The news that Amazon has acquired the online bookseller The Book Depository highlights the continuing consolidation in retailing. With the demise of Borders and the decline of the independents, attention is now turning to how Waterstone’s will fare under the new ownership of the Russian billionaire Alexander Mamut, and the direction of MD James Daunt. Will there be a radical change of direction for the high street retailer, and will there be store closures as part of a retrenchment of the operations? Daunt Books, the independent chain run by James Daunt, has 6 shops in London and carries an upmarket image, with little reliance on discounting.
Logos, one of the premier publishing journals and now 21 years old, is a forum for opinion and the latest research from the international world of publishing. Published by the Dutch publisher Brill, it provides a platform for communication between publishing professionals, librarians, authors, scholars, and those in allied professions. From this Spring the new editor is Angus Phillips. The journal has also been relaunched with a new design using the Brill typeface.
The journal is international in scope and includes contributions on authorship, readership, book publishing, librarianship and bookselling. Articles about the related fields of journals and magazines are also welcome, as are contributions around digital developments such as blogging and multimedia. Submissions are invited from both professionals and academics, and research articles will be subject to peer review. Publishers are invited to send books for review. To make contact please email the Editor-in-Chief: email@example.com
Much has been made of the word disintermediation over the last couple of years in book publishing. Authors are selling direct to their readers, publishers are selling direct to consumers, for example, in an attempt to miss out the middlemen. The picture becomes ever more confusing with agents setting up as publishers and now in the last few days the news that Amazon are setting up their own publishing operation in New York, headed up by the former literary agent Laurence Kirshbaum. Meanwhile Random House have done a deal direct with the author Tom Sharpe to sell ebooks of his titles – on this occasion bypassing Sharpe’s agency Sheil Land Associates.
By contrast the self-published author, Amanda Hocking, who has sold hundreds of thousands of ebooks to Kindle users, has decided to sign up with a traditional publisher for her next four books. The deal, worth $2m for world English rights, sees Hocking signed up to Macmillan. The New York Times describes the books as being in the ‘young-adult paranormal genre’. Writing on her blog, she says that: ‘I’m a writer. I want to be a writer. I do not want to spend 40 hours a week handling emails, formatting covers, finding editors, etc. Right now, being me is a full time corporation.’
When The Best of Everything was first published in 1958, Rona Jaffe’s debut novel electrified readers who saw themselves reflected in its story of five young employees of a New York publishing company. A reviewer on Amazon comments on the exciting world of publishing it describes:
‘The heroine is Caroline Bender, a graduate of Radcliffe College. She does not follow her mother’s matrimonial advice advice (“Don’t let boys touch you”), nor her career advice (“Join the Radcliffe Club”). Instead, she gets a job in the trendy world of publishing along with her three colleagues, where they hazard a world of roving eyes, search for a mate and the good life (rather graphically described for 1958), follow career aspirations, and navigate office politics.’
Two publishers have just reported their results for 2010 with further news of the growth in digital sales. Pearson, which owns Penguin, saw sales of digital products rise by 24 per cent to £1.6 bn – 29 per cent of total sales for the company. These figures include the use by students of Pearson’s educational tools as well as growing sales of ebooks and apps.
Meanwhile Bloomsbury reported that ebooks accounted for over 40 per cent of the sales in the US of Howard Jacobson’s novel, Finkler Question, which won the 2010 Man Booker Prize. Nigel Newton, Chief Executive, said: ‘With sales of digital devices such as the Kindle, Nook and iPad growing rapidly, 2011 will clearly be the year of the e-book. Our overall trade e-book sales are currently running at just under 10% of print sales, a proportion we expect to increase as more backlist titles are added and as the UK market gains the kind of momentum being seen in the US. We believe that digital publishing creates huge opportunities for Bloomsbury and its authors.’
