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Publishing News: Amazon fires up B&N and BAM

An Amazon deal starts a bookseller war, content tidbits from conferences, and the application of Wikipedia's success.

Here are the stories that caught my eye in the publishing space this week.

Amazon and DC Comics forge exclusive deal, B&N and BAM lash out

NeilTweet.PNGI first got wind of this story on Bleeding Cool when Neil Gaiman tweeted it. Basically, Amazon landed an exclusive deal with DC Comics to carry 100 of its best-selling graphic novels on the Kindle. B&N was first to take issue with the digital exclusivity and pulled the print versions of all 100 graphic novels from its shelves. This week, Books-A-Million, now the second largest chain bookstore in the US after the closing of Borders, joined the fray.

The reactions seem short sighted and knee-jerkish, especially in light of reports that the exclusive deal was for a limited period of four months. Giving Amazon additional (large platform retail sale) carte blanche to the print sales over that period seems a risky and questionable business strategy at best. CNN sums up the big-picture damage this fracas is causing: “Everyone is battling, and consumers are caught in the crossfire …”

Content consumption increases threefold with Nook, Kindle

ShelfAwareness took a look at some of the digital publishing highlights from the conferences that took place this week ahead of the Frankfurt Book Fair. The increase in ereading is no surprise — Amazon announced in May that its sales of Kindle books surpassed print sales — but the speed of the transition and the accelerated ubiquity are notable. Some key points from the ShelfAwareness piece include:

  • Both Nook and Kindle users consume three times more content than they did before buying the device.
  • “Stephen Page, publisher and CEO of Faber & Faber, said that because of ebooks, the 85-year-old publishing house this year sold books in 20 countries where it had never sold a single book in the past.”
  • The importance of digitizing backlists is becoming clear: Spanish publisher Santillana reports a substantial increase in sales after putting its backlist on the Kindle. “Before doing so, the ratio of sales of Santillana backlist titles in the U.S. to its other markets was 1:15; since the Kindle move, the ratio is 2:1.”

What newspapers can learn from Wikipedia’s success

Nieman Lab’s Megan Garber took a look this week at Benjamin Mako Hill’s research on the worldwide success of Wikipedia. Hill’s analysis is interesting, but what really caught my eye was the application of that analysis to the newspaper industry, as suggested by Garber:

If you want user contributions, build platforms that are familiar and easy. Lower the barriers to participation; focus on helping users to understand what you want from them rather than on dazzling them. Though gamification — with incentives that encourage certain user behaviors, complete with individual rewards (badges! titles! mayors!) — certainly has a role to play in the new news ecosystem, Hill’s findings suggest that the inverse of game dynamics can be a powerful force, as well. His research highlights the value of platforms that invite rather than challenge — and the validity of contributions made for the collective good rather than the individual.

These insights also can add to the discussion on the viability of paywalls, which saw some interesting activity this week as well. Press+ and the Knight Foundation teamed up to help college newspapers install metered paywalls — not so much to make broke college students pay to read their school’s news, but to provide a way to charge for subscriptions or pander for donations from parents and alumni outside the college community. In a similar vein, The Independent newspaper in the UK is going the paywall route as well — but only for readers outside the UK.

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