culture shift where more faculty recognize the benefits of OA and are supported by their departments and schools to move the journals they lead to open access presses.”

Read more articles on my Flipboard magazine:


Are you considering an investment in new technology?  Check out my report on software and services providers.  (PubTech Report)
Michael Cairns is a business strategy consultant and executive.  He can be reached at or (908) 938 4889 for project work or executive roles.

Thursday, May 09, 2019

MediaWeek: The Week in Publishing - Baker&Taylor, Wiley, Comics, Translations

In a blow to competition, although not without cause, Baker&Taylor announced they were calling it quits on the retail distribution market.  Independent booksellers in particular will feel the hit from this action which appears to have been in the works for a while but implemented by B&T without contingency planning.  Many independent retailers have been left scrambling to find alternatives not named Ingram.   (ABA)

Springtime for Hitler at the Turin Bookfair where anger is growing (surely it's reached full gestation) against the publisher (Altaforte) of neo-facist content.  As the photo shows, these white lovers are brazen.  From the Guardian.

Woody Allen may have to consider self-publishing (Vox) but it Angelica Houston he may have one buyer at least (NYMag)

John Wiley has acquired the assets of Knewton which was at one time a high flying web-based education start-up which also apparently took in over $180mm in investor capital.  The purchase price was a lot less than that (Chronicle)

An interesting article on comic book publishing.  It's not all Marvel and DC Comics.  There's some adaptation and consolidation going on here as well.  The NYTimes takes a look and shows some of the smaller players are taking the lead of those larger companies by setting up studio deals and other distribution methods.

Vulture challenges the way publishers approach the translation market and suggests at a minimum the English language market is missing out on at least 1000 titles per year from around the world.   It suggests cultural isolationism.

At the recent BISG annual meeting during a q/a on the international rights market one of the speakers lamented the state of the Brazilian book market.  Here from the Brazilian report a review of what they describe as a bleak market.  Since 2009, sales have been downward with 2018 being the worst in 30 years despite significant growth in religious books.

Read more articles on my flipboard magazine:


Are you considering an investment in new technology?  Check out my report on software and services providers.  (PubTech Report)
Michael Cairns is a business strategy consultant and executive.  He can be reached at or (908) 938 4889 for project work or executive roles.

Monday, May 06, 2019

The New McGraw-Hill: Where is Education Textbook Publishing Headed?

Last week McGraw-Hill and Cengage announced a merger which would combine the two businesses into a $3.1Billion provider of education textbooks and materials.  Assuming this merger proceeds through competitive review, as is likely, then McGraw Hill – as the new company will be known, will be second only to Pearson, plc ($5.5Billion) in size and reach.  The new McGraw-Hill will be run by current Cengage CEO Michael Hansen.  While broad trends in education indicate a widening of the education and training marketplace as employers and employees see the need for full career based training, traditional education companies such as Cengage, Pearson, Macmillan, John Wiley and McGraw Hill have struggled to protect their legacy print businesses and address new market and product opportunities. 

Financial reporting across the industry suggests that publishers are losing the battle of the textbook which is one reason this merger was inevitable.  The question is how the remaining textbook publishers such as Macmillan, John Wiley, Wolters Kluwer and others will react: I expect some additional M&A activity and partnerships in this space.   With revenues declining at a steady rate, unless alternative sources of revenues – whether new products or substitutions – are found then all publishers face an inevitable decline in scale benefits.  Having faced steady declines in revenue over the past ten years, some of these publishers have infrastructures which can support larger businesses and thus combining with one or two other publishers can ‘top-up’ this scale gap.   It is no surprise that new McGraw-Hill anticipates $300MM in efficiency savings and I would not be surprised if they have privately targeted a much larger number.

But what about revenue growth?  This is a very dull story if it is only about cost and scale improvements and CEO Michael Hansen hinted at a more appealing story line.  He disagreed with a question about market concentration: Rather than the combined company having 45% market share he suggested that both companies have a market share in the teens.  His perspective is that students have many options when they visit a bookstore and a variety of business models to chose from (including buy, borrow and steal).  Additionally, the target student is being redefined to include ‘professionals’ and career focused students.  If you agree to both these points then, in effect, the market in which the new McGraw-Hill competes is larger than that presented by the legacy textbook market.  Cengage’s aggressive move to address this new market has been their all access subscription pricing model which in less than twelve months has grown to over 1MM subscribers and over $60MM in revenue.  (See the PND articles below on these points).

