ENTRIES TAGGED "random house"
Will the ebook transition span an entire generation?
My favorite number at the first TOC buchreport in Berlin on April 23rd was 20, as in 20% of the 2.4 million ebook buyers in Germany in 2012 had not bought any books in the previous twelve months, according to GfK, as quoted by Carel Weltbild, CEO of Weltbild, the second largest book chain and online platform for books in the country.
It was a long day, packed with panel debates and keynotes, with discussion topics ranging from ebook strategies in large- and medium-sized houses as well as newly-launched ventures, to author/publisher relationships to big data analysis in publishing, to lessons learned from the music industry. Yet in every detail the focus was (for once) not on some English language case studies but on the local German market.
Using a word cloud to get a better sense of what the executives are emphasizing
Word clouds offer a different way of viewing a document. Sometimes they shed more light on what the author is really emphasizing. You’ve probably already read the merger messages sent by Random House’s Markus Dohle and Penguin’s John Makinson. I’m sure each of those letters were edited by quite a few people before they were sent. They’ve been scoured and polished till just the right message was communicated.
So what do they look like in word cloud view? I spliced the two documents together and the result is shown below.
It’s not surprising that much of the emphasis is on the “company” and its name. Look a bit closer and you’ll also see that “authors” also appears frequently. What about “digital” though? It’s there…you just have to look closely. Very closely.
It should be less about Amazon and more about going direct
Call me skeptical but I feel the merger between Penguin and Random House is less about creating “greater scale” and more about simple consolidation in a shrinking industry. Which organization is more likely to create the truly innovative, disruptive products of tomorrow’s publishing industry: a behemoth like Penguin Random House or some start-up working out of the proverbial garage? My money’s on the latter.
And if it’s really all about creating scale to deal better with Amazon, well, how big is big enough? Aren’t either one of those operations already large enough to manage Amazon? If not, are the two combined really going to make a difference there?
I’m not convinced the way forward for the big six is to get even bigger so they can push back on Amazon. The real solution is to create another distribution channel so they’re not as dependent upon Amazon tomorrow as they are today. It’s called a direct channel and none of the big six are making much progress building one out. Yes, it requires a strong consumer brand. Yes, it means they need to build a site that offers compelling reasons for consumers to buy from it rather than Amazon, which is no small task. And yes, it also means they need to abandon DRM.
Instead of just merging I’d rather see one of the big six stand up like this small publisher and say “we’ve walked on eggshells for far too long…it’s time for us to get serious about building that direct channel and not worry about how our existing channel partners will react.”
Waterstones and Amazon team up, Google's battle with newspapers continues, and the Big Six to become the Big Five?
Here are a few stories from the publishing space that caught my attention this week.
U.K. bookstore teams up with Amazon
Charlotte Williams and Lisa Campbell report this week at The Bookseller that Waterstones bookstore in the U.K. launched its Amazon Kindle promotion, wherein customers can purchase a Kindle, Kindle Fire, Kindle Fire HD, or (by the end of the month) a Kindle Paperwhite in their brick-and-mortar stores. Williams and Campbell report that the point-of-sale slogan reads in part: “There are two sides to every story. With books and now Kindle you can enjoy both at Waterstones.”
In an interview with Leo Kelion at the BBC, Waterstones’ managing director James Daunt defends the move against critics who declare he’s signed the bookstore’s death warrant, saying he’s not a “moron” and indicating (without specifics) that the store is making money off the deal. Daunt also argues that you have to look at the bigger picture:
“All that we have to do is encourage people to come into our shops and to choose the books. I don’t frankly care how they then consume then, or read them, or indeed buy them. But if you spend time in my shops, and you really enjoy it, and you come back more often and spend longer, you’re going to spend money in my shops.”
Though Kelion calls the move “a twist no one saw coming,” someone did see this coming — a bookseller, in fact. In a Q&A following The Kepler’s 2020: Building the Community Bookstore of the 21st Century session at TOC 2012, Kepler’s 2020 project leader Praveen Madan said:
“[Ebooks are] something we want to provide; we want to be part of the overall experience. But the solution and the technology has to come from somebody else. I’m very serious about looking at [partnering with] Amazon and just giving away Kindles and telling people it’s okay — you have our permission. Walk into the bookstore, browse the books and download the books on your Kindle.”
Random House is pursing digital with a vengeance, recognizing a growth market. From the Huffington Post: The publisher already has more than 8,000 books in the electronic format and will have a digital library of nearly 15,000. The new round of e-books is expected to be completed within months; excerpts can be viewed online through the publisher's Insight browsing…
UK-based GoSpoken has partnered with Random House to make 50 audiobook titles available for purchase through the GoSpoken mobile download service. GoSpoken is currently aimed at early adopter UK residents who have broadband-capable cellphones (specifically, HSDPA-enabled) and mobile data plans. Managing director Tony Lynch describes the genesis of GoSpoken on the company's blog: As I travel round London, I…