Sunday, April 11, 2010

Media Week (Vol 3) 15: Future of Publishing, Bookstores, Textbooks,

From The Economist two related articles on the future of publishing and book retailing. From the first article E-Publish or Perish;
Like many other parts of the media industry, publishing is being radically reshaped by the growth of the internet. Online retailers are already among the biggest distributors of books. Now e-books threaten to undermine sales of the old-fashioned kind. In response, publishers are trying to shore up their conventional business while preparing for a future in which e-books will represent a much bigger chunk of sales.

Quite how big is the subject of much debate. PricewaterhouseCoopers, a consultancy, reckons e-books will represent about 6% of consumer book sales in North America by 2013, up from 1.5% last year (see chart). Carolyn Reidy, the boss of Simon & Schuster, another big publisher, thinks they could account for 25% of the industry’s sales in America within three to five years.
Indeed, many publishing executives like to argue that the digital revolution could usher in a golden age of reading in which many more people will be exposed to digital texts. They also point out that new technologies such as print on demand, which makes printing short runs of physical books more economical, should help them squeeze more money out of the old-fashioned format. And they insist that the shift away from printed books will be slow, giving them more time to adapt to the brave new digital world.

Perhaps. But there are still plenty of inefficiencies in the supply chain for conventional books that firms such as Amazon and Apple can exploit. Many publishers, for example, still take far too long to get books to market in print or electronic form, missing valuable opportunities. Ms Reidy at Simon & Schuster says she has brought functions such as typesetting in-house to boost efficiency. At Sourcebooks responsibility for making books has even been shifted from the editorial team to the firm’s head of technology, underlining the need to think digitally right from the start of the commissioning process.

In the second article the newspaper comments on The endangered bookstore and suggests that the sickest part of the book business is the store that supplies them:
Will bookshops disappear completely, as music shops seem to be doing? Most are pinning their hopes on giving people more reasons to come inside. “Consumers will need some entity to help them make sense of the morass,” says William Lynch, the new boss of Barnes & Noble, which plans to put a renewed emphasis on service, including advice on e-books. Many shops have started to offer free internet access to keep customers there longer and to enable them to download e-books. Other survival strategies include hosting book clubs or other community groups and selling a wider variety of goods, such as wrapping paper, jewellery, cards and toys.

Independent bookshops face a particularly grave threat, because they are unable to match bigger rivals’ prices. Many are branching out by offering new services, such as creative-writing classes. BookPeople, a bookshop in Austin, Texas, runs a literary summer camp for around 450 children. Steve Bercu, the shop’s co-owner, says that independent booksellers can still thrive, provided they “reinvent themselves”.

In the same issue (obviously an un-explained abundance of attention toward publishing), the paper also takes a look at how the recent economic downturn is impacting how micro economics and therefore textbooks are changing. What they don't point out is how immediate this revision could be facilitated if the books were subject to electronic updates and revisions. In fact, the subject could have served as a case book example about how the inefficiencies in the development and production of publishing products mitigate some of the opportunities publishers have in addressing variable business opportunities. No matter. From the article:
Revised textbooks will soon find their way into bookshops. Charles Jones of Stanford University has put out an update of his textbook with two new chapters designed to help students think through the crisis, and is now working on incorporating these ideas into the body of the book. A new edition of Mr Mankiw’s book should be out in about a year. And Mr Blinder’s publishers aim to have his revised text on sale by June.

Courses in many leading universities are already being amended. Mr Laibson says he has chosen to teach his course without leaning on any standard texts. Francesco Giavazzi of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is now devoting about two-fifths of the semester’s classes to talking about how things are different during a crisis, and how the effects of policy differ when the economy hits boundaries like zero interest rates. Discussion of the “liquidity trap”, in which standard easing of monetary policy may cease to have any effect, had fallen out of vogue in undergraduate courses but seems to be back with a vengeance. Asset-price bubbles are also gaining more prominence.

In the UK - the home of the celebrity "bio" - there is a new segment of publishing works that are doing well. The books about celebrity pets. (I wonder if there's one in Charlie?) Independent
Ever since James Lever earned a Booker Prize nomination for the spoof life story Me Cheeta, which was written from the perspective of an ageing silver-screen chimpanzee who starred in Hollywood's Tarzan films, a spate of fake confessionals has followed. They each simultaneously look askance at celebrity culture, while benefiting from the public's appetite for it.Lever's novel has sold more than 50,000 copies since its publication last year. Shortly after it came another spoof memoir. Bubbles: My Secret Diary, From Swaziland to Neverland is a variation on Lever's theme, and is based on the eventful life story of Michael Jackson's pet chimpanzee, organised as a collection of "very personal and honest entries from Bubbles' diary". The book sparked a bidding war in America and Australia, and its publisher John Blake suggested its contents would shine a light on a troubled mind – Bubbles' that is, not Jackson's.

On second thought, I don't want to see a tell all pet book about the PND home front. Could cause some problems.

OCLC and Jisc have collaborated on a report the synthesizes several reports on "The Digital Information Seeker" (JISC)
The Digital Information Seeker: Report of findings from selected OCLC, RIN and JISC user behaviour projects

There are numerous user studies published in the literature and available on the web. There are studies that specifically address the behaviours of scholars while others identify the behaviours of the general public. Some studies address the information-seeking behaviours of scholars within specific disciplines while others identify the behaviours of scholars of multiple disciplines. There are studies that only address undergraduate, graduate, or post graduate students or compare these individual groups’ information-seeking behaviours to those of scholars. Still other studies address the behaviors of young adults (Screenagers (Rushkoff 1996) and Millennials).

In the interest of analyzing and synthesizing several user behaviour studies conducted in the US and the UK twelve studies were identified. These twelve selected studies were commissioned and/or supported by non- profit organizations and government agencies; therefore, they have little dependence upon the outcomes of the studies. The studies were reviewed by two researchers who analyzed the findings, compared their analyses, and identified the overlapping and contradictory findings. This report is not intended to be the definitive work on user behaviour studies, but rather to provide a synthesized document to make it easier for information professionals to better understand the information-seeking behaviours of the libraries’ intended users and to review the issues associated with the development of information services and systems that will best meet these users’ needs.
From the twitter (@personanondata)
Observer: Profile of novelist David Mitchell: The magician of modern fiction
The Age: The ghostwriter who turned to crime fiction Australian crime writer Michael Robotham.
The Observer Lorrie Moore talks about A Gate at the Stairs
NYT: The Godfather of the E-Reader: Bob Brown: “a bloody revolution of the word.”
Telegraph: Wuthering Heights quadruple double thanks to Twilight effect
Library Journal OCLC Proposes New WorldCat Records Policy, Revamping Content and Approach
Visual Artists to Sue Google Over Vast Library Project
Inside HEd: New Battleground for Publishers Online tools add to students ability to learn.
ManUtd's season looks over after a flaccid performance in Germany and a less than United like loss to Chelski. Well done Phil.

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