Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Monday, August 28, 2006
India is also publishing a broader array of products in addition to trade fiction etc. This article surveys some of the new illustrated titles on the way. Introduced with a Seinfeld reference. Gotta love their sense of humor.
Cambridge University Press purchased Foundation Press and formally entered the Indian publishing market.
Here is a little more background on children’s publishing in the South. Interesting to see Scholastic is a player.
Here is an article in the Guardian reporting on preparations for Frankfurt.
In China, Jane Friedman is quoted in the Wall Street Journal saying Harpercollins wants to expand into China. It is the Beijing Bookfair this week.
Lastly, in Turkey, there seems to be an issue on censorship. Not satisfied with simply banning a book that they don't agree with, publishers there are changing some well know Western books. For example, "In Dumas' Three Musketeers, D'Artagnan while on his way to see Aramis is stopped by an old woman who explains: “You can't see him right now. He is surrounded by men of religion. He converted to Islam after his illness.” At least the government seems to be acting reasonably.
Friday, August 25, 2006
While I am at it, on the right there is also a link to my web calendar where you can see all kinds of media events and conferences. A feature I had added to it allows you to download a vfile into Outlook - no retyping. If I am missing any conferences there is a submit form. I am happy to add. (Although under no circumstances will I add the Arsenal FC annual shareholders meeting).
I thought this article about comments made by Sumner Redstone was relevant to book publishers and their approach to pricing. Publishers are too rigid in the manner in which prices are set and managed. As digital publishing becomes more prevalent and deeper knowledge and understanding of how markets work - via The Long Tail type analysis - these trends should almost force a rethink about how books are priced. It would seem to me, that a rigid approach to pricing results in lost revenue. As we all know, airlines are masters at the yield curve and this is not to say publishers should be that sophisticated but if they adopt more flexible approaches to pricing it could result in all kinds of impact on remainders, returns, the second hand market and so on. For example, could a publisher 'recover' a portion of the used book market by offering new copies at market rate prices (plus a small premium for new)? This would be long after initial release of the title. Would buyers by willing to pay a little more than the used price for a new book especially if they knew that in doing so the author would receive a share of the purchase price whereas with the used copy they do not? This idea is not a new idea nor is it a panacea but I think it suggests some market testing.
I hate to harp on this, but this company with one of the strongest brands in publishing and with a huge market opportunity staring them in the face still seems weak kneed and hesitant.
My other blog on this.
Cody's Bookstore in Berkeley a famed independent for many years closed recently. Here is a perspective on what went wrong. It reflects more than a bookstore issue.
Lastly, watchers of the Booker List will note three Australian authors made the long list. As far as I can gather - no comment from The Australian newspaper regarding their 'gotcha story' about Patrick White and the in ability of great Australian writers to get published.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
(A search for a clip turned up this funny clip of The Beatles doing Midsummer; why or when I have no idea but I have never seen it before).
Monday, August 21, 2006
Anyone for CyberSex? Predictably, sex plays some part in the content available. Derivations of the For Dummies series include CyberSex for Dummies and Escorting for Dummies. I have no idea whether these are official Wiley titles - what are the chances? A search on bookstores and books found a few store locations and navigating to them was relatively easy. Content including the above was not significant in choice. Some other titles covered topics specific to creating an identify within the game and some additional sex titles. One store was selling e-books which were on 'display' enabling the ability to page turn and review the content. In all the book stores were underwhelming but I expect the customers were engaged elsewhere in the game and within this context books aren't particularly interesting. I suspect some enterprising person will think up a unique application connected to the game.
On Myspace there are many bookstores represented with profiles with their ranking determined by the number of friends. Atomic books is typical of the stores that have profiles. It is difficult to say how many there are but clearly this is a viable method of advertising/PR to a very targeted group of consumers to whom it can be hard to introduce to books. Leftbank books located in Seattle is also similarly edgy; they describe themselves as 'anarchist' booksellers. Some stores look like they do more to promote retail than others.
