From Forbes blogs:
“You’ll never work in this town again!”
My agent’s exact words were a bit different, but the message was clear: if I weighed in on Amazon’s side in its battle with Hachette, no publisher would ever publish another book of mine. That is a risk worth taking, because publishing is an industry that seems bent on eating its young.
The fight between Amazon and Hachette is ostensibly about e-book pricing. In reality, it is about much more: innovation, the business model, and the future of publishing.
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Amazon’s tactic seems to have backfired. Some 900 authors, most of them not published by Hachette, signed a full-page ad in The New York Times criticizing Amazon for using authors as human shields in what is essentially a contract dispute between two giant corporations.
I’m supporting Amazon. I think Amazon is far more likely to come up with innovations that may actually save book publishing. And publishing is in desperate need of being saved. The long-term trends are not encouraging: people are spending less time reading books (even including e-books;) unit sales are down; and per-capita spending on books continues to shrink.
Yet book publishers seem unwilling or unable to recognize the implications of these trends. What other consumer business responds to flat or decreasing unit sales by increasing prices? But that is precisely what book publishers do year after year. Between 2003 and 2013, the price of the average hardcover fiction title rose 49 percent to $26.63; non-fiction books are priced even higher.
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Traditional book publishing is, at best, a quaint business. The people who work in the industry are generally quite bright and typically nice. But as a category, book publishing needs to be saved from itself. Its business model and processes are relics of a long-ago era: the returns system – where retailers can return unsold copies at any time for a full refund – is a remnant of the Great Depression. Such marketing basics as price-testing and package (cover) testing are non-existent. Until Nielsen introduced Bookscan a few years ago, publishers really didn’t know how many books they sold; they only knew how many copies they shipped. Returns could come back at any time.
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Amazon has given all authors – not just the big-name writers – a better chance of being discovered, and making more money. Hachette is trying to maintain a paper publishing business model on an increasingly e-book world. Authors – and not just Hachette authors — aren’t pawns in this battle between two giants who have very different visions of the future. They are the potential beneficiaries of an industry that needs to be reinvented. I’m willing to risk siding with the innovator.
Link to the rest at Forbes blogs