Archive for the ‘print’ Category


A few years ago, I appeared in a lighthearted debate at Melbourne University in which I had to prosecute the case that the bookstore was dead. Our team lost the vote on a show of hands, and the bookloving audience was pretty convinced that bookshops would be around for some time. Now, we have Federal Government Ministers predicting their demise within 5 years:

Booksellers’ jaws dropped today upon hearing that federal Minister for Small Business Nick Sherry had predicted that online shopping would wipe out general bookstores within five years.

The minister said this morning he expected that only specialist players in capital cities would survive.

For the record, I suspect that Nick Sherry is both right and wrong. There’s obviously a seachange happening in book retailing at the moment, and booksellers are going to have to reinvent themselves or they will die. BUt I think the 5 year time span is a bit pessimistic. Bookshops will probably continue to be profitable for some time afterwards – they’ll just be on a long slow decline, and of decreasing importance and influence. Have a look at CD stores for a pretty good analogy.

Just read the comments in the article to see what people are thinking…


And this is why…

From The Guardian again:

A Canadian woman’s house is collapsing under the weight of the 350,000 books she rescued from a neighbour who was planning to burn them after her bibliophile husband died…

After trying and failing to sell the books online and to used book stores, Raycraft is now having to contemplate burning them herself. “We’re talking 30 tonnes of books. The weight of the books is pulling the house apart,” she said. “We are kind of at a standstill. I work at two jobs. My husband is a full-time student. We have three kids and no time. And no money. And so we’re at the point now where were looking at having to burn some of the books ourselves.”



A couple of interesting snippets from a Macworld article on the state of the US eBook market:

According to the Association of American Publishers, e-book sales reached $164.1 million for the months of January and February 2011, a 169.4 percent increase when compared with the same period in 2010. For the same period, sales of combined categories of print books fell 24.8 percent, with $441.7 million sold.

And this:

Big book publishers are experiencing the shift to digital. “We’ve gone from a 90/10 physical and e-book split last year, to closer to 80/20, and expect that to increase again next year to 70/30,” says Maja Thomas, senior vice president of Hachette Digital at the Hachette Book Group, via e-mail while attending this week’s Book Expo. “It is too early to tell how the different paper formats will be affected—although I would expect most mass market buyers to migrate to e [e-books].”


The (next) tipping point?

May 19th 2011. Mark this date down for posterity. From an Amazon Press Release:

Amazon began selling hardcover and paperback books in July 1995. Twelve years later in November 2007, Amazon introduced the revolutionary Kindle and began selling Kindle books. By July 2010, Kindle book sales had surpassed hardcover book sales, and six months later, Kindle books overtook paperback books to become the most popular format on Today, less than four years after introducing Kindle books, customers are now purchasing more Kindle books than all print books – hardcover and paperback – combined.

iSuppli Says…

ISH iSuppli looks at the book business and concludes:

Marking a major inflection point, the book publishing industry has entered a period of long-term decline because of the rising sales of e-book readers, new IHS iSuppli research indicates.

Book revenue for U.S. publishers, including both e-books and paper books, will decrease at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3 percent from 2010 to 2014. This marks a shift from the previous period of 2005 to 2010, when revenue grew slightly.

Of course, putting one’s faith in the judgement of analysts like iSuppli is probably not the wisest thing to do  🙂

The more things change

Peter Osnos has a nice piece in The Atlantic about the evolution of the book industry:

On my first day at Random House, I encountered the fundamental difference between the news business and the book business. In newsrooms, you got the story, it was printed in the paper, and then you went home. In publishing, you acquired the story, got it written, had it printed, and then—crucially—figured out how it should be sold.

HarperCollins says that p-books and e-books are the same…

They’ve tried it with prices and now, from The Guardian, here’s another feeble attempt to convince us that ebooks should be treated exactly the same way as print:

HarperCollins has got wise to this: it has announced that US libraries will be allowed to lend ebooks only up to 26 times. Its sales president, Josh Marwell, believes that’s only fair: 26, he claims, is the average number of loans a print book would survive before having to be replaced.

Yes, I think they’re serious…

The cost of print

A good read from John Lanchester in the London Review of Books about the future of the newspaper industry. Of particular interest to anyone in the printed object business is this para:

…that means that New York Times, if it stopped printing a physical edition of the paper, could afford to give every subscriber a free Kindle. Not the bog-standard Kindle, but the one with free global data access. And not just one Kindle, but four Kindles. And not just once, but every year. And that’s using the low estimate for the costs of printing.

(via Asymco)


Link: the decline of physical media

From the Technologizer blog, a timeline which summarises some of the key events in the decline of physical media. Is is really nearly five years ago that Tower Records shut down…

And now…

Following on from today’s earlier post about Borders in the US, the (not unexpected) followup is Borders and A&R in Australia following suit. From the Sydney Morning Herald:

Australian book chains Borders, Angus & Robertson and the Whitcoulls chain of newsagencies in New Zealand have been placed into voluntary administration by its private equity owners only a day after the Borders company in the US also collapsed.

The local companies have a combined staff of about 2500.

The failure of Borders in Australia is not linked to the woes facing its namesake in America – they are owned by different corporations – but both have suffered from the rise of internet book sales and constrained consumer spending.