Disruptive Innovation

Where Uber and Amazon rule: welcome to the world of the platform

9 June 2015

From The Guardian:

Hardly a day goes by without some tech company proclaiming that it wants to reinvent itself as a platform. Back in March, when South Korea banned Uber, the company promised to let local taxi drivers use its platform – along with its matching services.

Facebook pulled a similar trick in early May: having run into trouble with its pseudo-humanitarian effort to provide free internet access via a project called internet.org, it, too, promised to turn it into a platform. Now, internet.org users, most of them in the developing world, could also enjoy free access to apps other than those developed by Facebook.

Some prominent critics even speak of “platform capitalism” – a broader transformation of how goods and services are produced, shared and delivered. Instead of the tired conventional model, with individual firms competing for customers, we are witnessing the emergence of a new, seemingly flatter and more participatory model, whereby customers engage directly with each other. With a smartphone in their pocket, individuals can suddenly do things that previously required an array of institutions.

Such is the transformation we are witnessing across many sectors of the economy: taxi companies used to transport passengers, but Uber just connects drivers with passengers. Hotels used to offer hospitality services; Airbnb just connects hosts with guests. And this list goes on: even Amazon connects booksellers with buyers of used books.

. . . .

[I]nstead of adhering to a precise and rigorous code that spells out the rights of customers and the obligations of service providers – the cornerstone of the modern regulatory state – platform operators rely on the widely distributed knowledge of participants in a service, hoping that the market will eventually punish those who misbehave.

In the free-market utopia of thinkers such as Friedrich Hayek – the true patron saint of the sharing economy – your reputation would also reflect what other market participants know about you. Thus, if you are a nasty customer or an ill-mannered driver, everybody else will soon discover this, and specific laws to police your behaviour are rendered unnecessary.

. . . .

In reality, though, such a perfectly liquid and dynamic reputation marketplace is nowhere to be seen. A recent lawsuit in the US highlights its absence. Uber drivers have been accused of discriminating against disabled people by refusing to put their wheelchairs in the boot of their car. One would think that anti-discrimination laws that apply to taxis would also apply to Uber. Uber says it has anti-discrimination policies – and that it’s not a taxi company, it’s a technology company, a platform. Here, there is clearly no easy feedback mechanism to assist disabled travellers: this is what consumer protection laws are for.

. . . .

What is it that Uber’s platform offers that traditional cabs can’t get elsewhere? It’s mostly three things: payment infrastructure to make transactions smoother; identity infrastructure to screen out any unwanted passengers; and sensor infrastructure, present on our smartphones, which traces the location of the car and the customer in real time. This list has hardly anything to do with transport; they are the kind of peripheral activity that traditional taxi companies have always ignored.

However, with the transition to knowledge-based economy, these peripherals are no longer really peripherals – they are at the very centre of service provision. Today, any service provider, and even content provider, risks becoming hostage to the platform operator, which, by aggregating all those peripherals and streamlining the experience of using them, suddenly moves from the periphery to the centre.

. . . .

Few industries could remain unaffected by the platform fever. The unspoken truth, though, is that most of the current big-name platforms are monopolies, riding on the network effects of operating a service that becomes more valuable as more people join it. This is why they can muster so much power; Amazon is in constant power struggles with publishers – but there is no second Amazon they can turn to.

. . . .

This, however, still doesn’t address the question of just how much power we should surrender to these companies. A publishing industry ruled by Amazon and Facebook might produce lots of innovations – but is there any guarantee that it would actually produce any significant articles or books?

. . . .

Most platforms are parasitic: feeding off existing social and economic relations. They don’t produce anything on their own – they only rearrange bits and pieces developed by someone else. Given the enormous – and mostly untaxed – profits made by such corporations, the world of “platform capitalism”, for all its heady rhetoric, is not so different from its predecessor. The only thing that’s changed is who pockets the money.

Link to the rest at The Guardian and thanks to Dave for the tip.

Now is a good time for a reminder that PG doesn’t always agree with items that he posts.