It is my expectation that this deal will proceed without significant deliberation and McGraw-Hill will argue successfully that the education market is now much bigger than the legacy textbook market.  Other publishers may find themselves a step behind McGraw-Hill and Pearson which will result in further market consolidation and/or combinations.  We are now on the cusp of changes like those the journals business went through over twenty years ago.  What is interesting to contemplate is whether what is happening today in journal publishing vis-à-vis open access content is in some way a predictor of what may happen to textbook content.   Journal publishers have moved to services and analytics and we may see a similar move in education.  Just not in twenty years.

(Company) and (Investor Call Recording)


Are you considering an investment in new technology?  Check out my report on software and services providers.  (PubTech Report)
Michael Cairns is a business strategy consultant and executive.  He can be reached at or (908) 938 4889 for project work or executive roles.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

MediaWeek: The Week in Publishing - Cengage, McGrawHill, Jet

On Wednesday, Cengage and McGrawHill announced what may be the last mega merger in the educational publishing market place.  Valued at just over $5B this is an all stock deal and the combined  company will have just over $3B in revenue.  Once completed in early 2020, the company will be named McGrawHill and be led by current Cengage CEO Michael Hansen. (Company) and (Recording)

A first time young adult author pulls her title amid a 'racist' backlash and then reconsiders.  The NYTimes takes a look at the 'close-knit children’s publishing community' and the recent history of bullying and controversy and finds (not surprisingly) that "While there are often controversies simmering in the young adult literary world, the magnitude and speed at which the backlash builds seems to have accelerated, often amplified by social media."

Connecting the anticipated raft of data produced by all the electronic touch points which students of all ages generate may become as easy as a walk-up withdrawal at Fort Knox if publishers have their way. At least that is the conclusion of a recent report by Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) which commented that "its (data about students, faculty, research outputs, institutional productivity, and more) capture and use could significantly reduce institutions’ and scholars’ rights to their data and related intellectual property"  There's more where that came from.

The demise of Jet and Ebony magazine and Johnson Publishing is a real shame but at least all the iconic images in their image library may end up in a museum should 'power couple' George Lucas and Mellody Hobson prevail at the bankruptcy auction (CB).  Although it may not go smoothly.  Lucas is owed $13MM for a loan collateralized by the image library and estimates of the library's value extend to $40MM.

Old line publishers seem in a race to sign open access publishing deals as a means to 'pivot' their business models.  Wiley in Germany and now Elsevier in Norway is the latest announcement and some say Elsevier's deal is akin to that last penguin to jumping off the ice.  But not so fast: This deal is still lucrative for Elsevier and the Norwegians appear willing to pay something for the cost of open access publishing. (FT)

Oh my Wiener!  Suggestions that Anthony Weiner is shopping a picture book are completely incorrect although he is looking for a book deal according to the NY Post.  As a bell weather, "Every Simon & Schuster imprint has passed,” although that really sells S&S short.

The assault (my word) on University Presses generated new news this week with notice that Standford University finds itself short of cash and will withdraw financial support from their University Press.  According to IHEd, the press relies on about $1.6mm in financial support from the university which is 'reliant' on the payout from the University's $26Billion endowment.  According to Provost Drell (who also happens to be a scholarly expert herself) next year's payout is expected to be smaller than usual and that the presses output is "second rate".  (Late word: Drell has announced a funding continuation due to the outcry. IHEd)


Are you considering an investment in new technology?  Check out my report on software and services providers.  (PubTech Report)

Michael Cairns is a business strategy consultant and executive.  He can be reached at or (908) 938 4889 for project work or executive roles.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Global Publishing Software & Services Report - Over 100 Companies


We have created a short free sample report which delivers a representative sample of the material contained in the 2019 report.  Visit this link to enter your information and receive the 20 page sample document.


