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Mike Shatzkin, e-publishing guru

27 February 2016

An interview with Mike Shatzkin from TeleRead:

T: Where do you land on the topic of physical Amazon bookstores? Do you really think they’re gunning for 400 brick-and-mortar locations? What are the possible anti-trust ramification of that? And other things. You’ve heard a rumor that B&N may kill the Nook in the UK–could it next fade away in the U.S. And what would that mean, in possible antitrust terms?

MS: I am not an expert in anti-trust, but we’re featuring one named Jonathan Kanter at DBW so we’ll get answers to those questions. I think a rollout of Amazon stores—who knows what number—makes a lot of strategic and logistical sense for Amazon. B&N’s new Chief Digital Officer is speaking at DBW too. I expect he will talk about the future of the Nook. It must always have been hard for them to operate Nook outside the US. Their big competitive advantage was controlling their own stores. And they don’t control any outside the US.

T: One of the big topics at DBW is “transformation.” What are some of the companies that seem to evolving well with the changing marketplace, and what attributes do they share? Have the big publishing companies done enough to transform in this marketplace or is there greater room for them to change? In what areas?

MS: Ingram is the outstanding example of a company that has transformed. They are earning half their margin or more from businesses they didn’t have two decades ago. The other companies we’re featuring are large and small, new and old. They are Rodale, Sourcebooks, Quarto, John Wiley, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, NetGalley, and Diversion Books. We define transformation as a dramatic change in business model or revenue sources. The Big Five have not really transformed. They are continuing with basically the same business model. Sourcebooks, for example, has built an entire new business of customized children’s books. I can’t think of any initiative from a Big Five house that is comparable transformative.

I still believe the big transformations to come are around “verticals”, topics of interest. There has been real movement on that front from big houses as marketing initiatives. But they haven’t built the verticals into new business models or free-standing profit centers. I think that might be something to look for in the next few years.

T: How keen are you at this point on publishers selling directly to consumers? Who’s doing it best, and what are they successful at it?

MS: I think it is ultimately a necessary capability, but not a transformative one. Publishers will never succeed selling most of their books directly. But the tools to do this are becoming so easy and ubiquitous that it is hard to see how all of them can continue to avoid it. Right now the big publishers are doing a lot to have direct contact with consumers without necessarily owning the transaction. I think all of the Big Five are doing something: vertical communities, email blasts promoting discounted ebooks, and increasingly coaching authors to be helpful marketing partners. But there’s a lot of room for “more” on all these fronts from all the big houses.

. . . .

T: How do you feel about the future of public libraries? Will there be a place for them 20 year from now, and if so, what will it be?

MS: I really have a hard time understanding how public libraries make commercial sense in a mostly ebook world. If you can go to one website and get the ebook for free and at another you have to pay for it or for access to it, why wouldn’t you always choose “free”? Free public print libraries always had “friction”: you had to go get the book and you had to go take it back. AND ownership had a benefit: a physical object you could lend, write in, or use to decorate your shelves. All of this goes away with ebooks. You can see publishers struggling with this now with high library prices and loan cap rules, for example. As the infrastructure gets built out, I see the conflict becoming more and more difficult to manage.

Link to the rest at TeleRead

Mike Shatzkin

13 Comments to “Mike Shatzkin, e-publishing guru”

  1. “Mike Shatzkin, e-publishing guru [in his own mind]”

    Thanks PG, I LMAO just seeing the title.
    (I’m so glad I wasn’t having a sip of tea at that moment …)

    Much better than the Trump joke!

  2. “Mike Shatzkin, e-publishing guru” ranks right up there with “Donald Trump, voice of sanity for a concerned America.” Thanks for the Saturday laugh.

  3. 1. BN might get rid of the Nook. How does that lead to “Amazon” and “anti-trust”?

    BN is too dumb to run their business, so let’s throw rocks at Amazon? How will that help BN?

    2. I go to the library often. Because I read and can’t afford to shell out $20 a book. There are no used book stores in my area. And the nearest bookstore is in another county. It’s easier to order via Amazon. (Plus, I like getting packages in the mail. Double win!)

    3. If Trad publishers stop selling their books and the libraries closed (I’m sure Indies would step in and offer their books so I don’t see this happening), more readers would just sign up for KU for “unlimited reading” for $10 a month. Less if you buy a package deal.

    Plus, libraries already HAVE millions? of books on hand. They don’t really need to buy any more.

    Somebody tell me how Amazon is going to come out the loser in any of the above scenarios?

    • Me, too. Ever since I discovered I can read ebooks from a U.S. library here in Germany (I have an ‘official’ residence in the U.S. and that qualifies me for a library card).

      It’s already saved me oodles of money. I hope libraries don’t go away anytime soon. They are a great way to introduce authors to readers – just like KU – but they don’t cost anything.

  4. The title gave me the best laugh that I had in days. Thank you.

  5. Newsflash …Public libraries aren’t SUPPOSED to make commercial sense.

    ‘Commercial’ libraries are called bookstores.

  6. Damn. Have to set the Shatzkin filter on my TPV feed higher. This one got through.

  7. So, this upcoming Digital Books industry show, are there going to be any speakers from Amazon? I can’t tell from their mobile site; most of the speakers are listed with nice photos and only their names. Stylish and uninformative page design.

    • If you don’t know who the “important” people are you have no business at their party. 😉

      Only insiders need to know who the insiders are. Keeps the groupthink nicely sync’ed.

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