An Update – Publishing Figures

I posted a few days ago about how publishing houses had had a fairly good year. All the publishers who had embraced e-books had seen an increase in profits and were probably uncorking some champagne and planning a big Xmas party to celebrate. Jill in accounting was probably going to receive a bonus as well.

The sales figures were released a week or so ago for the third quarter of this year, or is that first quarter of the financial year, and why is that different from a normal year; just to be different or annoying? E-books appear to be continuing to replace the mass market paperback, which makes sense. Given the publisher’s bottom lines and these market indicators, we could see a speed up in the push for e-books by the major players in the industry. It might also be whining time for bookstores, well, more-so.

BOOKSELLING

Mass Market Paperback Sales Down 54%

By Jason Boog on December 1, 2011 3:47 PM

According to the Association of American Publishers (AAP) net sales revenue report for September 2011, the adult mass paperback category declined 54 percent (to $31 million) in September compared to the same period last year.
At the same time, adult hardcover sales dropped 18 percent (to $148.3) while eBook sales doubled to $80.3 million. Above, we’ve embedded the AAP’s sales chart.
Here’s more: “With September also being the start of the 2011-2012 academic year, Higher Education showed a nearly 9% gain in net revenue vs September 2010. Additionally, there was significant growth in the category of Professional Books (in the Professional and Scholarly Publishing division) in September, increasing nearly 13% … The September report represents data provided by 80 US publishers and is produced by the Association of American Publishers.”

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Books are dead. Just kidding.

The report of my death was an exaggeration – Mark Twain

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/aug/30/death-books-exaggerated
http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/aug/22/are-books-dead-ewan-morrison

You know, there is nothing better than media speculators. Any possible change in an industry, government, or price of coffee and they suddenly start predicting the end of the world. Some changes, like any Apple product, are welcomed with open advertising arms, other changes, like e-books, are threatening jobs.

So how did the publishers fare this year? They lost major stores (Borders, REDGroup), had a decrease in stocking at big box stores, and had the market flooded with a slush pile. Turns out they did pretty well.

That’s right, e-books are more profitable and have generally replaced the paperback sales decline. Who’d have thought that people who enjoy reading wouldn’t suddenly stop reading? Did not see that one coming.

E-reader screens: better than a paperback.

Have you ever wanted to know more about your e-reader? This is an interview with the vice president of E Ink, Sriram Peruvemba. E Ink is the company that makes the displays for all the leading e-book readers worldwide.
I found this interview on e-reader displays very interesting. Did you know that:
  • E ink Pearl display panels are only 200 microns thick.
  • The newer Triton displays are half as thick as the Pearl displays.
  • E ink expects to sell between 25 and 30 million e-reader displays this year.
    • That’s up 10 million from last year and 3 million the year before that.
  • Current displays are 167 dpi and they are hoping to increase that to 300 dpi soon.
  • Current displays actually have better contrast than a paperback book!
    • Older displays were only better than newspaper.

In case you didn’t know, E Ink also makes screens for a bunch of other things besides e-readers. They have E Ink watches, advertising signs, secondary displays on cellphones, USB sticks, and they are even moving onto credit cards. Essentially anything up to a kilometre long, they can make it!

Better than paperback contrast! Imagine the future of these displays.

Australian Bookstore Memorabilia Auction

Borders Book Mark for Sale

I am selling my limited edition Borders bookmark for charity. Any and all offers between $40 million and $50 million will be accepted.

As many book fans will have noticed, there are a number of book retailers circling the drain of bankruptcy. Borders in the USA may have found a last minute lifeline, but here in Australia the Redgroup stores (Borders and Angus & Robertson) have gone the way of the honest politician. The superbly managed Redgroup managed to amass $170 million in debts, $44 million of that being owed to publishers (and consequently authors).

The reason for me auctioning off my bookmark is that I hope to be able to not only share a piece of publishing industry history, but to also recoup the money that Redgroup stole from publishers and authors. Redgroup felt that selling millions of dollars worth of books that they didn’t own was really just a creative book-keeping issue. Nobody else did and now all we have to remember them by is this bookmark.

Bid Now!

