Friday, December 28, 2012

Digital Publishing: The Grinch Who Stole Christmas

A guest post by
Tony Viardo, the CEO of the publisher, Astor + Blue Editions


So how many articles have we read about E-books and Digital Publishing this year? For anyone who generally follows the book world (rabid booklover, book-blogger, industry pro or casual reader), we’re literally inundated with the amazing numbers—“E-book sales up 125% (again) over the 175% they were up from last year’s 225% increase!”—and equally amazing technological announcements—“Next Fall, the new ZimWittyZoomDitty tablet not only updates your Facebook and Goodreads friends whenever you snort in disgust … it cooks dinner for you at the same time!”

This leads many to take at least casual stock of what’s going on/going to happen to the “Publishing World” as we know it.  And if your friends are like my friends (hardcore print book consumers), that stock is usually pretty morbid (sharp Greenwich Village angst not included): “Print books are doomed, so are brick-and-mortar stores.  Goodbye literary quality. Oh and some pajama-wearing techie living in a basement with a laptop is going to be the new Sulzburger; we’ll all have to bow down!”

If you (or that good friend of yours) fall into the mortified category, my take (for what it’s worth) may come as positive news:  E-books are not, and will not be, the Grinch Who Stole Christmas; in this case, the “Print World’s” bacon. Now, as the owner of a “Digital First” publishing house (Astor + Blue Editions, www.astorandblue.com) my opinions may easily be written off as self-serving and invalid.  But bear with me for a minute… these are fact-based observations and I might just make sense (Someone tell my mom and dad).

As someone who earns a living from publishing, I have to follow numbers and industry trends as closely as possible.  And while some see doom and gloom for Print, I see exciting developments for both Print and E-book formats.  What do the numbers show?  Digital book revenue is skyrocketing, print revenue is declining.  Natural conclusion?  E-books are killing print books. But not so fast.  Historically, Print revenue has always seemed to be declining (even before E-books were invented), but that doesn’t mean the book market is dying or shrinking.

We have to remember that in fact the book market is growing. Readership always grows because population always grows.  Every year, new readers enter the vast pool of the club that is “adult readership,” (despite Dancing with the Stars). And every year more readers are being born and theoretically being inspired by Ms. Crabtree’s elementary reading class.  **So why the decline?  Readership grows gradually, but the sheer number of books and book vendors grow exponentially, showing an investment loss almost every year. (Basic statistics: the widening universe makes it look like a shrinking pie when it isn’t).

So what does this mean?  If you look at the numbers (historically), revenue for print books may have declined, yes, but not more than “normal,” and not significantly more than it did when there were no E-books around. (This is arguable of course, but the long term numbers do not show a precipitous drop-off). The yearly revenue decline, if there is one, can just as easily be written off to economic conditions as to E-book competition.  Bottom line:  Any drop in print revenue that may be caused by E-books are not significantly sharp enough to declare that E-books are destroying print book sales.  (Hence no Grinch).

What may be happening, and what I believe is happening is that a whole new market for E-books is developing, while the print book market growth, like Publishing as a whole, is still growing at a historically gradual pace. (Boringly flat).  Come up with your pet anecdote here, but I believe that more new readers are entering the market (who otherwise wouldn’t have) because of E-readers; existing readers are consuming more books (both print and e-book) than they did before; and while it would seem that a certain print title is losing a sale whenever readers buy it in E-book format, this is offset, at least somewhat, by the fact that more print titles are being bought (that otherwise wouldn’t) because of the extra marketing buzz and added awareness produced by the E-book’s cyber presence.  All of it evens out in the end, and I believe, ultimately fosters growth industry-wide.

So take heart Print fans, E-books are not the dark villain you think they are.  And here, I should correct my earlier analogy—that E-books are not the Grinch Who Stole Christmas.  They may actually be the Grinch…in as much as, at the end of the story, the pear-shaped green guy ended up not only giving all the presents back to the singing Who-villers, he created a flash mob and started a big party as well.


Astor +Blue Editions has put its entire first season’s list of e-book titles on a holiday promotional sale for $0.99 or $1.99. http://astorandblue.com/catalog/The sale will continue through January 7, 2013.

Here's a glimpse at couple of the selections--see the catalog for a complete listing!

Winning the City Redux by Theodore Weesner


DESCRIPTION
Detroit, Michigan, 1961. Fifteen-year-old Dale Wheeler, the son of an unemployed auto worker, has big dreams of leading his gritty pick-up team to the championship of the Detroit City Junior Basketball Tournament.

But the cold unyielding wall of adult realities, greed, and nepotism all block the simple path of Dale’s dream; a dream that means so much more to him than the fleeting glory of another win.
In Winning the City Redux, Weesner once again explores, successfully, the angst and anguish of youthful defiance, now within the backdrop of athletic obsession.

CRITICAL ACCLAIM
Winning the City tells of a young athlete ‘nearly driven out of his mind with all that he knew,’ but Weesner’s own mind is clear and superbly rendered on every page. He is an extraordinary writer.”
–Richard Yates, Acclaimed author of Revolutionary Road, National Book Award finalist alongside Kurt Vonnegut.

“…One of the great American novelists.”
–Stewart O’Nan, Acclaimed author of Emily Alone and Last Night at the Lobster

Death’s Witness by Paul Batista


DESCRIPTION
When Tom Perini, a legendary Heisman Trophy winner turned criminal lawyer, is found brutally murdered in Central Park, his widow Julie Perini suspects a wider conspiracy.  Not only was her husband part of the defense team for a Congressman on trial for bribery, her intuition also tells her that the FBI is not too eager to find the killer.

Relying on her skills as a journalist, Julie begins her own investigation and soon discovers her late husband’s secret underworld associations; ties that now threaten her and her toddler’s lives. Fighting grief and a sense of betrayal, Julie is pulled into an inescapable labyrinth of organized crime dealings, political corruption, brutal power grabs and murder.

Desperate, Julie turns to Vincent Sorrentino, Tom’s defense partner, for help, and the two discover a shocking and terrifying truth that threatens to paralyze them. But it may also hold the key—the only key—to saving the lives of Julie and her daughter.

Renowned attorney Paul Batista seamlessly combines crack legal expertise with suspenseful storytelling to produce a pulse-pounding action story and a first rate courtroom procedural; a legal thriller so authentic, it reads like tomorrow’s headlines.


3 comments:

  1. Great post! I like your take on eBook vs. print publishing. Thank you for visiting us today!

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  2. I happen to agree with you. I don't think print books will become extinct either. Or that e-books are the end all -be all. I would not like it if they were and neither would many others.
    Thanks for the pep-talk.

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  3. Fascinating idea about e-books and digital publishing methods! Thank you for sharing it to the readers.

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