For your weekend perusal, here is another installment of Friday Links
➻ Calvin Ried’s coverage of the BISG’s MIP (The Book Industry Study Group’s Making Information Pay Conference) 2013: A New World of Big Data, Complexity and Collaboration for Publishers Weekly yesterday was a treasure of interesting insights:
BISG executive director Len Vlahos gave an overview of “The Digital Consumer” using data from its “Consumer Attitudes Towards E-book Reading Survey,” in particular looking at the behavior of “Power Buyers” or consumers who buy at least one e-book a week. They represent about 17% of all e-book buyers, they are likely to be a women aged 55-64, and are “grown not born,” he said, noting that they buy physical books and e-book interchangeably and have grown into being “power” e-book buyers over time. Vlahos also noted that while 80% of Power Buyers shop at Amazon, 40% shop at B&N and 30% buy or use libraries/OverDrive to find the e-books they buy. And while dedicated e-readers continue to dominate, their dominance is slipping (and the use of iPads for reading is growing) and Power Buyers generally own tablets and e-readers (though they prefer dedicated e-readers for reading).
That is just one bit of the fascinating data provided in the Ried’s coverage. But what does it all mean for those that write, publish, and sell books? What, if anything, does that data do to the way we move forward as an industry? If anything, it shows that we must continue to work together:
Ken Michaels, president of Hachette Book Group and chairman of BISG, closed the conference with a presentation on change and adaptation, noting that “the world is changing more rapidly than we realize.” In particular he noted that the former linear supply chain in publishing—the familiar publisher to distributer to retailer paradigm—has been replaced by a crazy and complex constellation of financial interests and sevices surrounding one central figure—the reader. He also used this new paradigm to promote industry collaboration, like BookStats.
“We see complexity as an opportunity,” Michaels said, “not because we can figure it out in isolation, but because we can participate togther in organizations like AAP, BISG, IDPF and others, without which we couldn’t educate ourselves about the best practices in this new world.”
And speaking of collaboration, this time internal, the BBC went inside HarperCollins in London to see how their covers come to life in a cool little video, Cover to Cover: How are book jackets designed?
➻ Taking a look inside another literary institution, Julie V. Iovine of the Wall Street Journal writes that The Library’s Future Is Not an Open Book. It’s a great overview of a paradigm shift taking place in libraries throughout the country and shows that libraries continue to be some of the most dynamic, forward thinking institutions in the country. The piece deserves a full read, but this excerpt should begin to give you the gist of the article:
Branch libraries have long served as community hubs offering book clubs and after-school story times. But central libraries, dedicated to the care and maintenance of weighty collections within ornately crafted and lofty spaces, are having to recast themselves. Thanks to the shift of emphasis to online resources over hard copies, the prevalence of mobile technologies and changing approaches to studying and learning, libraries have a different social purpose. “I used to be greeted by a sea of faces with questions like how to spell ‘Albuquerque,’” said Amy E. Ryan, a career librarian since the 1970s and now president of the Boston Public Library. “That’s all over. It’s now about providing an experience.”
That experience still includes books, but more importantly for our true education and the health of our civic life, it includes the serendipity of discovery, of the unexpected, of the other and the unfamiliar—something I think is less prevalent as algorithms dictate who and what we see and read in our lives online.
I also believe that if the world were a perfect place, libraries would become the central, not-for-profit wireless providers in their communities. There are a number of models that could be explored, and the for-profit businesses we have providing this public service now are 1: dead last in most customer satisfaction polls, and 2: lagging behind much of the developed world in providing hi-speed service and capacity. The best ideas they seem to be able to come up with is to charge their most loyal customers more and to tier their services, which explains the public’s low esteem of them.
➻ As always, while the Amazon continues to be depleted, Amazon the company just keeps growing. In the news this week, Joanna Stern wrote about Amazon Introducing Amazon Coins—Virtual Currency for Buying Apps and Games, Greg Bensinger reports that Amazon Is Developing Smartphone With 3-D Screen, the Guardian‘s Ian Griffiths and Simon Bowers have Fresh questions for Amazon over pittance it pays in tax, and Dave Jamieson tells us about Amazon Warehouse Workers Suing Over Security Checkpoint Waits, all while Amazon employees strike in Germany. From Melville House’s Kelly Burdick on that last point:
An Amazon spokesperson said the strikes will not affect shipments in Germany.
That said, the action is significant—it’s the first meaningful labor action against Amazon anywhere in the world and an ironic mark against Amazon, a high-tech company suffering from the “distinctly old world malaise of industrial action,” as the FT puts it.the action is significant — it’s the first meaningful labor action against Amazon anywhere in the world and an ironic mark against Amazon, a high-tech company suffering from the “distinctly old world malaise of industrial action,” as the FT puts it.
I would suggest that, if Amazon doesn’t want to deal with the “old world malaise of industrial action,” they should probably not rely on old world industrial labor conditions.
➻ Over at Salon, Ted Heller says Goodnight, sweet print, asking “Are words on paper gone forever?” At the same time Fast Company‘s Addy Dugdale tells us that Qantas Urges Passengers To Ditch Their Kindles For A Paperback Book
A collaboration between Hachette and Droga5 is attempting to get Qantas’s passengers to turn their tablets and e-readers off, and turn instead to paperbacks.
Stories For Every Journey is a collection of bespoke books aimed at the airline’s frequent flyers. Each of the 10 volumes has been written to allow travelers to devour it, front to back, within the flight time–longer flights allow the passenger to devour a meal, throw back a few glasses of wine, and settle down for some sleep, with enough time left to finish the book.
In the Christian Science Monitor, Donna Bryson explores A ‘novel’ idea for spreading literature in Africa: The cellphone. And taking a look at a fascinating new book from Simon & Schuster, Claire Kelley wrote yesterday that Jaron Lanier offers to save the book business, but even his own publisher doesn’t listen:
In her review of his new book Who Owns the Future?, Janet Maslin adds another descriptor, calling Lanier a “mega-wizard in futurist circles. ” But she could have also called him a “book publishing strategist.” In the final chapter of his book, Lanier lays out his thoughts on the future of books and offers a money-making scheme to save the book business:
It amazes me that traditional book publishers don’t understand the emotional value of paper… To survive, the book business has to define a product for the upper horn, for the rich… there should be hyper limited editions of books like this one, hand copied by monks onto handmade paper, using organic fair-trade inks, and sold only in VIP rooms at parties where almost no one can get in. Listen up, publisher, you are with these very words publishing the advice that could win you a fortune, but you are choosing to ignore a way to get through these tough times.
Simon & Schuster, the publisher of Who Owns the Future? was apparently unwilling to take the leap. Seemingly resigned to the inability of publishers to heed his warnings, Lanier offers possible outcomes once the book industry has been completely overhauled by Silicon Valley.
Man… with the physical book disappearing, maybe it’s a good thing so many of us practice Tsundoku.
➻All of these links make my head hurt after a while, which brings me back to the ideas of Simple: Conquering the Crisis of Complexity.
➻ You may too old for summer camp, but if you’d like to take two weeks away from home this summer to build new relationships and “a new online thing,” check out the Summer 2013 Seth Godin Internship.
➻ Do you realize that we’re floating in space?