V) Books

. Since the printing press was invented centuries ago, the business model of the book publishing industry has not changed much. German goldsmith Johannes Gutenberg developed the first movable type printing press. This revolutionised how knowledge was recorded, copied and shared. It tested the power and the craft of literacy, ie the monastic scribes. As a result, very few monasteries still boast the craft, ie printing press killed the scribe. Will digital books kill the printing press and books go the way of cassettes, ie into history.

. Books may survive as digital books are based on one huge algorithm with no connection to customers; while bookselling in stores is about a more personal approach to satisfying the customer's needs. There is one area in which the traditional booksellers are dominating: it is the picture-based books in general and children's books in particular. For example, there was a 30% growth in printed children's book sales from 2010 to 2014. Yet children are a tech-savvy group.
. Every time children's books are made into movies, book sales increase significantly, eg Harry Potter, Twilight, etc
. It is thought that books that you might be embarrassed to be seen reading in public like erotic romance or comics sell better as digital titles. Other popular digital titles are in crime, sci-fi, fantasy and general fiction, ie books regarded at the lighter end of literary sales
. Some paediatricians recommend that children and adolescents limit their online screen-based media use to less than 2 hours per day but children can be exposed to many more hours during a typical school day
. There is some evidence that printed books result in a better recall than digital books (Jonathan Barrett, 2015)

Yet recent changes in technology linked with the digital revolution, like e-books and on-line retailing, are transforming the industry; these changes include

- e-books replacing printed ones and on-line retailers replacing traditional bookstores, like

i) Amazon has around 80% of the e-book market in USA and UK

ii) the disappearance of large retail bookselling chains like Borders, Angus and Roberts, etc

iii) global marketplace allowing immediate on-line purchasing from anywhere; thus ending the splitting of publishing rights between geographical areas

iv) on-line retailers don't need expensive retail space

v) with e-books as a loss leader, ie use books to sell a device like Kindle from Amazon

vi) the demise of the book critic as on-line operators use "Big Data" concepts to analyse data like sales, clicks, etc to determine popularity of books, etc

- lowered barriers of entry allowing writers to self-publish and self-market, eg some authors, like JK Rowling of Harry Potter fame, are selling via their own website and by-passing the traditional players

Other changes include

- more people are reading but in different forms like e-books; they are most popular in romance, crime and pulp fiction

- wholesale rationalisation of the corporate structures behind publishing, such as massive mergers financed by private equity, eg Penguin merged with Random House to create the world's biggest publishing house. This new identity will employ 10,000+ people worldwide and generates around $ 4 billion in revenue. This is a reflection of lower margins forcing businesses to merge to rationalise and reduce cost structure, and to improve economies of scale. This means less money for authors, editors, designers, etc, ie

"In the old days, the retail price was 5 or 6 times the manufacturer's price; booksellers took 20 to 25% of that. If the prime retailer, though, is selling at say $10 and manufacturing at 5, then there is probably not enough money there. Then you have e-books and there is a huge difference there in cost of production but that creates customers expecting books at $6 rather than $15. No one will pay $15"

Andrew Schuller as quoted by Andrew Cornell, 2014

- increase in independent, small publishers as niche players in local markets that they understand

- authors becoming celebrities, ie authors are not just writers, they are brands, eg JK Rowling of Harry Potter fame

- booksellers and publishers are closer, ie less of a focus on "us and them"

- focus on a small number of books with large sale potential and this is linked with the increase in importance of discount stores like Big W that want high unit sales as their shelf space is limited. Also, Big W has its own book club and does authors' events

- increase in on-line reading communities like

i) Goodread (purchased by Amazon in 2013) is very influential in recommending books

ii) US start-up Scribd (a cloud-based subscription service) is linked with HarperCollins

- university courses training people for careers as full-time writers

 

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