The State of the Industry

Is the publishing industry better off with the proliferation of digital books?

That depends on who you ask.

Recent research by Forrester surveyed book publishing executives across the United States that make up 74% of the U.S. publishing revenues. The responses they received were depressing. These included:

  • Only 28% of publishing executives think their company will be better off because of the transition to digital, down from 51 percent a year ago.
  • 61% of these executives believe readers will be better off as a result of the digital transition, down from 74 percent in 2010.
  • 60% of the survey respondents believe more people will read than before, down from 66 percent in 2010.
  • 47 % of respondents believe people will read a greater number of books than before, down from 66 percent in 2010—a 19 percent decrease.

While this survey did not address why these publishers were less optimistic about the industry, many speculate that it has to do with the statistics that are suggesting that digital sales are not compensating for the decline in print sales. Others think that the pessimism may have to do with the hard work involved in making the transition to digital, and that this additional stress is weighing on these publishing industry executives.

Self-publishing companies, on the other hand, are optimistic about the state of the industry. Many of these companies are finding that publishing books in digital format is rapidly outpacing printed books by those who publish their own works. reported that their number of print titles grew by 9% in 2011, while their number of ebook titles rose by 22%. Author Solutions, another large self-publishing company, reported that their ebook titles grew over 425% in 2011 and they expect similar growth this year. Amazon has also seen significant growth with more independent authors achieving great sales success through their Kindle Direct Publishing platform.

Maybe some of the publishing executives’ pessimism actually stems from the data that suggests that digital publishing is truly leveling the publishing field. For the first time, authors publishing their own works and authors who are published by large publishing houses both have equal access to and representation in digital stores such as Amazon, Apple iBookstore, and Barnes&Noble. It may well be the increased competition amongst tradition and self-published digital books that is having the most transformational impact on the publishing industry.

Regardless of industry pessimism or optimism, digital books are growing, and ebooks are becoming a bigger part of the publishing industry.

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Another Sign of a Changing Industry

The publishing industry is changing. The increase of digital book sales coupled with the decreasing marketing dollars many publishers have to spend on promoting books is changing how books get promoted. With these changes, the industry is seeing a decline in in-person author book tours.

BookTour, Inc. was founded in 2006 to provide a directory of author events. The service provides information on authors including biography, books, and upcoming engagements. The company offers online publicity tools that aggregate events, interviews, and signings and make it available to readers. BookTour also provides tools for book promotion that allow authors to locate receptive live audiences.

Earlier this month, BookTour announced that they will be shutting down on Thursday, September 1, 2011. They gave the following reason for their closing:

Fewer author tours and changes in book marketing budgets have made our company financially unviable. And while we would like to continue providing the valuable service that is BookTour, everyone here has families to feed and bills to pay. As such, the founders are working on new and exciting ventures in publishing and software development.

So, as of Thursday, all BookTour services will end and the data on their website will be unavailable. Yet another sign along the road showing that the book industry is undergoing a shift, making some services obsolete and creating room for new services that fit the new paradigm.

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I Missed This; Did You?

I try to say on top of publishing industry news, both for the Christian market as well as for the general book publishing market. I say I try, because every once in a while, something slips by unnoticed.

Something fairly big happened in the publishing world in September and I was completely oblivious to it until just recently. Either I have been extremely obtuse, or this company has not done a good job of marketing their new program. Of course, I like to think it is the latter.

Print on Demand (POD) publishing has become very popular due to the low investment cost in publishing a book. Ingram was the first to see the large potential in POD publishing and created Lightning Source Inc. for publishers to place books into Ingram’s distribution channel on a POD basis. followed Ingram’s lead and created BookSurge for publishers wishing to have their books available for sale on via POD.

In September of this year, Baker & Taylor launched their own POD service for publishers. This service, called TextStream, is Baker & Taylor’s version of Lightning Source.

Small publishers know that Baker & Taylor does not stock titles that do not have sufficient demand. For publishers of titles with sales that do not meet Baker & Taylor’s threshold, Baker & Taylor will place your book in their system as orderable. Then when they receive an order for your book, either from a retailer or a librarian, they will send you a purchase order. You, the small publisher, process the order and ship Baker & Taylor the ordered book, who in turn ships the book to the retailer or librarian.

What ends up happening in this scenario is that the small publisher has much of their profit eaten away by shipping costs. It is more costly to make 10 separate shipments of a book then to just ship one set of 10 books.

Enter TextStream. Now small publishers can place their titles in TextStream and when an order comes in for the title, Baker & Taylor has TextStream print the book and then ships it directly to the retailer or librarian. This is much easier for the small publisher who no longer has to deal with purchase orders trickling in and numerous trips to the post office. It also saves money, putting more profit in the small publishers’ pockets.

Did you miss this news or was it just me?

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For Whom the Economy Tolls


Stephanie loves books and loves to read. An accountant by trade, Stephanie decided to do what she is passionate about. So, taking her life’s savings, she opened a bookstore in Oregon.

Then the economy took a turn for the worse. Sales declined and bills mounted. Stephanie was forced to close her bookstore at the beginning of this year. Unable to find a job, she took to begging outside her closed bookstore.

While Stephanie did not own a Christian bookstore, her plight affects everyone in the book business. One less store means fewer books sold. Fewer books sold equals less revenue for everyone in the book trade.

Galatians 6:2 says “Carry one another’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

Fortunately, Stephanie’s plight eventually came to the attention of the good people in her town and they set up a fund to help Stephanie get back on her feet. Donations can be made to Stephanie Griffin Fund, c/o Glenda Magistrale, Consolidated Federal Credit Union, 2021 NE Sandy Blvd., Portland, OR 97232.

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The Green Machine?

Everywhere you turn, you hear about “Green” technology and initiatives. Green technology is all about conserving our natural environment and resources through reducing waste and creating new renewable, less-harmful resources.

Since publishers print paper books, they are not immune to this trend toward “greener” ways to produce products. Books are paper which comes from trees. Many people are concerned about deforestation to feed our paper needs (although toilet paper is a huge culprit and I like the two-ply soft, plushy kind best). Publishers have been encouraged to consider recycled paper as well as alternative forms of producing books (i.e. digital books).

The new Espresso Book Machine is like a vending machine for books. Could this machine be one of the answers for reducing remainders and pulping of leftover books?

Check it out!

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