The Week in Publishing

by J Tanner

Catch up on the industry news and opinion you may have missed this week.

Trade Publishing

  • Yikes! An anonymous trade publishing insider (executive or acquisitions editor perhaps based on comments?) says big publishing is doooomed at the hands of Amazon.
  • How much of their backlists trade publishers still control through some vague contract wording is a huge bellweather for how well trade publishing can handle the transition to digital. So Harlequin v. Open Road will be hugely influential however the case is decided. Harlequin has chosen wisely by selecting a contract granting them rights to exploit technology “heretofore invented” which seems on the surface in their favor. But if they lose this one, they probably lose just about everything from the mid-1920s to the early 1970s so supreme court here we come…

The New World of Publishing

  • An overview of self-published bestsellers on Amazon in 2011 concludes that 2012 won’t be as rosy a picture 2012 due to a confluence of trends.
  • Big publishing is getting in front of the ebook revolution… in India. (My favorite quote: don’t worry about paper though; it won’t be going away due in part to its “smell”?)
  • Buried in in the middle what is mainly hype for his Digital Book World conference, Mike Shatzkin drops in an astonishing statistic. Only 4% of books sold at online romance retailer use DRM. The surprise there being that they stock basically all big publishing’s books and all those books have DRM. That means 96% of the sales are not coming from the major publishers. Compare that to any physical bookstore where the numbers would likely be flipped in big publishing’s favor.
  • Libraries can’t keep up with the demand for e-books.


So the big Apple media event happened, and last week’s flimsy rumors about iBookstore getting a portal like Amazon KDP are now forgotten (except by me!) It was primarily a textbook focused event. There will be some minor improvements for direct publishing to iBook outside of their area of concern: it looks like an ISBN will no longer be needed, and the iBook Author program should be a nice editing platform if you have a Mac. But the Mac/iOS ecosystem lock remains and that is a big hurdle for the self-publishing crowd. And the authoring tool license disallows selling the resulting epub file anywhere but iBookstore so it has little hope of luring in prospective publishers.

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