PG will point out that nobody is forced to give their money to Amazon or Uber or Airbnb. People voluntarily choose to give their money to these organizations because Amazon, Uber and Airbnb provide something that’s better than the alternatives available.

How fast does your e-book grow?

5 May 2015

From Futurebook:

The prevailing mythology around tech is that the giant internet companies will dominate globally, just as they do nationally. They are borderless and all powerful. Facebook has 1.44 billion monthly active users, YouTube 1 billion unique users. So what happened with e-books? Five years ago pundits were talking about how Amazon, Apple, Google and Kobo would roll out globally to meet the worldwide demand for e-books: an eco-system built largely in America for a global audience. But something got lost in translation. Like the print-book market, the global e-book market has become complex—pulled in different directions by local nuances.

The Global E-book Report 2015, compiled by Ruediger Wischenbart, shows just how different each market can be and how this should alter how we think about this transformation. While both the US and UK have seen robust e-book growth for a numbers of years, leading to digital as a proportion of overall trade sales at about 30%; in mature book markets in non-English speaking countries the rate of progress has been much slower, and in some cases non-existent. As the report notes, in these non-English speaking countries (including Germany, France, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, and Sweden), the market share of e-books within the trade segment of the book market is below 10%, ranging from as little as 1 or 2%, to 4.3% in Germany. More alarmingly, even at such low levels of penetration, the report adds that growth is showing signs of flattening out.

However, the non-arrival of a robust digital segment is a double-edged sword. First, without the fillip of digital growth, these markets have not been as sheltered from the global recesssion as other sectors. As the report, suggests in much of continental Europe, for the last several years, book markets have seen sales decline. Some countries, with relatively robust overall economies, like Germany or France, saw a modest, yet nevertheless steady decline in book sales. In others, like Spain, or Italy (or Greece, where no reliable data are available), the crisis impacted on the book trade with full force. In Sweden, the report also notes, that a mix of highly specific local factors brought about the sharpest decline in decades.

. . . .

Publishers have largely been spared, but the report found that all across Europe the pressure to consolidate has mounted significantly in recent years, resulting in a widening list of mergers and acquisitions among trade publishers. The report suggests that the impact of digital can hit even before it makes a material difference to sales, particularly with the arrival of those global companies such as Amazon, or Apple, prompting a period of re-adjustment by the incumbent players.

The report also found that though digital penetration across trade books may be still small in these non-English speaking markets, but there were pockets of excitement. The report states, that “anecdotal evidence has it that in the e-book top segments, like blockbuster fiction or romance, e-books can account for 30 to 40% of sales, or even more – and so in some specific cases even in countries with a particularly low presence of ebooks, such as France.”

Link to the rest at Futurebook

It is common for those in an industry being disrupted by a more efficient and lower-cost technology to look for signs that the changes will not be as complete or destructive as feared. After all, the classic disruption pattern is for the new entrants to start by selling to underserved and less-profitable customers of the legacy industry. Government intervention in the form of price-fixing or taxes can impact the way the disruption occurs.

However, PG says it is inherently so much more efficient to create, copy, distribute and sell ebooks than it is to deal with cases of dead trees that bits will beat atoms in the book world just as they have everywhere else. How much growth is there in the print circulation of newspapers these days?

PG has read newspapers for approximately forever and two physical newspapers still land on the driveway at Casa PG every morning. However, it’s more of a habit PG has developed than anything else and those papers are read less and less frequently with each passing month. Someday in the not-too-distant future, PG will stop paying for dead trees on the driveway.

The important ebook enabling technologies for most of the world will be internet access and smartphones. Not a lot of people will purchase smartphones to read ebooks, but, once they have smartphones, ebook purchasing or borrowing or pirating is a low-cost or free additional value the smartphone delivers.

PG hasn’t seen any indication that smartphone sales are slowing down.

