Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Straight from the Horse's Nostril--veinglory

Craig Teicher with Publishers Weekly seems rather disoriented when it comes to the whole epublishing thing--or at least his online article suggests as much. There seem to be a suggestion that they whole idea of making and marketing ebooks is a gyroscopic blur not a routine sort of business with all the usual risks and opportunities of being a manufacturer and/or retailer. Personally I think that although trivial change is rapid, real change in this area is glacial.

For example there is a huge amount of speculation about ebook readers, prototypes, new models and so forth. But for any given reader a device they wish to buy has yet to be developed. For those that use an ereader the arrival of a significantly improved model probably does not occur more often than every year or two.

It is also the case that most people do not read ebooks, and those that do fall into certain areas, academia, manuals, romance, erotica, self-help and a few other niches. These sectors are experiencing some growth, but ten times not very much is still, if we are to be honest, not very much.

Other than that publishers open, publishers close. they tend to open, and close, for monotonously similar reasons suggesting that the state of the industry has not itself changed a great deal since the emergence of ebooks as a viable consumer product.

The revolt ion may be coming but after hearing about this from various enthusiasts (and a few angry zealots) for a decade or so I am not wasting too much of my time scanning the horizon for the death of publishing as we know it and emergence of a new world order.

Nevertheless Mr. Teichers articles might be a good update for those who haven't paid much attention to this area for half a decade or so and it includes some quote from various notables. E.g.:

Random House
"...we can expect international opportunities to open up where they might not have made sense economically before."

"We are still seeing e-books as a rapidly growing area"

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
"I don't think that the pricing structure has sorted itself out yet."

"We've focused on romance and women's fiction titles, as well as gay and lesbian and mystery titles"

"consumers is ... want easily transportable files rather than devices"

The one thing that confuses me most is that this article about epublishing did not interview a single publisher that sells a majority of its books in digital format. Which seems to be a little like asking movie theatres about the confectionery market. They may sell candy, they may have some idea about how to sell candy, but it would make a little more sense to interview someone who runs a candy factory or a candy store. The revolution may not be imminent, but if/when it comes I expect Simon & Schuster et al will be riding on the coat tails of epublishers dedicated to the format as their primary product, not leading the way.


treva said...

And that would be because it hasn't occurred to those connected to print publishing that there is an industry outside theirs that actually has some experience and makes money not doing things their way.

Helen said...

I wonder if the new mini-laptops will change the market for e-books. One reason why I don't read as many e-books as I could is that I want a device that will do more than just read books; it will also let me write, browse the net, etc. That means something very much like my laptop, but even more portable, and so I'm now in the market for a mini-laptop, with hopes that I will be able to use such a device to read e-books, rather than add print books to my already over-crowded bookshelves.

As for why this article didn't quote any actual e-publishers? Probably because they don't want to waste time talking to someone who might have anything actually positive to say about the industry when the big players have already made up their minds that if they're not doing it, it's not a worthy venture.