My company, Information Media Partners recently published an updated version of our Publishing Technology Report which identifies over 100 software and services companies supporting global publishers and content owners. We asked some of the recent buyers of this report for some feedback:
 “…the report helped us avoid what may have become a very expensive mistake when we were looking to replace an important set of back office applications which run our business.” – Mike S. IT Director (Scholarly Publisher)
This report sets out some parameters for evaluating which providers you will want to look at as you make your decision to invest in new technology. Technology investment is a significant undertaking for any company regardless of your size or sophistication and our report provides a framework for identifying the best options for your business. We have conducted more than 30 in-depth interviews with the leading providers to help you understand each company's product offering and capabilities.
“Michael’s report helped us save a considerable amount of time in the selection of applicable vendors for our technology project and his concurrent consulting advice helped guide our process. We enjoyed working with him on this project.” Shelly B. Operations Director (Education Publisher)
With resources tight and frequently, expertise in short supply, this report and our consulting knowledge can help you ask the right questions and shorten your evaluation process. Time is money and no one wants to waste time and effort evaluating vendors which are not right for your business.
“In our view the most comprehensive report for software vendors supporting publishing and information companies” – Partner, Private Equity
This software and services market place is under researched and our market map is unique in the way it identifies the primary providers to publishers and content owners. Several private equity firms have purchased this report to support their knowledge and understanding of this vibrant market place.

This year we ranked Fadel (rights/royalties), Klopotek (Title, Editorial, Production) and Silverchair (Content Management) as the best positioned vendors in their segment having conducted over 30 interviews.

The 2019 report is 90 pages and includes a market overview, functional and technical descriptions of the primary software applications and vendors for enterprise resource planning (ERP), title, editorial and production (TEP), contracts, rights and royalties (CRR) and content management (CMS).

We advise that you should purchase this report if you are considering any investment in technology in the coming year and/or if you want to understand the competitive environment for these products.

As an added bonus, if you engage my company (Information Media Partners) for a consulting project in the coming year (not necessarily connected to this report) I will credit back the cost of this report.

Sunday, April 07, 2019

Fare Well the Editor? Springer Publishes Machine Generated Book

From the Springer press release:
In close collaboration between Springer Nature and researchers from Goethe University Frankfurt/Main, a state-of-the-art algorithm, the so-called Beta Writer, was developed to select, consume and process relevant publications in this field from Springer Nature’s content platform SpringerLink. Based on this peer-reviewed and published content, the Beta Writer uses a similarity-based clustering routine to arrange the source documents into coherent chapters and sections. It then creates succinct summaries of the articles. The extracted quotes are referenced by hyperlinks which allow readers to further explore the original source documents. Automatically created introductions, table of contents and references facilitate the orientation within the book.

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

BISG Webinar: Technology Spending in the Publishing Industry

I did a webinar today for the BISG and below are the slides from that presentation.

Make sure you use the discount code in the deck
Also, I did a q/a recently and this is an edited transcript of that conversation:

Q: Tell us a little bit about your report: What made you decide you wanted to do this and what was your objective?

A: Last year I completed a similar report (although the 2019 version is more detailed and comprehensive) and received more positive feedback than I expected.  As a result, I decided to expand it and devote more time to interviewing as many of the companies profiled as I could.   Initially, for the 2018 report, I was motivated partly by my experience raising capital as CEO of Ingenta.  I needed comparative data on market competitors but there was no market research to be found.  There is also no research available on levels of technology spending in publishing which was (and remains) a point of frustration for me.

My objective was partially personal and professional-- I want to be seen as an expert in this area.  A lot of money is being spent on technology by publishers and I felt, given my background, that I had something to offer companies looking to invest in new technology solutions.  I had also never undertaken a market research project on my own before and tried to sell it.  So that part was an experiment, and it turned out well.  As I said, more industry insiders reacted favorably than I expected.  As part of this report, I created a market map of all the software players and I think many were excited to see all these companies – over 100 – depicted graphically in my diagram.

Q: What do you think are the biggest issues currently facing the companies you have profiled?

A: Well, they’re probably different for each-- of course, every company has its own view. But I think there are universal challenges facing most—if not all—of the companies serving this market.
The first is that technology has been undergoing significant change over the last 5-10 years or so: Locally-installed software is giving way to hosted and subscription-based business models. Code is now built on the basis of open architecture so that applications can be woven together and data and services exchanged from machine to machine.   Publishing and media are generally conservative businesses and-- generally speaking--companies serving this segment are by no means leaders in addressing these changes.  So most, if not all, of the vendors in my report are going through some type of technology rearchitecting, and this can be perilous if not managed well.  The happy thing is that, because the pace of change in publishing is slow, these companies can be fairly methodical about their approach.  For example, I see companies like Fadel, Klopotek and Silverchair executing well through this transition.

