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Publishing News: Amazon lands "4-Hour" author Timothy Ferriss

Amazon signs its first best-selling author, RR Donnelley acquires two companies, and what publishers can learn from the NYT paywall.

Here’s a few highlights from this week’s publishing news. (Note: Some of these stories were previously published on Radar.)

Timothy Ferriss signs with Amazon Publishing to “redefine what is possible”

AmazonLarry Kirshbaum is not sitting on his hands. Amazon hired Kirshbaum in May to head its New York operations and this week he signed his first best-selling author, Timothy Ferriss, and acquired rights to Ferriss’ new book “The 4-Hour Chef.”

In Amazon’s press release, Ferriss made it clear that he feels Amazon, as a publisher, has a better hold on digital publishing than its competitors:

My decision to collaborate with Amazon Publishing wasn’t just a question of which publisher to work with. It was a question of what future of publishing I want to embrace. My readers are migrating irreversibly into digital, and it made perfect sense to work with Amazon to try and redefine what is possible.

A few feathers were ruffled by the announcement. As noted by The Guardian, Victoria Barnsley, chief executive at HarperCollins UK, voiced concerns over Amazon’s aggressive moves into the publishing sector:

Amazon’s foray into book publishing … is obviously a concern. They have very deep pockets and they are now a very, very powerful global competitor of ours … They are very, very powerful now — in fact they are getting close to being in a sort of a monopolistic situation. They control over 90% of physical online market in UK and over 70% of the ebook market so that’s a very, very powerful position to be in. So yes, it is a concern.

Amazon will publish “The 4-Hour Chef” in April 2012.

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RR Donnelley’s latest acquisitions position it for digital success

This week, publisher RR Donnelley acquired both LibreDigital and Sequence Personal. With these moves, RR Donnelley is doing something about the digital situation that so many bemoan — it’s repositioning to give its customers what they want, how they want it. That’s the root of what the publishing business is all about, after all.

In a post at <a href="The Bookseller, novelist Kate Pullinger said, “I think the big publishers have got themselves into a difficult situation with the stranglehold that Amazon, Apple and Google have on bookselling currently.” One could argue the situation is more disruptive than difficult. Instead of fighting against the stranglehold, perhaps it’s better to focus on the unlimited potential the disruption brings. Embracing change might be more work than staying the course on a sinking ship, but the publishers who do — like RR Donnelley — will be the ones who remain in a position to succeed.

The roles of advertising and sponsorship in the future of book publishing

This segment was written by Joe Wikert

Felix Salmon recently wrote an article talking about how the New York Times paywall is working because it’s porous. He contrasts that to other paywalled sites that haven’t enjoyed the same success as the Times. As I read Salmon’s article I was thinking less about porous vs. rigid paywalls and more about DRM’d vs. DRM-free books.

There are definitely some similarities here. At O’Reilly we believe in a DRM-free world because we trust our customers and we believe they value our content enough to pay for it rather than steal it. It would be naive of us to think this philosophy totally eliminates the illegal sharing of content though. We just happen to believe those situations shouldn’t cause you to penalize all your customers. Shoplifting happens from time to time at your local grocery store but that doesn’t mean the store manager should put everything under lock and key.

But it was only when I read Fred Wilson’s follow-up post to Salmon’s article that I realized what other connection this has to book publishing: advertising, sponsorship and other revenue streams. As Fred points out, the Times doesn’t necessarily have to charge for each online page view since they run ads on every page served.

I’m not suggesting we can suddenly give away book content and make the exact same amount of revenue with advertisements. But what I am saying is that advertising and its close cousin, sponsorship (e.g., “This book brought to you in part by…”), can and will play a role in the future of book publishing. Every publisher won’t necessarily experiment with that model, but many will.

This story continues here.

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