Mike Shatzkin moderates the final plenary session at Digital Book World. The panelists are Chantal Restivo Alessi, chief digital officer at HarperCollins; Simon Lipskar, president of Writers House; Rebecca Smart, CEO of Osprey Group, and Michael Cader of Publishers Lunch.
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Chantal Restivo-Alessi: We are doing promotions, meta data cleanups. I see marketing being more data driven, targeted, trying to find consumers where they are at instead of title by title advertising. Establish a dialog with individual consumer. Offer self-publishing support for authors. Advertisers did not go straight to Google. Brands still needed help from agencies.
Rebecca Smart: (how can you not be interested in what someone says with a name like that?) Bookstore still has value, beyond price. People want to go there.
Michael Cader: We haven’t seen price innovation at physical bookstores. Where is the daily deal at the bookstore?
Shatzkin asks Michael about the bookstore. A. Dedicated physical bookstores will continue to decline at some rate. Borders bump for everyone left came and went. A lot of booksellers are reckoning with how to compete with eBooks. Not sure they ever figured out how to compete with online. B&N question: who wants to own and operate the bookstores? Pearson investment was about the college bookstores. Will there be a strategic partner on tradebook side? Who will pay for the stores? They are critical for discovery. Haven’t seen many people willing to step forward to make the investment.
Michael Cader: subscriptions for books would not be the NetFlix model, with everything in the subscription. More niche. We are in a world where if there is a consumer-friendly idea, if the industry doesn’t supply it, someone else will. “If you can dream it, it’s going to happen, so how would YOU like it to happen?”
I like how someone from outside publishing industry has the freshest ideas, as in case of Chantal Restivo-Alessi. She also seems tentative, aware she has a lot to learn. A creative space to be, and someone worth listening to.
Rebecca Smart: we have subscription to interests not books. In niche areas, it can work. People use our books for their hobbies. Chantal Restivo-Alessi: microtrends offer opportunities. People will look for common interests. Why not group them and find a way to service them, where possible given contracts. “I’m a great optimist, maybe because I’ve been in my job for six months.” Opportunity to help consumers find books via digital.
Simon LIpska questions whether subscription model is viable for owners of content. Good for consumers, sure. But as a business model, he doesn’t understand how financial model would work. Differences between music and books are deep. People listen to a song over and over. We don’t read books that way, except for following an author. Difficult to figure out how to compensate authors in a subscription model.
Chantal Restivo-Alessi says there is a role for subscription in eBooks. The consumption of books is different than other media. Need to be respectful of value of content and contracts. Lawyers have coached her on these topics, apparently. Subscription model in other businesses help discovery. We’re not there yet. There is a big demand for those models, increased by role of technology. Younger generation is used to less ownership and more access.
Mike Shatzkin: You think they will actually own stores? Simon Lipska hedges on that, just saying he expects them to get into selling physical books.
Simon Lipska will be shocked if Penguin/Random House merged company does NOT enter retail business for digital and print. Physical books are a majority part of this business. Even in fiction. Biggest benefit of scale is maximizing investment in physical book business.
Mike Shatzkin talks about benefits of scale in Penguin/Random House merger. Rebecca Smart says they could use content for retail initiatives. Michael Cader says for their direct competitors at top of publishing food chain, the scale matters a lot. It does open opportunities for everyone else, because it’s going to be a complex organization to administer. Focused opportunities remain for smaller houses.
Simon Lipska says we are at the end of Act I. Not sure how many acts remain. Chantal Restivo-Alessi says there is still a lot of change happening, but maybe less visible on outside. Rebecca Smart talks of an anti-corporate trend in self-publishing, which could grow and go in unexpected ways.