Publishing News: Week in Review

Google One Pass debuted, marginalia could be a revenue stream, and why brick-and-mortar bookstores aren't headed for extinction.

Here are some highlights that caught my attention in publishing news this week. (Note: These stories were published here on Radar throughout the week.)

App subscription competition heats up

Google One PassAs Apple’s subscription policy not only continues to rile publishers and developers across industries, but also adds new depths to a federal antitrust investigation into the company, competition is emerging.

Hewlett-Packard, which will launch its new tablet later this summer, has forged a subscription agreement with Time Inc., and now Google has announced its Google One Pass. The new system offers a cheaper subscription alternative for publishers — 10 percent compared to Apple’s 30 percent — that users can access on any device connected to the internet.

The increasing competition has sparked much discussion as to the fairness of the pricing models. The battle, as always, will likely come down to platform and consumer adoption, and the price will work itself out.

Digital marginalia might just be a revenue solution

marginalia.jpgAs with most things, it’s easier to lament a loss than come up with a solution. Joe Wikert took The New York Times article mourning the death of marginalia in digital books head-on, choosing the more difficult path of coming up with a solution.

He argued that there is no reason there can’t be digital margin notes, and what’s more, there wouldn’t need to be just one copy of the margin notes:

Rather than there just being one copy of that famous person’s notes, why not offer them for sale to anyone else who buys the ebook? … The idea is for thought leaders, celebrities, etc., to make handwritten notes in ebooks they read, and sell them as an add-on.

A win-win-win for publishers, authors and readers. And as Bob Stein, founder and co-director of The Institute for the Future of the Book, pointed out in an e-mail interview, people are already experimenting:

Marginalia is alive and well in the digital era. Check out the complex discussion conducted by seven women over the course of six weeks in the margin of Doris Lessing’s “The Golden Notebook.”

There are experiments in academia as well. It’s only a matter of time before marginalia processes develop into a form suitable for mainstream digital books.

Photo: Marginalia by Cat Sidh, on Flickr

Publishing — including booksellers — is entering a golden age

Brick-and-mortar bookstores may look like they’re in trouble, and the Borders bankruptcy certainly doesn’t help. But Kassia Krozser, owner of, says that amidst all this upheaval, we’re actually in a golden age of publishing. People are discovering and reading content all the time, and the very definition of “publisher” is expanding.

This golden age extends to brick-and-mortar booksellers as well. During a recent interview, Krozser said traditional retailers that can accept and adapt to digital realities will survive this transition:

Booksellers have to accept that digital publishing exists, because that is what your customers want. They want a digital book in certain instances, they want a print book in certain instances — they want to buy a combination of those books. They want to be able to buy a book in the middle of the night.

Krozser also pointed out that offering digital options isn’t enough — booksellers need to learn how all the various technology works so they can pass that information on to their customers.

You can’t just sell an ebook. You have know how to download it because that’s what your customer is going to ask you. You have to know how it works and what the file formats are. The retailers who actually spend time learning the technology, integrating it and accepting that it’s out there are the ones who will succeed.

For more of Krozser’s thoughts on the future of booksellers, check out the full interview in the following video:

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