 

Publishing’s Digital Disruption Hasn’t Even Started

24 April 2015

From Digital Book World blogs:

Imperceptible, invisible almost, but it was there at the London Book Fair this year—publishers quietly clapping each other on the back and breathing a collective sigh of relief: Phew, thank goodness that ebook thing is over. Now let’s get back to real publishing.

I’m being a little facetious, of course. But this year’s trade show did see a genuine departure from the maelstrom of anxiety and excitement over the rapidly developing digital market that has dominated the last few fairs.

Most publishers seem to believe the worst is now over, that the industry has survived an inconvenient tsunami warning that turned out to be nothing but an unseasonably high tide.

But is the industry blind to the coming tempest? I certainly believe so.

The music industry thought that disruption was over by 2011 when their sales began to recover somewhat. Despite digital units accounting for 64% of music sales, the consensus was that the market had stabilized and was back to business as usual. Then in 2011 a Swedish start-up called Spotify launched in the U.S. After only four years in the mainstream, it now has over 15 million subscribers  and 60 million active users. The Spotify business model has truly disrupted the music industry, with artists now looking at nontraditional ways of generating sales other than records as their staple income.

Any parallels for authors and books here?

That’s admittedly a question publishers are as tired of asking as trying to answer. But the important thing to note is that while a change in format initially affected business models, the streaming element brought about disruption in the music industry that has stubbornly staid put.

Likewise, for anyone to think that the digital disruption book publishing has experienced in the last few years is over or receding would be foolish in the extreme. In almost every other industry that has experienced disruption in recent times it has followed a very distinct pattern.

. . . .

Phase 3: Appealing Convergence is when the disruptive and incumbent parties come to work together, as according to Sinofsky, “even when technologies are disrupted, the older technologies evolved for a reason, and those reasons are often still valid.” The market begins to stabilize. There is widespread acceptance of the new technology and early adopters mature, allowing the industry to settle in with a harmonious blend of, in our case, print and digital.

This is where I believe publishing sits today in 2015.

For further evidence, look no further than the reported plateauing of ebook sales, the resurgence of print titles in 2014, and the talk of ebooks going “out of fashion.”  Some more reasoned commentators have highlighted that print vs. digital is also not a battle to the death.

The danger here is that complacency sets in, and publishers revert to print cycle–thinking and fail to plan for the future.

Phase 4: Complete Re-imagination is in Sinofsky’s view the “last stage of technology disruption…when a category or technology is re-imagined from the ground up.”

Think of how other industries are being disrupted. Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate.

As Sinofsky writes, “Re-imagining a technology or product is a return to first principles. It is about looking at the underlying assumptions and essentially rethinking all of them at once.”

Link to the rest at Digital Book World blogs

From a Dinosaur Publishing in a Digital World

9 March 2015

From author Chris Goff via Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers:

Okay, I admit it, I got into this game long enough ago that my first words were scribbled on white tablets, with mistakes scratched out and arrows drawn to indicate where whole passages needed to be moved. Later, I typed stories on a manual typewriter, keeping copious amounts of Wite-Out on hand. Later, because an IBM Selectric typewriter was too expensive, I bought a Brother’s typewriter that could actually “delete” up to 300 characters using Wite-Out tape. Then, in 1987, when my mother died, I inherited her IBM PC. One of the first, it had 256K of RAM and a 1.2 MGB floppy disk drive.

Jump forward 30 years and I’m typing this at 33K feet in the air on a Surface Pro 2, on a Southwest flight to Seattle, while hooked up to the internet. I could be watching a movie, but instead I’m blogging—and extolling and lamenting the direction publishing has taken with the advancement of technology.

Don’t get me wrong. I love technology.

. . . .

But, while the benefits of technological advances are obvious, they come at a cost. Digital publishing has changed the face of the industry.

When I locked down my first publishing contract, a writer’s only options were through a traditional publishing house or a vanity press (the dinosaurs’ equivalent of self-publishing on the internet). And, just like today, there were some self-published who made it big. The difference—back then, if you didn’t hit, you ended up with a basement full of boxed books you couldn’t sell instead of being 2,996,254 out of three million on the Amazon list.

