Tuesday, August 18, 2009

BEA and Reed still miss the point.

After reading the "How to fix BEA?" article in the 8/10/09 edition of Publishers Weekly, it struck me again how timid the thought process is of both Reed and the publishers they listen. Once the ABA sold the show to Reed, the original concept (bookseller oriented annual show) should have been reworked. Reed's customer is not the bookseller, but the publisher who pays for space. And publishers have been tolerating the show for years, but only with diminishing investment required of them. This is because the major challenge in the industry is not publishers reaching booksellers with their fall list (the way it used to be). As the role of the bookseller has been reduced (primarily) to ringing up the sale on the cash register (see my previous blog), the new challenge for publishers is to identify and reach the new "influencers" who will recommend their titles and authors.

Since the traditional print media has drastically reduced book review coverage, this influencer role has increasingly shifted to bloggers, twitterers, facebookers, and social networkers in general. Even if a book is featured on TV, the amplifying effect of social networkers noting the appearence is crucial to building popular awareness. While booksellers still need to have product available (whether p or e), influencers are the demand creators of the 21st century.

Again, what is a major challenge facing book publishing? It is to reach the social networkers with appropriate titles and the accompanying information so they can do their magic. What if Reed made the effort to attract the top social networkers who recommend books to the BEA? What if Reed set up a section in the hall for them, documented the topics they were interested in, and then facilitated scheduling meetings and pitch sessions for publishers. What if software players like Net Galley and Bowker, or organizations like BISG helped publishers capture and assimilate the pertinent data on social networkers and tracked their activity, followers, and helped publishers see the relevant data on how consumer sales (Book Scan) moved due to those efforts?

BEA may be irrelevant, but the industry has needs that a major aggregating event can help address. It just happens that need is not about booksellers.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Amazon: Love Them, Hate Them, Let's Follow the Money

by Ted Treanor, publishing consultant, The Consulting Garage

So what’s Amazon up to? Let’s follow the money trail. In 2005 I remember becoming acutely aware of their strategy when they bought BookSurge and Mobipocket in one month. It was a clear message to both the digital and traditional book publishing industry that Amazon was investing in their vision of the future of book publishing. They were putting their money on future growth areas in the book industry by demonstrating a commitment to digital books and print-on-demand technology and services. Here is an awesome link to a visualization of Amazon’s entire history of investments in buying companies across all industries. Many of their acquisitions and investments are in technology infrastructure that supports their book business and other industries as well.

Bookpages (announced April 27, 1998) – Bookpages was one of the largest online bookstores in the United Kingdom. It became Amazon’s online UK store.

Telebook (announced April 27, 1998) Telebook, operating through its ABC B├╝cherdienst subsidiary, was Germany’s number one online bookstore –It became Amazon’s German online store.

Audible.com (announced Jan. 31, 2000) An investment of millions of dollars, for 5 percent ownership, which featured content from newspapers and magazines, and books on audio. For promoting audio.com, Amazon would receive $ 30 million over three years.

BookSurge LLC (announced April 4, 2005) BookSurge print-on-demand book printing and fulfillment from Charleston, South Carolina with growing global relationships.

Mobipocket.com (acquired April 2005) – Mobipocket, a very popular French ebook company that specialized in ebooks for mobile devices, with both reader and server software.

Brilliance Audio, Inc. (acquired May 23, 2007) –Brilliance Audio is one of the largest audiobook publishers in the USA.

Shelfari (acquired August 25, 2008, Shelfari book based social network site from Seattle. Amazon originally was an investor in Shelfari in February, 2007.

Audible.com (acquired April 2008) Audible is the online audio-book provider was purchased by Amazon in for US$300 million and assumption of liabilities.

AbeBooks (acquired Dec 2008) Purchased for between $110-$120 million. AbeBooks is an online marketplace for books, with over 110 million primarily used, rare and out-of-print books listed for sale by thousands of independent booksellers from around the world.

-Bookfinder.com (subsidiary of AbeBooks, acquired Dec 2008)

-LibraryThing (a 40% share) (subsidiary of AbeBooks, acquired Dec 2008)

-Justbooks (subsidiary of AbeBooks, acquired Dec 2008) -IberLibro.com (subsidiary of AbeBooks, acquired Dec 2008)

-Gojaba.com (subsidiary of AbeBooks, acquired Dec 2008)

- FillZ (listing-management service, subsidiary of AbeBooks, acquired Dec 2008)

Lexcycle Inc. (acquired April 27, 2009) This is the company behind Stanza, an electronic book reading application for the iPhone and iPod.Booktour (Seed capital investment in April, 2009)

The Chairman of Booktour is author and journalist Chris Anderson, who is the editor in chief of Wired Magazine, and the writer of the book The Long Tail and his 2009 book, Free. The company lets authors create profile pages where they can communicate with fans, and provide a schedule of events.
You can bet that there will be more investments to come…

There are many other Amazon investments in customer enabling technologies, and to improve the customer experience for any product or service through the ever reaching and growing Amazon.com. It is not just B2C, but B2B relationships, too, such as hosting and in the cloud computing services. They are building a comprehensive online shopping platform for entire verticals and horizontals and they make money selling directly to the consumer, or helping merchants sell to their customers, and more recently by supporting supply chain relationships. No small vision here.

Whether you see Amazon as a friend or a threat will depend on your market position. It will also depend if you and your company have a strong vision and an ongoing commitment to investment in the future. Where do you weigh-in?

Comic-Con a model for 21st Century BEA?

Calvin Reid has a PW piece about Comic-Con (here in San Diego), and about how it could be a model for what to do with the BEA/ABA. (here is the link) http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6674286.html?nid=2789&source=link&rid=1494249144

Obviously the big difference between the two is that a traditional trade show like the BEA is B2B-oriented, while Comic-Con is a fan-driven show that brings Creators (writers/artists), publishers, studios, distributors, dealers, etc together in one big stew.

However, if book publishers are serious about digital marketing and developing strong vertical categories, then they need to seriously consider fan-friendly shows conceived around strong subject categories. Publishers could collect fan information (to market to them) and gather their feedback about upcoming books. Involving authors, specialty retailers, other publishers in the vertical, other media in the vertical (web, Video, magazines, etc), bloggers, reviewers,etc could give enough scale and attention to make it compelling.