The bookmark is not laminated, but I can have it laminated. I can also list the board of directors of Redgroup on the back if desired. Please, no time-wasters, this is an auction to save starving authors everywhere.

E-books: Return of the Reader

Just like the previous two installments of this e-book saga there will be allusions to some non-existent struggle, my thoughts on the changing publishing industry, no Leia in a bikini, and definitely no Wookie. When we left our hero writers, they were diligently trying to decide whether they wanted to sign with a traditional publisher or self-publish like an indie rebel. Publishers had the track record, the self-publishing indies had the jump on the fastest growing segment in the industry: e-books.

Now hold on just a second. Traditional publishing is behind? As has already been stated in this blog, his mouth to my post, Michael Connelly is selling 45% e-books. His publishers are clearly on board of this new market place. James Rollins and Steve Berry have both released exclusive e-book short stories on Amazon and B&N as lead-ins to their next books (pity non-US people can’t buy them, not being close enough to the centre of the universe and all). I even noticed that Aussie authors like Tara Moss and Matthew Reilly are available on Kindle for under $10. Behind isn’t quite right.

On the other side of the great divide, all the cool kids authors are self-publishing. People like Konrath, Eisler, Mayer, some guy named John Locke, are doing well out of self-publishing and doing all the work themselves (or hire for service). Clearly all authors should be grabbing their manuscripts and uploading them now.

I’ll pause so you can upload your book now. Don’t forget to spell check first!

Well it seems that 10’s of thousands are doing just that. Given that 90% of everything published is probably crud, you have to question how wise it is to rush to publish. We also have to remember that e-books are still a minority share of the market place (this will change of course). Shouldn’t quality come first? Spend the time on crafting a fine book, see what industry professionals have to say about it, then publish? Preferably not the professionals that published Snooki. Basically writers will have to find the best publishing deal for them, even if it is swapping their novel for a packet of magic beans.

And here is a startling fact: readers don’t care if writers are traditionally published, indie published, self published, or published by a small Scottish Terrier named Rolf. Readers want to read something entertaining and well written. So writers shouldn’t care how they are published. To quote Nick Spalding:

“Writers on the traditional publishing side of this particular conflict want to be successful and earn a decent living as a writer, appealing to an audience with their work. On the other hand, writers on the self publishing side of this particular conflict want to be successful and earn a decent living as a writer, appealing to an audience with their work.”

What I love about e-books is that they are made for readers. Well Duh! Stick with me on this one. Lets say that it is August 2010 and I’ve just finished 61 Hours by Lee Child. Now Lee may or may not have finished with a cliffhanger in that particular book. Despite the fact that the next Reacher novel is finished and ready in boxes to go on shelves, I have to wait until the end of September to read Worth Dying For. With e-books there is no need to delay because of printing, shipping, and shop displays still being filled with James Paterson’s books. In fact, with e-books I can have the entire Reacher series downloaded the minute after I’ve finished 61 Hours to keep my spirits up while I wait.

Essentially the gap between writer and reader has been shortened. The reader is King.

So what about publishers? Well they sell books. Authors write those books for them. I don’t think that in the long run they will particularly care whether they are selling an e-book or a DTB. In fact e-books could really cut out a lot of their middle men costs.

A lot has changed in the past year or two, some of the big companies are behind to some extent, but are more likely to catchup. I still can’t believe that e-readers weren’t dreamt up by publishers and bookstores. But then again I can’t believe that Australia – lots of sun – has sent solar technology to Germany – no sun – and politicians are wanting to move from coal to gas.

As long as publishers are paying advances, advertising/promoting authors and fronting costs they will be who most authors will turn to in order to publish. And when the publisher rejects it, and the crying has finished, the author will release it, plot holes and all, on their own.

Bookshops look like the real loser here, despite their claims to the contrary. Apparently people love the smell of books. Solved. Apparently people like to browse in bookstores. Yes, nothing like spending hours in a store with your head at a funny angle to find the store doesn’t stock what you are looking for. Apparently people love the feel of books. Admittedly books are much better to throw at an intruder, although War & Peace is regarded as a lethal weapon.

Can I just point out that an e-book is a book. That you can read. Thanks for letting me clear that up.