Today, the list of large traditional publishers has decreased to five. And while the number of small publishers has increased somewhat, the number of people digitally self-publishing has skyrocketed. The tendency of many of these authors is to put their books for sale online for $.99. No doubt many of these are quality books—well written, well edited, and well received. However, a large number of these books are not worth the pennies paid.

For that, the industry has suffered. Advances from traditional and small publishers have not increased. In fact, advances have for the most part have decreased, along with the value placed on writers.

Why? In my estimation, it’s due in large part to the sheer volume of material for sale out there; due in large part to the sheer number of “writers” whose primary interest is not to make a living writing, but simply a desire to see their work “published.”

Link to the rest at Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and thanks to Margaret for the tip.

Here’s a link to Chris Goff’s book, Dark Waters

One big way that book publishing startups can succeed now

9 March 2015

From GigaOm:

It’s been more than seven years since the introduction of the first Kindle. Ebooks market share seems to be stabilizing at around one third of total books sold in the U.S. according to the latest reports. But ebooks are just the beginning–the detonator, in a way, of a decade-long disruption of the traditional publishing landscape.

Publishers and agents have certainly “adapted,” but have largely failed to carry innovation forward; distribution channels have been disrupted, but the creative process around books and the business model of publishing remain, for now, unchanged.

As it often happens when technology erupts in a non-tech-heavy industry, numerous opportunities have emerged for smaller players: namely authors, freelancers, and startups. To take advantage of the changing industry landscape, however, those small players will have to grasp the delicate mix of strong technology and intuitive user experience (UX) needed to succeed in a tech-unsavvy industry.

. . . .

 At the Frankfurt Book Fair last October, startup founder John Pettigrew from Futureproofs noted that “Until now, publishing companies, as any other big corporations, have been adopting several softwares that came with ‘how-to’ manuals.” Pettigrew was identifying the lack of technological innovation in the publishing industry, which continues to rely on the same old technology despite readers’ and authors’ changing needs.

Case in point? HarperCollins, considered the most forward-thinking publisher out there, has introduced Bookperk — its latest digital product that just happens to be a glorified email listserv. Distributors like Amazon, Kobo or B&N have been offering customers specials and customized recommendations via email for years. But publishers have have been held back by the limitations of outdated technology, along with an understandable reluctance toward investing heavily in digital (after all, most of their revenue still comes from print books and bookstores).

. . . .

Editorially was trying to solve an obvious problem: the vast majority of authors are still writing on Microsoft Word, software that’s not made for writing books and stories, and generates formatting issues when converting to EPUB and MOBI files.

Editorially created a beautiful collaborative writing tool and editing platform, and received VC funding most startups only dream of. But it went under because it “failed to attract enough users to be sustainable.” The technology behind Editorially was great, but for authors to embrace a new editing tool, it needs to look and feel like what they’ve been using for decades — only simpler and more effective. That’s what good UX means in the publishing world.

Link to the rest at GigaOm

New publishing trends reshaping reading

30 January 2015

From The Chicago Tribune:

In November, a pair of technology journalists issued the latest in what seems to be a constant stream of announcements proclaiming the start of a book publishing revolution. First, co-authors Jason Hiner and Lyndsey Gilpin said they would crowdfund their project, asking individuals to donate toward a $10,000 goal in exchange for free tote bags, book copies and, for $500, a chance to chat with the authors by phone.

. . . .

“Books have barely been touched by the digital revolution,” Hiner says in a video on the authors’ Indiegogo crowdfunding site. The publishing industry moves slowly. The technology world Gilpin and Hiner are writing about moves quickly. In the gap, anything a book says can be canceled by simple forward momentum while the author waits for the presses to roll.

Compared to what has happened in the music and newspaper industries, digital technologies are fueling more evolution than revolution in book publishing. But change is well under way, starting with the dizzying rise in self-publishing, the rapid growth of all-you-can-read book subscription services, a surge in crowdfunded publishing, and the growth of the e-book.