Searching 'groups' for 'books' and 'mystery books' results in a few groups dedicated to reading but the result set is also 'polluted' with results that clearly have little if anything to do with books. There are over 5000 profiles returned for 'books' but only eleven for 'mystery books'. Lastly, I searched for library and I was unexpectedly surprised. Librarians have seen the virtues of setting up a myspace profile for their libraries and they use it to engage the young adult community. This is exciting because it shows that some libraries are willing to experiment and engage a target audience on their terms. Hannepin County Library in MN is representative of the libraries on myspace. Central Falls Public library (a Hannepin friend) is also a great site. Myspace definitely represents an opportunity to engage. Here is their note for the summer reading program:
Summer Reading Program Current mood: excited.
Our Summer Reading Program has officially begun! So if you're a kid (or the parent of a kid) between 6 and 12 years old stop by and sign up to read and win prizes! To kick off our program, Katie Latimer (check out http://www.katielatimer.com/) will be here Wednesday, June 28th at 2p.m. to tell stories. She's a native Rhode Islander who's been telling stories since she was thirteen. In 1998 she won the National Youth Storytelling Olympics and has been captivating audiences throughout New England every since!
Hannepin allows myspace creators to add the a script to their web pages that provides a search box on their web page:
Need to find a book or other library materials but are busy on your MySpace page and don't want to leave? Don't worry you can now add the Hennepin County Library catalog search box right to your MySpace. It's fun, it's easy and you can have the convenience of the library on your own MySpace page. Instructions for adding the library search box:
As I mentioned on another post it will be interesting to see if the influence of Harpercollins will result in any changes on the myspace site that effects more support for books and reading. The viral nature of some of the video advertising Harpercollins is experiementing with is perfect for the myspace environment and I can't believe they are not looking at how to take advantage.
Laslty, to bring this full circle, a number of enterprising individuals have established a Secondlife library. It is still a work in progress but it will be interesting to see how this evolves. Will content vendors make their content available via database license to the Secondlife Library?
Sunday, August 20, 2006
Grass is a 20th century master. Why did he expect no one to think his decision to keep quiet about his SS call-up to go un-noticed? And why the SS? His biography is on sale today and is expected to sell out immediately. He will make a few bucks (Euros) but I tend to agree with this opinion in the IHT; that this is less about money than about him dealing with the inevitable likelihood that after his death some cub reporter is going to find the evidence. I guess he believes that his comments and arguments while he is alive regarding this experience is better than nothing at all and could help mitigate the inevitable reversionary review of his master-works. His initial public comments and I suppose his narrative that it was some impetuous action of a boy who wanted to get out of the house seems to me to be a little gratuitous. But who am I to say. The fact he kept this quiet all these years seems more than accidental and particularly calculated. If he joined the regular army and then 60 years later told everyone he wanted to defend his country I am not sure anyone would have paid too close attention.
Saturday, August 19, 2006
MediaBay has had some reported financial difficulties recently and unfortunately, their financial results are not great for the first half 2006. Net sales were $2.6 million for the six months ended June 30, 2006, down from $5.6 million for the six months ended June 30, 2005. The company made a strategic decision to migrate thier business model to one based on digital distribution through partnerships with MSN, Yahoo, AOL, etc. so their content is available via these music services. As a result revenue comparisons year on year are misleading. Net loss applicable to common stockholders for the six months ended June 30, 2006 was $15.7 million, or $1.49 per diluted common share, compared to a net loss of $22.2 million, or $4.36 per diluted common share for the six months ended June 30, 2005. With allowence for extraordinary items their net income was virtually the same as last year which will not be enough to raise their market cap. This is important because it is currently at $3mm and NASDAQ issued them a warning in June that they needed to raise their value to over $5mm. The press release doesn't mention this or what their plans are and they have until September 25th to comply. The company retained a Banker in February for the generic 'review of strategic options'. Since the press release on the results was sparse I am thinking something is brewing.