Tenuous reasons for bookshops continued existence aside, I don’t see why there won’t be purveyors of fine literature, and the stuff I like reading, into the future. Online stores are often seen as more reputable when they have a physical storefront. Even if that storefront is never visited by anyone because it is located down a side street, off a back alley, near a crack den. Plus POD could make book buying like a trip to the deli counter for lunch.

“I’ll have the new best-seller and a long white to go thanks.”
“Did you want that signed or unsigned?”
“Hold the signing, but I will take the first chapter of the sequel at the back.”

As a reader and as a some-day published author, I think that the future is so much brighter for readers and writers. Readers will have access to more good books than ever. Writers will have greater access to an audience than ever. The future of books is very bright and may even step out of the shadow of DVD’s, when DVD’s become obsolete.

Going For Broke

Everyone will have now read, seen or heard the news that Borders and Amazon have been heading up a fetid creek for far too long. In the land of Oz (the non-magical and not infested by Munchkins version) the media are now weighing in.
See this article

You see I’m to blame. I brazenly buy books from places other than big chain stores. I have a Kindle and enjoy reading e-books. I am, in short, the devil incarnate and will be sacrificed on a pyre of celebrity biographies, cookbooks and other non-selling book store stock.

A Recent Photo of Me.

Lets take a look at some of the points that were made.

I’ll play devils advocate here and talk about taxes first. There are only two sureties in life; taxes and whining about them. In the non-Munchkin land of Oz we have a 10% goods and services tax (GST) on everything except food. This means that imports don’t have this tax, because they aren’t Australian. I guess we evil overseas book buyers paying taxes to a foreign country should pay another tax for daring to participate in the global economy. That way I can be more involved in the global economy with taxes in multiple countries.

Recently we also had a change in the Aussie dollar, it reached parity with the US dollar. For those who haven’t studied economics, this means that if I have one Australian dollar I can trade it for one American dollar, I know because I saw an article on it – tricky stuff that economics. Now that means that if I wanted to, say, buy materials that are needed to print books they would have gotten cheaper. Equipment upgrades, cheaper. Printing ink, cheaper. So clearly a stronger Aussie dollar must mean that it is harder to compete…………

The threat from online sales is, of course, just terrible. How dare our country sign up to a fair trade agreement and actually have its citizens abide by it. Who’d have thought that when you have a business competing in an international market it would mean that you would have to compete with stores all over the globe?

Of course this means that me and my evil kind are killing retail jobs.

One point that Bob Carr (former politician – which means dodgy) makes is about how it is all the government’s fault that books cost so much. He states that they would be 33% cheaper if only his benevolent company Dymocks was able to buy their books from overseas instead of locally. 33%? I think it is basic maths time for this particular businessman.

As an example I will use the latest action-thriller by Andy McDermott. His book Empire of Gold (which I’m looking forward to getting my fiendish hands on) has just come out recently and is available from Dymocks in Australia, or for the evil book buyers, from Amazon.
Dymocks Australia online price: $24.79 (paperback)
Amazon: $9.99 (paperback) or $24.63 (hardcover)
So let us take 30% from the Dymocks price:
$24.79 – 30%(7.44) = $17.35

Well, I’m not a maths genius, but at a guess I’d say that being able to buy a hardcover at USA retail prices for the same price as the paperback retail in Australia is not exactly a 33% difference for a paperback. In fact, to buy it would be more like a 60% difference between the paperback prices. So I’d have to say that I’m not looking as evil as I first thought.

I wonder where that other 33% is going? It certainly isn’t into royalties for writers. I’d just like to be reminded what the wonderful companies that have just left a hole in the heavenly book retail world went bankrupt not paying (analogy: imagine that the authors are Marsellus Wallace, the publishers are Butch, the retailers are Zed and Maynard, and in this version Butch just does a runner). While we are on the subject, I’m unsure whether Dymocks is a discounting chain store driving every other book store out of business or The Coalition for Cheaper Books.

Clearly I’m so evil and my kind are the cause of all problems in the publishing world. It could never be the fault of antiquated business models forgetting that there are only two important parts in the publishing industry, namely the readers and the writers, everything else is clearly expendable. Excuse me while I pay a 70% royalty to a new author for a book that you can’t buy from a publisher or store.

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