Mark Coker’s company, Smashwords, owes its existence to e-publishing. Coker launched it after a novel about the soap opera business he co-authored with his wife, Lesleyann Coker, left publishers cold.

“The more I thought about it, the more frustrated I got,” Coker says. Publishers told his agent that “Boob Tube” was a dud because soap-opera-based books always flopped. That’s what the record showed. But Coker wondered how much publishers really knew. “The vast majority of their books fail,” he says. “The dirty secret of the publishing industry is, at the end of the day, they’re really just throwing spaghetti against the wall.”

Link to the rest at The Chicago Tribune

The Death of Music Sales

27 January 2015

From The Atlantic:

CDs are dead.

That doesn’t seem like such a controversial statement. Maybe it should be. The music business sold 141 million CDs in the U.S. last year. That’s more than the combined number of tickets sold to the most popular movies in 2014 (Guardians) and 2013 (Iron Man 3). So “dead,” in this familiar construction, isn’t the same as zero. It’s more like a commonly accepted short-cut for a formerly popular thing is now withering at a commercially meaningful rate.

And if CDs are truly dead, then digital music sales are lying in the adjacent grave. Both categories are down double-digits in the last year, with iTunes sales diving at least 13 percent.

. . . .

The recorded music industry is being eaten, not by one simple digital revolution, but rather by revolutions inside of revolutions, mouths inside of mouths, Alien-style. Digitization and illegal downloads kicked it all off. MP3 players and iTunes liquified the album. That was enough to send recorded music’s profits cascading. But today the disruption is being disrupted: Digital track sales are falling at nearly the same rate as CD sales, as music fans are turning to streaming—on iTunes, SoundCloud, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, and music blogs. Now that music is superabundant, the business (beyond selling subscriptions to music sites) thrives only where scarcity can be manufactured—in concert halls, where there are only so many seats, or in advertising, where one song or band can anchor a branding campaign.

Nearly every number in Nielsen’s 2014 annual review of the music industry is preceded by a negative sign, including chain store sales (-20%), total new album sales (-14%), and sales of new songs online (-10.3%). Two things are up: streaming music and vinyl album sales.

. . . .

 The top 1 percent of bands and solo artists now earn about 80 percent of all revenue from recorded music . . . . But the market for streamed music is not so concentrated. The ten most-popular songs accounted for just shy of 2 percent of all streams in 2013 and 2014.

Link to the rest at The Atlantic

Publishers Know You Didn’t Finish “The Goldfinch” — Here’s What That Means For The Future Of Books

22 January 2015

From Buzzfeed:

Millions may have held their suspicions, but last month the Canadian e-reader company Kobo confirmed it: Most people who buy The Goldfinch don’t actually finish it. According to the company’s data, less than half of Canadian and British Kobo readers in 2014 made it to the end of Donna Tartt’s behemoth novel, one of the best-selling of the year.

How did Kobo know this? Like every e-reader and reading-app maker today, the company, a subsidiary of the Japanese e-commerce titan Rakuten, has access to a comprehensive suite of data about the reading behavior of its users. In a white paper titled “Publishing in the Era of Big Data” and released this fall, the company announced that “with the onset of digital reading … it is now possible to know how a customer engages with the book itself — what books were left unopened, which were read to the very last word and how quickly.” In other words, if you read books digitally, the people who serve you those books more than likely know just what kind of reader you are, and just how little effort you made with Infinite Jest.

The paper was a rare peek into the nascent world of reader engagement analytics, which have been a staple of web publishing but which the big legacy book publishers have been slow to embrace. It was fascinating, not just for the insights it offered into reading behavior (Did you know the industry standard finish rate for mystery books is 62%? Now you do!) but because the enormous corporations — Amazon and Apple — that know the most about how you read are ferociously silent about that knowledge. Both Apple and Amazon declined to comment for this piece.

. . . .

