Posts Tagged ‘Publishers Weekly’

Books on their way out of malls

I'm saddened to read that "Borders Accelerates Closing of Walden Outlets". I worked for Waldenbooks while in college, and they remained my primary retail outlet for the next ten years. I enjoyed the small, familiar store size and the staff where "everybody knew my name". I just don't get that with the larger Borders.

Publishers Weekly has more details on Waldenbooks closings, with the offline version of the story includes a map of closings by state. The hardest hit seem to be Pennsylvania and Ohio, with 24 and 16 closures, respectively. Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and Hawaii are untouched, though I don't know how many stores they have, or how proportionate those that are closing are to those that are remaining open.

It seems an oversight to close a chain that serves a demographic Borders does not. When I was a kid, the local mall was robust enough to support two bookstores, one of which was a Waldenbooks. Now that mall has none, as its Waldenbooks (my alma mater) closed in January 2007, followed by the Auburn location in 2008 and Worcester in 2009.

In an email exchange, Leominster fantasy author R.A. Salvatore commented to me on the loss of his local Waldenbooks: "Ah crap. The loss of mall bookstores is one of the biggest losses to my industry and to American culture — they serve people the big box bookstores don't get to."

Are malls themselves on their way out? Or is there an erroneous perception that mall-goers don't buy books?

Smartphones squash e-book readers in popularity

With a touch interface, accelerometers, and an online store that boasts over 100,000 apps, the Apple iPhone is fast becoming a mobile gaming device to compete with the likes of the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP.

But despite the App Store's "games" category enjoying more new releases than any other category in the last year, in September and October 2009, the most popular genre of new app published was book-related. Specifically, "In October, one out of every five new apps launching in the iPhone has been a book… The sharp rise in e-book activity on the iPhone indicates that Apple is positioned [to] take market share from the Amazon Kindle as it did from the Nintendo DS." (This may not be significant data, however, as many of the book apps are duplicates of public domain novels. For example, there are over 30 apps that offer Sun Tzu's The Art of War.)

The trend toward smartphones as e-readers may have already begun. Publishers Weekly recently printed a chart of who owns the e-book market. The iPhone and iPod together have captured 22%, which makes it the second most popular e-book reader, behind only the Kindle itself. It also makes Apple's product line 22 times more popular than the Sony eBook Reader.

Are Amazon and Barnes & Noble approaching the market the wrong way by hawking dedicated e-book readers? Why spend $259 on a Kindle when you can get a multipurpose iPhone 3G for $99?

Issues with the international Kindle

I'm having trouble understanding the concerns raised by the international Kindle, as related in Publishers Weekly. I think that publishers are worried that the correct editions of their catalog will be available in the right territories, lest readers cross borders to buy books that would otherwise be unavailable to them. Is that correct? If so, didn't Apple address this issue six years ago with the iTunes Store, or Microsoft with the Xbox Live Arcade — both of which are available on an international basis? Customers need to supply contact and billing information to make a purchase, and the online stores use that data to determine which products to list. What am I missing?

Is the issue that digital rights are not currently being negotiated on a regional basis, in which case a digital edition currently available only in American markets will now be sold globally, competing with the print editions exclusive to other regions? How is that different from now? As an American, I'm pretty sure I can go to and order a book; if so, then the opposite must be true, and a Brit can order an e-book from the USA store.

The PW article repeatedly reported that the e-tailer (never heard that word before, and can't say I care for it) "has worked with publishers" on this matter. A quotation from an affected or involved publisher might've helped give the article some perspective.

Vooks are just a stepping stone

The Publishers Weekly article "S&S, Disney Try New Models" describes Simon & Schuster's new "vooks", a multimedia approach to publishing that combines literature with video on either your computer or mobile device. It's described as a good venue for "content that will never make it into traditional print".

I'm challenged to believe a publisher would ever say "no" to the possibility of subsidiary rights. If the vook fails, they'll want to salvage whatever they can by repurposing this content; and if it succeeds, they'll want to expand that success to additional markets. Expect to see vooks make the leap (backward?) to dead tree editions eventually.

The Espresso heats up

I'm amazed how quickly the Espresso Book Machine has become a hot topic. On September 16, I thought about it for the first time in ages; on Sep 17, CNN ran a story about it; the next day, so did Computerworld; and the day after, I saw it for myself in Manchester, VT.

The October 5 issue of Publishers Weekly ran a story on the machine as well. This article made me consider that the Espresso Book Machine is, in a way, a slower, not faster, way to fulfill customer orders. The current, most popular method for literature acquisition is to walk into a bookstore and pick up a prebound title. With the Espresso, you'll have to wait minutes for a custom order. That may sound like a step in the wrong direction, but you can also think of traditional bookstores being fast food restaurants, with the EBM offering a slower, more personal dining experience.

Still, I think that the EBM's popularity in the news will not carry over to the marketplace. Retail customers don't always know what they want, or they do but want to see it first. With the EBM's virtual catalog not being displayed on a shelf, will shoppers even think to look through it? On the opposite end of the spectrum, imagine that the system becomes very popular. In an eight- hour workday, the EBM can print at most 96 books. That's a significant bottleneck. Although selling 96 books a day at $7 each will take only 111 days to produce the initial investment in the EBM ($75K), that money isn't wholly profit. How long before the EBM earns its keep?