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Where things are going in book publishing (the latest Shatzkin report)

April 26, 2010

Tags: publishing

"[A]ll of us, to function, must have a view of how we think things in publishing will change," writes the always-interesting Mike Shatzkin in Part 1 of What I Would Have Done in London, a long blog entry that would have been his talk if an Iceland volcano blowing hadn't cancelled his trip to the London Book Fair. That blog entry is a follow-up to his major Stay Ahead of The Shift blog essay. He starts with issues "coming right up" and continues with his view of the next 20 to 25 years.

From Part 1, which spells out how much change can take place in 20 years:
Those who stay ahead of the curve prosper. "Cambridge University Press, for example, had tens of thousands of old backlist titles set up for print-on-demand long before other publishers did and they reaped a harvest of sales and profits in the past decade as a result. Last year, Simon & Schuster shifted resources from field reps to telemarketers."
This whole series is worth reading. In Part 2 he predicts: 'I’d expect that 20 years from now, the “local” hard drive will be relatively unimportant: a relatively short-term “emergency” cache for the rare moments when you aren’t easily connected to the network (the internet.) Data — all data, including everything you think you “own” — will live in “the cloud.” '
Publishers and other media will no longer be defined by format. The price of content (what writers can make) will go down, but the value of community/audience will increase. "The idea of a general book publisher will have no meaning." In comments, he adds: "the brands that can sell verifying the truth will command revenue."

In Part 3 he talks about "the process of content as bait to attract eyeballs -- providing tools, features, and databases to monetize the community" as is done today with Michael Cader's PublishersMarketplace. He uses Oxford Bibliographies online as an example of harnessing academic expertise to deliver curated and constantly updated bibliographies by subject.


  1. April 30, 2010 11:27 AM EDT
    And here's What I Would Have Said in London, Part 4 (what will happen in the short term--the next few years). He notes that e-book sales for new narrative books are "already in high single or low double digit percentages of the total number of units the book sells." (I assume that's both fiction and nonfiction.) Worth reading the whole series, for gems such as this: "Authors will be more inclined to self-publish, particularly their out-of print backlist and any title a publisher doesn’t offer an advance reflecting high expectations. That means that, on average, desireable books will be harder and more expensive for publishers to sign. The pressure for publishers to give more than a 25% ebook royalty will intensify. There will be excess capacity throughout the print supply chain: printing, warehousing, and sales operations, and the price of distribution services on offer will go down because the overhead cost of maintaining it, as a percentage of the sales it supports, will have gone up for those with fixed operations."
    - Pat McNees