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Publishing News: It's time to break the stick

A warning about the ebook landscape, and another publisher stands against Amazon.

Here are a few stories from the publishing space that caught my eye this week.

We’re approaching the proverbial fork in the road

Silo.pngMathew Ingram at GigaOm took a look at the ebook landscape this week and welcomed everyone to “the platform-dependent bookstore of the future.” Ingram reviewed a situation that occurred between author Seth Godin and Apple regarding hyperlinks in his new book, “Stop Stealing Dreams,” that linked to books sold at Amazon (Godin also has a blog post about the situation here). Ingram argued:

“[Amazon, Apple and Barnes & Noble] have far more control over whose ebooks see the light of day because they also own the major ereading platforms, and they are making decisions based not on what they think consumers want to read but on their own competitive interests.”

Ingram also pointed out that blame for the oligopoly marketplace in the U.S. doesn’t fall solely on the chain store giants:

Publishers are partly to blame for the walled-garden status of the market as well, since they handed Amazon and Apple the stick of digital-rights management, which the two companies are now using to beat them.

Ingram’s post is a must-read and a clear warning of what the future will hold if something doesn’t change: “Welcome to the mutually incompatible, silo-based, platform-dependent and user-unfriendly future of books.”

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What to do about Amazon

AmazonAnother publisher broke up with Amazon this week in response to the IPG-Amazon situation. A post at Publishers Weekly reported that “Educational Development Corporation (EDC), publisher of Usborne and Kane Miller books in the U.S., has announced that “the company will no longer sell any of its books on Amazon or to any entities that resell to Amazon.”

Randall White, president of EDC, stated in the report that the decision was based on Amazon’s moves to “gain control of publishing and other industries by making it impossible for other retailers to compete effectively.”

Last week, author Jim Hanas made a stand against Amazon as well, removing the Amazon “buy” button from the website for his book “Why They Cried.” This week, the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America also removed the Amazon links on its website.

But, in the end, are moves from mid-level publishers and distribution houses and individual authors going to dent Amazon’s hefty armor (read: boat loads of cash and rapidly expanding market share)? Probably not much. But as I (and others) have written before, the Big Six have an ace in the hole: DRM. In a post at Dear Author, Jane Litte touched on the DRM solution and highlighted the toll this situation is taking on the consumer:

“IPG is asking readers to make a moral decision with their wallets without providing a plausible alternative. Why not go DRM free and offer Mobi books to Kindle owners? This really strikes at the heart of Amazon … Amazon isn’t making money off device sales … We [consumers] recognize that Amazon as the exclusive vendor of books would be bad for us, but what are publishers doing about it? Why is it the reader, the only party who does not make money in this equation, have to be the one to take the financial hit in the fight against Amazon? Why aren’t publishers making it easier for readers to move away from Amazon? Why aren’t they trying to appeal to our wallets instead of our morality?”

In a post at Publishers Weekly, Peter Brantley noted the lack of customer service amongst the large publishers and how the subsequent alienation of readers is actually driving publishing customers to Amazon:

“… through the combination of usurious pricing strategies and their undeclared war on libraries, the largest publishers have unerringly drawn their customers — readers with whom they’ve never cared to have a direct relationship — closer into the arms of the retailer whose market power and influence they most fear — Amazon. So much for a strategy of self-interest … And, because publishers are not working in alignment with my interests, their marketplace goals have moved into conflict with mine.”

Javier Celaya proposed a solution over at Publishing Perspectives: Publishers should band together and create a joint platform. He compared the publishing industry’s situation with Amazon to the situation the aerospace industry had with Boeing: “The aeronautical industry, which was once dominated by Boeing, managed to develop the Airbus consortium. The publishing industry can also aspire to create its own ‘cultural Airbus’.”

Celaya offers several key factors for publishers and international online retailers to consider. His post is well worth the read.

Power buyers indicate the digital tipping point is nigh

The Book Industry Study Group (BISG) released the first installment in Volume Three of the ongoing “Consumer Attitudes Toward E-Book Reading” survey this week. According to the report release, digital may be at the tipping point with readers, particularly among “power buyers,” or consumers who “acquire ebooks at least weekly” and who function as “predictors of where the market is moving.”

The release noted::

“… more than half of ebook readers increased their use of apps to purchase books and more than one-third increased their use of general retail websites such as Amazon.com. The gains for these digital vendors come at the expense of brick and mortar bookstores, even independents. More than a third of ebook buyers decreased their spending at national chains and 29% said they are buying less from their local indie.

This installment of the study also showed that though ereading devices remain dominant, “multi-function tablet devices and smartphones are gaining in popularity” — 17% (compared to 13% in November) said they most often used tablets for reading ebooks.

For more on this BISG study, check out the presentation slides and transcript from the “Consumer Attitudes Toward E-Book Reading” session at TOC 2012.

Top Photo: Silo by eirikref, on Flickr

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