Some of MediaBay's digital content partners include BBC, Blackstone, CBS Radio, Harper Collins, Hay House, Oasis, Penguin Audio, Random House, Simon & Schuster, Sound Room, and Zondervan.
Audible Inc. reported their six month numbers in late July which were better with revenues for the six months up over $10mm versus the same period last year. Net income however was significantly lower than the same period last year due to higher royalty payments. Audible has benefited significantly from its relationship with Apple and the IPOD. It should be interesting to see if there is any negative impact to the Audible business model if the new IPOD is equiped with with an e-book reader as most people expect. Audible may be a legitimate channel for Apple to work with in suppling them with ebook content from publishers. Apple wouldn't have to deal with the toublesome publishers directly. Audible's stock price is slightly higher than their 12mth low but half their 12 mth high. Other stats are in the press release.
Here is a little more on Audio books from a prior post.
Thursday, August 17, 2006
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Monday, August 14, 2006
In the case of Blurb.com you download software which turns out to be some limited editing tools and a set of templates. These templates are organized by the type of book you want to create: cookbook, blog, photo album. The thing that got my attention was that you can create a photo book of your photos for less than $30. It did seem to be too good to be true so I decided to try it. The result was beyond my expectation; the book is professional looking, well bound, the images are great and it has a dust jacket. The software was ridiculously easy to use and if I hadn’t decided to add more photos I could have had the book in my hands within five days of downloading the software. My forty image book cost $30 plus shipping. I treated this as an experiment and will do it again and will use more of the functionality which allows text and differing layouts. Blurb offers books up to 440 pages in length ($80). The end product is so well produced that I suggested to my better half that she could provide a book of before and after pictures for her interior design clients by way of a parting gift.
My book is now on their web site as part of the catalog and anyone is able to purchase the title. It doesn’t appear that you can preview the title and I hope they add this functionality. (The software is in beta). Anyone can visit the site and buy my book for $40 – although I get nothing of this amount, but then, that is not why I did it. If someone did want to sell their own titles they can buy them from Blurb.com and then sell them on at a higher price. I have thousands of slide photos and I have been putting off going fully digital; this is now my motivation.
Lastly, this blog entry has been forming in my head since I got my book last week and low and behold Blurb.com just got $12mm in new funding. The other sites I was told about were picaboo and sharedink.com if you want to try them.
Friday, August 11, 2006
Thursday, August 10, 2006
Recently, in reporting on the Harpercollins results, Jane Friedman commented on the decline in their Christian imprints as one reason why their results were not better. These comments were reported at Publishers Marketplace. She commented that the segment was “seeing hard times”. Harpercollins has had impressive wins with Christian titles particularly The Purpose Driven Life and their acquisition of the publisher Zondervan a number of years ago was prescient. While all of this made sense to me, I wasn’t too surprised to see The Bookstandard release a story with the headline Is Religious Publishing in Trouble (although the use of the word Religious versus Christian should have been a give-away). The article promised to “investigate what is going on in religious publishing so far this year.” But is doesn’t; it is entirely superficial and I would have thought that a company with more resources than me could do a much better job.
Firstly, there are a few items wrong with this story. 1. There are no primary references. 2. There are no relevant stats quoted (Bookscan data is not relevant). 3. The Christian retail market is not homogeneous; in recent years there has been a close partnership between ECPA and Christian Booksellers Association (CBA). 4. Religious books don’t equal Christian books just ask any ECPA member. This simple error tells me the author is missing something fundamental.
So what is going on. ECPA publishes annual statistical data derived from their POS data and from industry market research. ECPA has not released recent sales numbers to the public but it is a good bet that book sales through the predominately Christian retail outlets have continued to increase in line with prior years. Additionally, as this press release reports Christian buyers buy more and buy more frequently. And look at the following quote from CBA:
"According to CBA, the international trade association for Christian
retail, sales of Christian products are on the rise. Sales of religious
books grew from $4 billion in 2000 to $4.34 billion in 2004, the CBA reports.
