Book Trade Predictions
John Mutter -- 4/10/00
Following the London Book Fair, a brainstorming seminar looked to the next decade of bookselling
Booksellers, publishers and literary agents agreed that they represent the parts of the industry that have the most to gain and lose as e-books change the business. On the other hand, authors and readers, both somewhat neglected by the business, will be the two most important parts of the change. And community--both among readers and between readers and authors--will become ever more important.
These were among the many observations and predictions offered by some of the participants at an all-day seminar in London on March 22, following the London Book Fair. Organized by consultants Mark Bide, Hugh Look and Mike Shatzkin, and part of the second annual Internet Librarian International meeting, the seminar focused on "The Book Trade in 2010."
With the expanded popularity of the e-book (Stephen King's Riding the Bullet was cited again and again), by the end of the decade there will be many more on-screen-only titles and, as Hugh Look put it, "many new forms will flourish," including serials, articles, and more short stories and novellas than are now published. "There will be smaller works for small payments. We will return to 19th-century serial publishing models."
There will be "no clear winners" among e-book reading devices, but many of the devices in use will have voice synthesis. Alan Buckingham, managing director of DK Online, said that in the new era, "Content isn't king. Functionality is king."
Most participants agreed that, as Look put it, "Readers will take a much more active role. People will want to participate in the creation of the work," whether through direct interaction with authors or via Web sites devoted to authors or common interests.
Indeed, "community" was a recurring theme of the seminar. "Authors will write for smaller communities," Look asserted. In some cases, the close connection between author and reader will be reminiscent of the 19th-century private letter, when a scholar might write for 20 people. Indeed, Look said, "many books will be created out of Web sites" and from "affinity groups."
For his part, DK Online's Buckingham said, "The successful publisher will create a community of interest. He will not be a manufacturer, but rather a host," who builds and nurtures relationships.
Participants were divided as to whether and how much the printed book--or p-book, as some described it--would survive. Hugh Look thought that reading material in printed book form would be largely replaced.
On the other hand, Carole Blake, joint managing director of the Blake Friedman Literary, TV and Film Agency, said that some book forms will thrive, such as art books. "They will be more sumptuous, a sensory pleasure." And she believes more and more fiction will be done on a print-on-demand basis.
There was some difference of opinion on the role of publishers and booksellers. Many believe that there will be more multimedia blockbusters, and that they will be purveyed by large publishers, particularly those that are a part of media conglomerates, because the costs of producing multimedia blockbusters are so high.
On the other hand, publishers of all sizes will deal with an "exploding range of intermediaries, many of which will be on the Web," Look said.
Blockbusters will sell more copies, Look predicted, and major authors will become brands. Obviously, power will shift to these authors, who will have their own imprints and studios, in which apprentices and proteges will help create material. Some authors will publish themselves quite successfully. DK Online's Buckingham added that authors "will become participants in hosting and running communities. They will not simply sign a contract and eventually deliver a manuscript." In a sign of how things will change: while today authors offer book proposals, in 2010 they will have business plans.
The "future" for many publishers will come from the midlist, according to Michael Cato, a book packager. Today's large publishers will be like the MGM film library, existing on the copyrighted works they have already issued and "probably not publishing first-run titles."
Royalties will reach as much as 80%, and authors will share in advertising and sponsorships. Advances, however, will decline.
More good news for authors, who can wait for a long time for royalties: statements and payments from publishers will become more accurate and up-to-date.
Literary agents will resemble small publishers and be proactive, Look said. They will find talent on Web sites, have their own Web sites and "market in advance." The future "successful" agent will know how to earn money from Web sites and launch books on Web sites.
Carole Blake predicted that agents will become a kind of "brand manager" and will do ever more editing.
Booksellers still have a future, many thought. There will be "no end to traditional booksellers," Look said. "Shops will still make markets," in large part because displays of books will always entice readers. Booksellers will stock smaller ranges of new books and have more secondhand titles. They will have little actual stock because of print-on-demand and digital downloading.
Kenneth M. Brooks Jr., v-p of Barnes & Noble's digital content division, which provides content conversion services to the industry, said that retailers would be important in the e-book world because of their "brand." Readers will need "guidance and help in selections," he emphasized.
Customer databases, whether kept by booksellers, publishers or others, will become "enormously important," Look added. And booksellers will have to serve customers better with "lifetime value."
For his part, Les Higgins, chief operating officer of HarperCollins UK, emphasized that there are "many different groups among readers. All have different needs. Don't expect them all to go e-mad."
Print-on-demand will consist of central facilities for distribution to retailers as well as local printing operations. In addition, the many high-quality, inexpensive printers already on the market will allow readers to print out material easily at home.
At the same time, nontraditional bookselling markets will continue to grow.
Margins will be high on print-on-demand titles, but low on e-books. Pricing will become more dynamic, allowing for quick changes depending on news events or rising popularity. Brooks of B&N predicted that the "cost of an e-book transaction will approach that of a credit card fee." Cato said that while so much on the Web now is free, "in the future everything would become monetized," even recommendations, blurbs and announcements.
During the next decade, some of the greatest tension in the industry will arise as "old economy" companies try to become "new economy" firms. Shatzkin pointed out, "It's not easy to wrest profit from traditional business and build a new business at the same time." He noted, too, that this tension exists among booksellers: "Amazon.com is better online than Barnes & Noble or Borders.... Clicks and mortar is not there yet."
Slowly but surely, Shatzkin continued, the current costly infrastructure of the book business is being dismantled. There are now fewer stores, plants, warehouses and reps than five or 10 years ago. At the same time, the industry is building a new infrastructure.