You can read more about Bloomsbury’s results here
For 2010 Nielsen BookScan, which tracks nearly all retail book sales, has reported consumer sales in the UK market of £1.72bn and 229.3m books. This is an average selling price (not cover price) of £7.51 per copy. The figures show a decline from the previous year of 2.7 per cent (by volume) and 1.7 per cent (by value). The average selling price rose by 7p.
In the top ten titles are books by Jamie Oliver, Stieg Larsson (all three of the Millennium Trilogy), Dan Brown, Stephanie Meyer, and David Nicholls (One Day). The top ten titles sold 10.5m copies, with Jamie Oliver’s 30-Minute Meals selling a staggering 1.2m copies at an average selling price of £13.59 – worth £16m. It has been hailed as the fastest selling non-fiction book of all time.
Robert McCrum in the Observer commented: ‘If you persist in the belief that ours is a sophisticated book-buying society, look at the top sellers for 2010. The figures are just in and, for anyone hoping for evidence of some uplift in popular taste, they provide a sobering reality check.’
The top five publishing groups in 2010 were Hachette, Random House, Penguin, HarperCollins, and Pan Macmillan.
Last year’s figures are based on a 53-week year for BookScan, in order to catch up with the calendar year. Without the 53rd week there would have been a larger drop in sales: down 4.3 per cent (by volume) and 3.2 per cent (by value).
Interesting news comes from the consumer magazine industry, which has been investing in new products for tablet computers such as the iPad. Wired, published by Condé Nast, launched an iPad edition in May – the app sold 73,000 copies in the first nine days – but by November sales had fallen to 23,000. Men’s Health, published by Rodale, is selling around 2,000 copies a month. These figures come from the Audit Bureau of Circulation in the USA.
Book publishers know the marketing potential of apps and some bestselling authors will expect such editions to be available (there are, for example, iPhone apps for cookery stars such as Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson), but will the sales justify the large investments required? It is of course too early to say, but it is interesting to watch the experiments in other media industries alongside what is being tried in books. Another anxiety for publishers is that some authors, as they have done with ebooks, will decide to bypass publishers and sell direct.
The US market is probably around two years ahead of the UK market in terms of the penetration of ebooks. The market for ebooks there is growing fast and recent estimates put sales at around 10 per cent of the market – this compares to more like 2 or 3 per cent in the UK trade market. What will be interesting this Christmas is to see whether ebook readers – say the keenly priced Kindle from Amazon – will feature as popular gifts in the UK alongside print bestsellers such as Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals. We perhaps also need a shift in terminology to accommodate the growth in reading of electronic texts, and industry insiders are already talking about the pbook (printed book) alongside the ebook.
News about ebook loans has appeared on two fronts. Firstly Amazon has announced that from later this year Kindle users will be able to lend ebooks to other users for a period of 14 days – this feature is already available on the Nook, the reading device available in the US from Barnes & Noble. There will be some restrictions and it looks likely that the publisher of the ebook will also need to grant permission for this service.
Meanwhile there has been a dispute in the UK over the loan of ebooks by public libraries. Publishers have become worried about the remote lending taking place – even to library users in other countries. There is a suggestion that in order to prevent abuse of the system, borrowers should have to come into the library to download a book. Richard Mollet, chief executive of the Publishers Association, said: ‘Our position is that we have to be certain that ebook lending does not pose a serious threat to publishers’ commercial activities – ebook sales. Untrammelled remote access ebook lending would pose such a threat, which in the end would be of no benefit to anyone, including libraries.’
You can read more in this Guardian piece here.
Angus Phillips, co-author of Inside Book Publishing, was interviewed on the PM programme on BBC Radio 4 on Tuesday 20 July about the growth of ebooks and the future of the publishing industry. He was interviewed alongside John Sutherland, Emeritus Lord Northcliffe Professor of Modern English Literature at University College London. The discussion was in response to the news from Amazon in the US that for the last three months, sales of books for the Kindle outnumbered sales of hardcover books.