➻ Mike Shatzkin believes, and argues convincingly, that Anybody Press is the new member of the Big Six (for ebooks, at least). But what does that mean, exactly?
Bowker reported last week that 12% of the ebooks being bought now are self-published. There was skepticism about the methodology from The Digital Reader and Good e-Reader says Bowker’s data should be taken “with a grain of salt”. But the exact number doesn’t matter; the trend does. The share of the consumer ebook dollar going to books that aren’t coming from publishing entities means that the new Big Six for ebooks are the ones we know well—Penguin Random House and the four (HarperCollins, Hachette, Simon & Schuster, and Macmillan) that among them add up to about their size—plus Anybody Press.
And what does that mean, exactly? Shatzkin has some ideas:
[A]side from the market share fight big publishers will have with each other, there’s going to be a continuing market share fight between Anybody Press and the commercial industry. And for some time to come, Anybody Press is going to be winning. The question, like the question about online (and Amazon) market share growth is: where does it stop?
Big publishers do have ways to fight back. Putting together our upcoming (September 26) Marketing Conference with Peter McCarthy, who used to plot digital marketing strategy for Random House, I’m learning what can be accomplished when scaled technology and expertise are employed by engaged title-and-audience knowledge. And, particularly viewed in a global context and aside from straight narrative books, the print-at-retail component has a long way to go before it becomes irrelevant. But when I say that, I mean “many years”, not “many decades”.
This amorphous but growing competition is the “atomization” concept I wrote about recently in action. It can’t be neglected in the consideration of any branch of publishing’s future. In fact, indie entities, which is the way I think about atomization, are more likely to be disruptive on a larger scale than indie authors have been so far. So we might have Any Organization Press growing even faster in the next few years than Anybody Press has for the past few.
What people spend for books won’t necessarily shrink drastically, but where the money goes will shift drastically. The challenge for today’s leading revenue producers will be to find the ways their business models can adapt to the shift.
Those interested in these topics would be well-served by clicking on the links within the above quotation. The last link is particularly fascinating in its predictions for “The World of Content 20 Years From Now.” I don’t necessarily agree with everything, or even most of, what he writes, but it is well-researched and well-argued, and maybe if the world he writes of comes to pass it will be just as well—even if there’s not a whole lot of room the beloved, bricks and mortar, independent community bookshop in it, and even if “There is no question in [his] mind that if, 20 years from now, you read a book on paper, you’re going to be definitely stamped as retro.”
➻ If anything, books will always make for better visual art. This is proven yet again in Kerry Mansfield’s “Expired” series, which as Matt McCann wrote about recently for The New York Times‘ Lens Blog, documents Discarded Books, Recovered Nostalgia.
In cursing e-readers and extolling the virtues of dusty, tree-killing books, one risks blowing the trumpet of the curmudgeonly grump.
Nevertheless, while books may not necessarily make for a better reading experience, they are superior as subject matter for a photo project. (I defy you, dear reader, to find a loving portrait of a Nook.)
And I, for one, also don’t mind “blowing the trumpet of the curmudgeonly grump,” and think it’s not insignificant to point out that the whole “tree-killing books” line is a bit of a straw man. We can and should, after all, not be making books out of trees in the first place. Risking not only looking like, but sounding like an insufferable hippie, we really should be making books out of hemp. A fellow named Jeremy Briggs made this point in a 2004 issue of (clears throat, looks down) Hemphasis:
Paper made from hemp lasts hundreds of years longer than wood-pulp paper, which decomposes and yellows with age. Hemp paper resists decomposition and does not yellow with age.
The Library of Congress found that, “While the hemp paper in volumes 300-400 years old is still strong, 97% of the books, printed between 1900 and 1937 on tree paper, will be useable for less than 50 years.” Hemp paper can be recycled 7 to 8 times, compared with only 3 times for wood pulp paper.
So there’s that.
➻ In news of other beautiful, bookish things in the world, there are Mystery book sculptures still sprouting across Scotland.
The mystery sculptor has been at work since March 2011, when the first sculpture, a tree, was left at the Scottish Poetry Library addressed to its Twitter account, @ByLeavesWeLive. Other lucky institutions include the Scottish Story Telling Centre, The National Museums of Scotland, and the Edinburgh Bookshop.
She is a sculptress: That is all that is known about her. She has even done work to commission for Book Week Scotland, via an anonymous email account, hiding sculptures at literary sites across Scotland, from the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum to a pub on the remote Hebridean Eriskay location of Compton MacKenzie’s Whisky Galore, for enthusiasts to find. The whole mystery has earned its own Wikipedia page.
If you’re looking for more, check out these 40+ Inspiring Book & paper Sculptures.
➻ Books are good for more than just photographs and art projects, though. Alanna Okun at BuzzFeed has a useful list of Books To Give As Gifts For Every Occasion.
➻ And because I am in a “curmudgeonly grump,” the future will be in analog kind of mood today, Nicholas Carr—author of The Shallows—and his rather deep response to the announcement of Instagram Video touting Disposable experience: a celebration really resonated with me this morning.
Most of us are happy that experience is disposable. We want the next experience, not the last one. Even for those who are always pulling out their phones to snap pictures or shoot videos, to text or tweet or tumble or otherwise share the moments of their being, the pleasure lies mainly in the recording, not in the record. The act of recording is itself a disposable experience. The tools for recording and sharing are disposable as well. They get old.
This is a problem for those who operate social networks or otherwise have a financial stake in our record-keeping. They want nothing more than to turn us all into sad hoarders, to have us care as much about the record of the experience as about the experience itself. They want us to live retrospectively, to think about our lives as a Timeline. But we frustrate them. We get bored with the record. We flock to the new experience, the new tool, and the more disposable the better: IM, blog, text, tweet, gif, pin, instagram, snap, vine. Words and sounds and images on the wind. Here and gone.
You can’t catch us, no matter how hard you try. Your schemes are joyless, and they’re doomed.
And if that defiance and skepticism intrigues you, check in with Carr on how Silicon Valley is now Slumming with Buddha because “they’re gonna make a sh*tload of money.”
➻ Of course, just up the road in San Francisco, many of the beats were rather serious in their Buddhism for non-financial reasons, and this year their unofficial West Coast headquarters City Lights Bookstore celebrates its 60th birthday.
➻ Why can’t this night go on forever?