Les Higgins of HarperCollins UK struck a cautious note about the headlong rush into a "new economy" publishing model, saying that he wanted "to embrace the new but not throw away the old model." His goal: "effective change that builds on the strengths of the old and adds new technology and management practices." He prefers "evolution rather than revolution."
For him, the e-book is "an addition, not a substitution." DK Online's Buckingham, who has been involved in alternative media at DK for the past 10 years, also said that the key thing for publishers and others in the business is not to "throw away the old, but make strategic alliances."
Likewise, Carole Blake said that the new formats resemble "the paperback revolution. They are new sales delivery and format."
Higgins drew some raised eyebrows when he predicted that while 95% of profits at his company currently come from the "old model," in 2010 75% of profits will still come from the old model.
Word Adds Two
Effective May 1, Words Distributing Co. becomes exclusive distributor for Inner Directions Publishing and GreatestEscapes.com. Inner Directions is the imprint of the Inner Directions Foundation, which publishes book, video and audio titles dealing with self-realization and self-actualization. GreatestEscapes.com has published the first volume of Literary Trips: Following in the Footsteps of Fame, a compilation of 23 short stories by Ernest Hemingway, the Bronte sisters, Ian Fleming and A.A. Milne, among others.
S&S to Distribute National Geographic
In a move that will put all of its book distribution under a single company, National Geographic announced that effective July 1, Simon & Schuster will take over the distribution of National Geographic's children's book division.
S&S will sell and distribute National Geographic's frontlist and backlist children's titles in the U.S., Canada and all overseas markets except the U.K. The society's children's titles are currently distributed by Publishers Group West; its adult titles are already distributed by S&S.
by Bridget Kinsella
Booksource Buys Novelty Publisher
National wholesaler the Booksource has purchased Table Talk, a small publisher of conversation starter cards and novelty children's products. Both companies are based in St. Louis.
"It was the same timing as the Time Warner-AOL deal, and we thought we'd get that kind of coverage, but we didn't," joked Sandy Jaffe, president of the Booksource.
But it is news for a wholesaler to purchase a publishing company specifically to expand its company into nonbook-trade markets. "We're looking for diversification and ways to grow our business," said Jaffe. "We're looking for ways to still be here in the next 10 years, and we are not going to be able to do that if we continue as wholesalers to just the retail book market."
In recent years the Booksource has stepped up efforts to sell to the library and education markets. With the addition of Table Talk, which has become a wholly owned subsidiary of the wholesale company, Jaffe said the Booksource is ready to expand into the specialty toy and gift markets.
Since it started in 1993, Table Talk has published over 22 titles and sold over 600,000 card decks. The conversation cards focus on subjects like movies or art. Recently, the company acquired the licenses for more book-related cards, such as Chicken Soup for the Soul and The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, and is expanding on them.
Table Talk founder J.J. Stump will remain with the company as director of development, and Rob Lamb, former marketing manager at Liguori Publishing, joined the new division at the Booksource as general manager. Since both are private companies, Jaffe declined to reveal what was paid to acquire Table Talk.
Consortium in London
Just in time for the London Book Fair, Consortium Book Sales and Distribution opened a London office. Katherine Bright-Holmes, managing director of Consortium U.K., heads the office and will recruit publishers from the U.K., Europe and Australia, and work with publishers that have joined Consortium. She will attend conferences and book fairs and had a baptism by fire, so to speak, representing Consortium at the London International Book Fair and the Frankfurt Book Fair. Bright-Holmes has worked in publishing in the U.K. since 1988, and most recently was at Rivers Oram, where she became publisher of Pandora Press.
IPG Adds 19 Publishers
Independent Publishing Group, the Chicago distributor, has added 19 publishers to its client list, effective with the spring list. The new publishers are Santa Monica Press, Camp Fire Press, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, JPM Publications, MacCentral Press, Cambium Press, Linden Publishing, Paul Dry Books, Specialty Press/A.D.D. Warehouse, Middleway Press/SGI-USA, Backyard Books, Pigeon Books, Hilton Hudson, Travelman, Dawbert Press, Gates & Bridges, Lappajarvi Press, Mariners Museum and Studio Five Fourteen. For more information, contact Jason Maynard at IPG at (312) 337-0747 or Jason@ipgbook.com.
D.A.P. Signs Boston Museum
D.A.P./Distributed Arts Publishers will assume worldwide distribution for MFA Publications, a new imprint of Boston's Museum of Fine Arts. The arrangement takes effect in fall 2000. "The big news is that we are expanding our list historically, that is, to include art historical titles as well as books on contemporary culture," said Alexander Galan, D.A.P.'s publicity manager. With the imprint, the MFA publishing program will expand beyond exhibition catalogues and monographs to artist biographies, essays on and by contemporary artists, artistic and social histories on artistic periods and collaborations between artists and writers. A collection of John Updike essays on art is featured on the MFA Publications' first list. Galan said D.A.P. will also be carrying a wider range of titles from its existing client publishers. For example, he said the press is encouraging publishers like Cantz in Germany, which publishes catalogues for many German museums, to retain English language rights and distribute its books to the American market through D.A.P. Founded in 1991, D.A.P. now represents over 200 publishers and 2,000 titles published by international publishers, museums, alternative spaces and institutions.
PGW Adds Marketing Director
Trigg Robinson McLeod joined Publishers Group West as director of marketing. According to the company, McLeod will consult with client publishers on everything from sales and marketing strategies to long-range editorial and business planning. She will also act as publisher advocate within PGW and play a role in acquiring new distribution clients.
Before joining PGW, McLeod was the vice-president, director of publicity, at Broadway Books. She also worked at Lynn Goldberg Communications and the adult trade division at HarperCollins.
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