Christian retailers still sell a majority, about 53 percent, of the goods,
while warehouse clubs, big-box stores and national, general bookstores sold
Competition is a bigger deal with Christian retail than in years past, with more and more ‘mainstream’ retailers such as Borders, Barnes & Noble, Sam’s Club and Costco taking Christian publishing more seriously. This is taking volume from the Christian independents. Unfortunately, many industry participants believe there will be a reduction in the number of independents similar to what happened to the ABA stores during the 1990’s. Additionally, the two largest Christian chain stores Lifeway and Family Christian are growing more sophisticated and market savy which could have an impact on independents as well.
With over 2000 CBA stores, the reference to the Bookscan data in The BookStandard article is irrelevant because these stores don’t report to Bookscan. Their numbers maybe directional but in the manner in which they are used they could result in a wrong conclusion. Quoting the Bookscan manager makes no sense when they could have called ECPA and CBA directly for some relevant insight.
Lastly, aside from the Religious versus Christian semantics the product mix is very different for Christian retail. In addition to the traditional fiction/non-fiction, there are devotionals, music and gifts and other merchandise and published products which don’t fit the traditional bookselling model. For a true analysis of whether Christian retail is dead, some understanding and analysis of this issue and it’s impact should be discussed.
It seems there has been some interest in this topic whether driven by Jane Friedman or not and below are some links to other news reports. To understand what is really going on in Christian retail there is a report published by Simba in conjunction with ECPA if you are interested.
Ventura County Star
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
On the heals of the private equity purchase of VNU, the company has announced a high level executive change at VNU business media. Long time information and business publisher Robert Krakoff will join VNU to run their US publishing operation out of New York. Recently, Krakoff had his own consulting company but has spent long stints at Reed Elsevier and Advanstar. He replaces Mike Marchesano who is bumped upstairs to run a corporate wide efficiency initiative named Project Forward.
Pearson announced yesterday - first in error and then formally - that they have purchased Mergermarket for just less than $200mm. The acquisition will integrate with the FT group. The company has made no secret of adding new companies to each of their operating units and this is the second major acquisition for the FT group in six months.
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
At the Library of Congress, management have been attepting to deal with two major problems they and the rest of the library community must address. These are the vast increase in the amount of information and 'published' product they need to catalog as part of their remit and secondly the decrease in qualified people to do the work. There have been a number of initiatives undertaken to deal with these issues and the library is looking at all types of things from outsourcing data entry tasks to radically changing how they catalog items and material. Clearly one of the more fundamental changes they have to accomodate is the growth of electronic products - where there is no longer a print version - which raises storage, versioning and access issues that they have never had to deal with before. Having said that, LOC has had multimedia collections for at least 100 years and recently created a digital archive in Virginia for their audio and film content. One of the best aspects of this - aside from preservation - is that access to this content is now so much better.
As will all change however, there are questions that need to be addressed by interested parties and as Library Journal reported recently ALA has recently raised some issues about changes the Library is proposing.
Lastly, Eric Hellman at Openly Informatics refered me to this podcast from Georgia Tech. The podcast tells of various intiatives Georgia Tech are attempting to improve the library experience.
Monday, August 07, 2006
Thomson President and CEO Richard J. Harrington commented on the results:
"We are pleased to report strong results for the second quarter. Our performance reflects our continued ability to execute against our three strategic priorities - driving organic growth as well as business and portfolio optimization. Notably, Thomson achieved another solid quarter of organic growth, up 6% over the prior-year period, with each market group contributing to the increase. Further, Thomson continued to translate revenues into profits, growing operating profit margin 100 basis points over the second quarter of last year.”
The company said their full year revenue estimate will be in line with their goal of 7-9% revenue growth. Full-year 2006 revenue growth will continue to be driven primarily by existing businesses, supplemented by tactical acquisitions. Thomson expects continued improvement in its operating profit margin in 2006. Thomson also expects to continue to generate strong free cash flow in 2006.
