Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Book publishers and Internet

Yesterday I had a session with publishers of a general book publishing company. Like people in the travel sector, in real estate and in advertising and book sales, they see that Internet is the place where offer and supply takes place. They also notice that information streams are changing: citizens’ journalism in blogs is becoming a competitor of news agencies. Press photography is no longer the domain for the paparazzi; when the Dutch film producer Theo van Gogh was slaughtered, the largest Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf carried a photograph taken with a mobile camera. So is the role of the book publisher still the same? The role of publishers with reference departments for the production of encyclopaedias have a hard time as Wikipedia is available for free (of course quality is still an issue with Wikipedia).

In the meantime book publishers get a range of new media available to them: internet, e-books and iPods. So far they have made electronic brochures on the Internet as a marketing tool in the sales of their books. In the Netherlands e-Books are not a hot item, although there is progress. While audio books on CD are now getting into fashion, books on iPod have not been promoted yet.

Book publishers are increasingly confronted with authors who have a site themselves, built by a smart nephew or niece, or have blogs. Book publishers get even offers for new books, based on texts of blogs and reactions from readers. And the publishers are often asked to put one of their books in a cross media package.

For a book publishing company it is hard to address this new world. In most cases these companies have been set up with the mission of producing and selling books. Their whole production scheme is based around the presentations to bookshops and their business model is based on sales through the book shops (so they do not know the readers of the book). This is changing now. Internet bookshops are increasing their sales. So the book publishers will also have to establish an environment for their readers complete with an entertaining site, an internet bookshop and a backoffice. And the publisher is becoming a domain expert having textual and sometimes photographic content.

Newspaper publishers have started to change around and are still searching for the environment, backoffice and business models. Magazine publishers have done better in some cases. Both types of publishers have news currency as a leading principle to do something with Internet. Bout news currency is usually not an item for a book publisher.

The session was interesting. It was like sparring with ideas and concepts. But in the end the inevitable questions came up: is there a budget for any of the new activities and where do we find the time to attend to an Internet site.

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