In my report, I tried to depict this technology evolution in what II call my ‘velocity chart’--look at it and you will see most companies at an inflection point at the small end of a funnel.  As they invest in new architectures, they begin to quickly move out of this funnel and put greater distance between themselves and companies that have not invested.   Thus, companies investing in technology achieve a better competitive position against their rivals who do not invest.   Some of the laggards will get left behind, I believe.  (I’m not naming names here but I do in the report).

On the revenue side, the move to subscription models must be managed carefully since, historically, software companies would receive large cash payments upfront for perpetual licenses and this cash helped fund the software implementation process.  Those days are gone, replaced by smaller monthly subscription fees. In the short term this negatively impacts cash flow but, over time, can represent a significant revenue improvement.   The hosting model is also important here because customers are no longer obliged to manage their own local environments:  This will not only save money but deliver better technical and more flexible environments

The last issue is universal in this space and that is the relatively small size of the companies.  Most are less than $15MM in revenue, though there are one or two closer to $20MM    (CMS/hosting companies Atypon and Highwire are considered larger.)  These industry providers retain the benefits of delivering very tailored products to publishers which precisely fit their needs.  On this basis, the companies can compete very well against far larger software companies such as SAP.   Where size is a limitation as in the provision of ‘on-call’ expert resources and project teams for large-scale implementations, especially if the company has been lucky enough to win multiple contracts at the same time.  These smaller companies don’t have the financial strength of the medium- and larger- sized companies.  One other thing related to this point: Most of these players do not work with integrators (third parties which can implement their software) so the only implementation option for customers is the software developer.  In my opinion that is a problem that hampers business growth.

Q: Who are the buyers of your report?

A: It has been a mix.  I anticipated when I began the project that most buyers would be companies  anticipating an investment in new technology but I’d say those have been a small sub-set of buyers.  And that really surprised me because reading my report could save them a lot of upfront time in deciding which companies to speak to and consider in the evaluation process.  I’ve seen the vendors themselves and some investment companies buy the report--for them, it’s a good way to get to know more about the competitive market.  There’s a lot of information in the report (it's over 90 pages!) but 
I think prospective buyers get “sticker shock” at the $1,500 price tag--though I do offer some free consulting time with a report purchase.  I do have a discount code: THANKS2019 which is available now.

Q: Presumably you have clients who make use of the report and do want advice on the process of selecting a technology provider. What advice do you give them?

A: Naturally, all situations are different. But first off, it's important to understand the circumstances in which the company finds itself.  For example, what is driving the business to take the decision to replace their ERP or CMS?  One company which recently declared bankruptcy had, only a few years ago, replaced all of their financial systems with a very expensive Oracle solution.  Their motivation was that the older solution couldn’t support the new business models and strategy the company wanted to execute.  But, hindsight being 20/20, it was poor judgement to engage this costly project before there was any indication the new strategies would work.  Now, with the business in bankruptcy, the expensive system supports much less revenue than the resilient legacy solution would have had no problem supporting.   Proceed with caution: These projects are expensive, disruptive and rarely go smoothly. Your business has to be tough and well managed to execute effectively.  That is especially true if your business is less than $50MM in annual revenue.

Another thing I would point out is that it is not necessary to do a full RFI/RFP process.  Compiling a set of high-level requirements and bringing in three or four vendors can save time and money-- and you will learn a lot in the process.   Additionally, if you have someone like me to help navigate this process (generally without a vote on final selection) it will go a lot more smoothly.
The last thing I’d mention is that you should have a good idea of your current technical environment, architecture and costs.  These new systems will likely need to interface with other existing systems (some of which will also be replaced) and mapping out all these intersections in advance is an important requirement.  Data conversion and interface work is likely to be one of your project's biggest time and cost demands--starting early to understand the scope of these activities is time well spent.

Q: What else would you like publishers to know?

A: I think my bias is that I’d rather see publishers spend technology dollars on product development and ‘front office’ applications which directly support revenue generation or growth.  Minimize spending on supporting applications for accounting, quote/order to cash, rights and royalties and title management and editorial solutions. Matching cost effectiveness with process efficiencies should be a primary consideration when looking at these solutions.  If you have $100 to spend on technology, don’t spend $95 on business applications—give yourself the flexibility to spend more on supporting revenue growth, new products and customer development.