More information as follows for each of the business units:
Legal & Regulatory
- Revenues increased 9%, to $923 million, and segment operating profit grew 13%, to $277 million. Organic revenue grew 8% and growth from acquisitions was 1%.
- Organic revenue growth was largely driven by strong double-digit global online solutions, software and services, as well as the timing of certain bar review courses that were recognized this quarter versus the third quarter in 2005.
- Revenues were $456 million, a 5% increase over the prior-year period. Excluding the effects of currency exchange, revenues grew 4%, virtually all of which was organic.
- Revenue growth was driven by a 6% increase in the global higher education businesses, particularly custom publishing services, and Arts & Sciences and Business & Economics textbook sales.
- Revenues increased 6%, to $499 million, and segment operating profit increased 23%, to $92 million. Organic revenue growth was 5% and growth from acquisitions was 1%.
Scientific & Healthcare
- Revenues were $229 million, up 6% from 2005, and segment operating profit increased 9%, to $47 million. Organic revenues grew 5% and growth from acquisitions was 1%.
Here is a link to their webcast details.
Sunday, August 06, 2006
Also, on the side bar is a link to Lorcan Dempsey's blog at OCLC. He is the chief brianiac over there and routinely links to all kinds of important happenings in library land.
Bertelsmann have said this week that they are closer to selling their music publishing business which they need to do to enable them to pay for the 25% equity stake owned by Groupe Bruxelles. It doesn't hurt that they will get a great price for the publishing catalog.
Smithsonian announced that it is consolidating and expanding their web presence.
Indigo Books And Music of Canadian fame reported this week. Characterize these results (and that stock chart) with the results from Borders recently. Indigo have some great looking stores - great open layouts, coffee bars - which makes the experience fun. OK, they also have the benefit of being the only large chain book retailer in Canada but in all Canadian cities there are many great independent booksellers for competition. For many years, there have been rumors that Indigo was being prepared for sale to a big book retailer across the border. In the case of Borders, perhaps the acquisition should be the other way. Heather Riesman is now a successful book retailer and perhaps she could do a lot more with Borders than their new inexperienced management.
Saturday, August 05, 2006
The story reminded me of Monty Python:
The lady of the lake, her arms clad in the sheerest shimmering schamite (?), held aloft Excaliber, to exclaim that I Arthur shall become King of the Britons.
Eh, strange wimmin lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system
of government..... Listen, if I said I was an emperor just because
some moistened bint lobbed a scimitar at me they'd lock me away.....
It is interesting that the author was "laughed out of New York" a few years ago. Post DaVinci she is getting a better audience. Here is the title on Amazon just in case you want to improve its sales rank. I liked the review from PW "...unadorned facts numbingly narrated.." OK, so the quote might not be on point but it is still funny.
Friday, August 04, 2006
The new Viacom division CBS corporation which was created earlier this year reported for the first time this week and the financial results for Simon & Schuster were separated out. It is a the first time these results have been segmented for a number of years because Viacom used to combine them with other revenues. S&S revenues for the half year period were $357mm up 7% versus last year. Operating income of $12mm was up 35% versus 2005. The improvement was due to increases in distribution but how much this impacted the full six months versus the recent quarter.
Torstar Still Having Problems.
Torstar, which owns under leveraged (my opinion) Harlequin Enterprises, revenues "slumped" according to Reuters for the quarter ended September 30th. Revenues for the book division apparently lead the decline. S0me of the decline at Harlequin was due to a supplier bankruptcy which disrupted a mailing campaign. Operating profit for Harlequin was off 30% ($3.7mm) which was ascribed to "underlying operations." The US direct to consumer operation accounted for $2.4mm of this variance. No mention was made whether they would recover this income although they have completed the mailing via in-housing the operations. Full year 2005 revenues were $526mm down 2.5% from the prior year. Operating income was down by a similar percentage. This business is crying for web applications but in a recent presentation by Harlequin I have seen they are incredibly conservative in spite of the resounding success of their tests (look for the presentations on the right of the page under "Connected Mobile Presentations"). Think about what Harlequin could do with the type of web initiatives that Harpercollins announced yesterday.