In a leery New York Review of Books blog post, titled “They’re Watching What You Read,” the novelist Francine Prose wrote, “…writers (and their editors) could soon be facing meetings in which the marketing department informs them that 82 percent of readers lost interest in their memoir on page 272. And if they want to be published in the future, whatever happens on that page should never be repeated.”

. . . .

It’s true that engagement analytics pose a highly abstract threat to a certain idealized kind of furrowed-brow, human-and-their-word-processor, Great Novel writing and reading, as well as to those people whose livelihoods and self-images are invested in that ideal. (“Excuse me, Mr. Joyce, you’re losing a lot of Kindle Fire readers here in this third section. Maybe tighten it up a smidge?”) But it’s also true that most books released by the declining publishing industry are hardlyWar and Peace, that so far these numbers have played almost no role in editing and acquisitions in the publishing industry, that they have far greater implications for marketers than they do for writers and editors, and that the companies making the most significant use of engagement analytics aren’t traditional publishing houses, but startups.

According to Claudia Ballard, a book agent with William Morris Endeavor, there is still only one salient number when it comes to the books that get picked up.

“The truth of the matter is people have been picking up books and not finishing them for a long time,” Ballard told BuzzFeed News. “At the end of the day, a unit sold is still a unit sold.”

Link to the rest at Buzzfeed and thanks to Dave for the tip.

The Rise of The Backlist

16 January 2015

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

The new year hadn’t even had a week to catch its breath before the first year-end numbers for 2014 appeared. The definitive numbers—if you can call any numbers “definitive” in traditional publishing—won’t show up until late February or early March. But the early numbers reveal quite a bit.

. . . .

I often find Publishers Marketplace’s analysis of the publishing industry useful, not because it’s accurate, but because it gives me a fairly clear snapshot of what the traditional industry’s thoughts on the business are. Publishers Marketplace’s focus on traditional means that it misses a lot of the trends and changes that happen because of indie.

. . . .

Nielsen Bookscan reported that print book sales—in the outlets that report to Bookscan—went up 2.4% in 2014 over sales from 2013. Half of the gain in sales—1.2%—came from a better-than-expected holiday season.

In that first week, Publishers Marketplace went deeper into the numbers than Publishers Weekly did and came out with some fascinating information, some of which I’ll deal with in the next week or two. But here’s the take-away:

All of the year’s gains and then some came from backlist, however, not newly-released titles. Frontlist unit sales fell 2 million units to 276 million, while backlist sales rose 17 million units to 359 million…

Those of us who’ve been publishing indie have known how powerful the backlist is since 2010. Fortunately for most of us early adapters, the traditional publishing industry didn’t get the memo for about three years. They started to get a clue in 2013 that there was wine in those dusty old bottles, which is why it’s become harder and harder to get rights reverted from traditional publishers in the past couple of years.

. . . .

Traditional publishers still don’t have a complete clue about the importance of the rise of the backlist, as evidenced by this comment from Publishers Marketplace:

[backlist sales rose]…reflecting the lack of new breakout hits…

Sorry, Publishers Marketplace, no. The backlist rose because the industry is changing. The way books are being sold everywhere, not just online, is changing. Readers are changing.

Well, actually, readers are staying the same. They want “what they want, when they want it, and at a reasonable price” to quote Kevin Spacey on the lessons Netflix learned from House of Cards.

Readers have always wanted that. But traditional publishing, like all other media in the 20th century, was based on the scarcity model: if you make readers hunger for a book, they’ll pay more when they see one. They also buy it immediately, and they’ll be grateful for what’s offered, rather than buy what they like.

The internet broke the scarcity model.

. . . .

Because the entire traditional publishing business is based on the scarcity model, Publishers Marketplace can’t understand the rise of the backlist. The rise doesn’t fit into the scarcity model.

Here’s the logic of the situation when looked at from the scarcity model: if people are buying “old” books, then the new books aren’t satisfying. The new books aren’t “good.”

That analysis was true-ish before backlist was constantly available. I say true-ish because, remember, not a lot of “old” books were available—just the ones that readers would keep recommending to their friends, so publishers couldn’t take those books out of print.

Back then, breakout books happened for two reasons: First, the books stayed on the shelves long enough to get word of mouth; and second, the books dominated the conversation.

It’s almost impossible to dominate the conversation now. Traditional publishing doesn’t control every book that makes its way into the media now. One book might get some traction, but definitely not all of the traction.

And the conversation moves faster as well. We might discuss Book A today, but tomorrow we could be discussing Book J. Or not discussing any traditionally published book at all.

. . . .

My dollars are finite, just like yours are, but book-buying dollars are not. Now that more books are available to more people, book sales should—logically—go up.

And they are. But they are going up outside of the traditional models. At least 20,000 of my ebook sales in 2014 did not get counted by any traditional measure—Bookscan or otherwise. I say “at least” because I don’t know if Smashwords sales count toward Bookscan numbers or if some of the other ebook sites (like Kobo) count as well. I do know that Amazon and Barnes & Noble ebook sales get counted.

So there is a shadow industry. There always has been. Even Bookscan itself says that it only covers 80% of the print book business. That’s up, by the way, from the old days, when Bookscan was less than 50%. There’s a lot of give in that 20%. And that’s in the traditional industry.

There’s even more give when you consider indie publishing. A lot of indie writers publish their print books without an ISBN, so the books don’t get tracked by traditional means. I suspect Bookscan covers 80% of the traditional market, but in all of trade publishing? I think that Bookscan misses a lot of books. How many? I have no idea. I doubt anyone does.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch and thanks to Andrew for the tip.

Here’s a link to Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s books

 

You Can’t Keep a Good Book Down: Finding Success in Today’s Publishing Landscape

12 January 2015

From The Huffington Post:

Joni Evans has been in the publishing industry for over four decades, representing bestselling authors during her time at the William Morris Agency and serving as President and Publisher of Simon & Schuster and Publisher at Random House.

. . . .

Janice Sands (JS): Throughout the course of your career in publishing you’ve seen a lot of changes to the industry and made your own adaptations to the digital world. What do you see as the future of the industry 10 or 20 years into the future?

Joni Evans (JE): It’s hard enough predicting a year or two from now; unsure I can speak to 10 or 20. The thing is, the book has not changed. The words have not changed. But the form in which they come – the vessel they come in – has changed dramatically with the digital revolution. I presume that revolution will be complete in less than 5 years. Yes, there will always be the paper book – coffee table books, physical books for gifts and for those who love the feel of turning pages – but overwhelmingly, we will retrieve and read online the way the music audience now receives its music. Our hardcover books will be the CDs of the future.

Do you remember how many years ago You’ve Got Mail, the Nora Ephron film, came out? 1998! That movie, of course, described the potential demise of the independent bookstore. Now, 15 years later, we are seeing the demise of book chains. Certainly paper, print and binding will increasingly become a thing of the past.

JS: What are the biggest challenges facing the publishing world right now? In other words, what keeps you – and your friends in the industry – up at night?

JE: Well, the sea change means a new way of life for the publishing industry. It is being fully disintermediated. Books read in electronic form have major advantages, as well as disadvantages. We all know (or should) that fighting with Amazon is ultimately a losing battle. Technology continues to progress and lower prices for the consumer is king (which I predict the courts will uphold). Prices are down, and that means less revenue for traditional publishers to pay their authors and their editors. We’ve already seen the consolidation of Penguin and Random House, and most others will follow. Authors and agents are no longer able to command the huge advances they once received and publishing staff have been laid off. Similar to the newspaper industry, this consolidation is obviously what keeps the industry up at night.

. . . .

JS: What advice would you like to give to emerging or mid-career writers?

JE: I have always believed that you can’t keep a good book down. If the author has real talent, the book will find its way, no matter what the format.

JS: In your experience, what is the common denominator shared by successful working authors?

JE: Talent. Talent. And talent.

Link to the rest at The Huffington Post and thanks to David for the tip.

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