WK has five operating divisions: Health, Corporate and Financial Services, Tax, Accounting and Legal, TAL Europe and Education. Full year the company expect to exceed their organic growth target of 2%, hit a 16% operating margin versus a target of 17% (due to higher product development and sales and marketing expenses) and cash flow will be on target. Acquisitions made (and presumably planned) will be dilutive with EPS down 10% versus target. Here is their financial presentation.
Thursday, August 03, 2006
Also on The Times website today is an article on a 'see inside the book' application from Harpercollins.
(Why I had to go search for these ads and they weren't linked to in the NYT article is a mystery to me. Hitting on the VNU link - owner of The Bookstandard - got me a share price quote. How awesome!).
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
Firstly, publishers have finally realized they need to have their own digitization strategy and not be driven to service providers. A number of high profile trade publishers (Simon & Schuster, Harpercollins, VHPS) have announced their own digitization projects. Secondly, despite some significant efforts there is no IPod product for books. It is increasingly likely books will not have their own reader (don’t tell SONY) but you will be able to access books on game consoles, PDA, and IPods. Apple will launch a new version of the IPod next year and books are likely to be part of the mix. Lastly, the fact that there is little actual choice means that consumers have a better than average chance they will be disappointed with selection. Which begets the apparent disinterest in e-Books.
Assuming publishers begin launching their titles – including backlist - in a big way over the next few years how will they change their pricing models and distribution? In publishing, a title is aggressively marketed well in advance of publication to get the big buyers to purchase. Then in immediate advance of publication, co-op advertising and author tours, public relations, etc. are rolled out. In most cases the promotion doesn’t last that long after publication. This is particularly true if the title doesn’t sell at retail as expected. With the introduction of e-book titles in significant numbers, the publishers will need to determine how, when and at what price they market these titles. For example, assuming there is an IPod application, Barnes & Noble will not be happy if the e-book titles are available when the print book is still on tables in their store. Will B&N get a piece of the revenue from the e-book sale, will there be cross promotion discounts, isn’t in-store placement advertising for the e-book? There are a multitude of questions but as I think about it the application of the principles of the long tail will be important.
I ran a direct mail business for a short time (no prior experience) and I was so proud of myself because I figured out that I could determine the total number of units sold for each promotion with as few as three data points. (This is basic direct mail – go figure). Some of these promotions could run six months but the experience from promotion to promotion was always consistent. Book titles sold on a title by title basis or aggregated as in the long tail analysis will act the same way. What this means is that publishers will be able to choose their spots and maximize revenue by bringing e-book titles out at logical times according to where units sold indicate they are on the curve. Additionally, they can – and should – manipulate (lower) prices the further out on the curve the title is.
When these titles are available it will be interesting to see how promotion and pricing are handled. Will they launch them all in one go, or will they ‘celebrate’ the release of selected titles periodically and try to get some buzz going? Will the whole effort full flat because users crave interaction and/or TV will also be available on IPod? We will find out, and regardless it will be a much more preferable situation when a reader can visit a web site and select any title they want no matter how obscure. Or have titles periodically pushed to them like NetFlix. Oh, a rental/lending model – now there’s another issue…..
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
It does beg the question, that if the people over at Penguin could be this oblivious what will they have to tell us that could be relevant? Personally, I don't look forward to a 'corporate' site - why doesn't every author have their blog at author.penguin.com? They could stuff these sites with all kinds of interesting items supporting the books and the author. That is far more compelling than what they seem to have come up with nervousness or not. What Penguin can do at a corporate level is to guide visitors to author sites to other related authors via linking, related information, rethinking the book guides to incorporate more compare and contrast, etc. It also seems to me that the whole announcement is one big yawn. The only people that may have noticed this at all are "in the trade." Are we their target audience or are they going for readers/consumers? It is hard to know at this point but I don't see consumers rushing to the penguin blog and I am not at all sure about us "in the trade".