It's a brave new world without Borders
Given the latest news about the Borders bookstore chain going under, I’m tempted to write a sequel to my last post about how publishers need to start thinking “digital first” and reaching out directly to readers rather than courting bookstores. After all, there may not be any bookstores to court soon. And I don’t even want to think about how much money publishers just lost because of the Borders collapse, or how much harder it’s going to be for them to sell anything other than potential blockbusters now that there are fewer markets — which means you’re going to see a lot more indie writers soon, because they won’t be able to get deals with publishers. (Or the deals won’t be worth selling their rights.) But I don’t have the time or energy to write that. Mayhem and carnage await in my life. (I’m talking about the new book I’m writing, not my toddler.)
Instead, I’ll just point to this post from Futurebook that says publishers shouldn’t even be thinking in terms of print at all anymore. The delay in getting book to market with print is killing them, especially when it comes to non-fiction. Publishers need to develop “rapid response units” that operate in the digital realm, Futurebook argues, and it’s a good argument. When publishers start rethinking how they react to breaking news — hell, when they realize they can react to breaking news — and figure out ways to make money with quickly distributed ebooks, they’ll force the change in the rest of their organization as well. Why make the fans of author Y wait a year for his new book when they know he’s finished it? They want it now. Why make fans of writer X wait a year for her new book when she’s got two others already done? With print, there are logistic demands that require the delay. With digital, the delays are just seen as lag. And then there’s the social integration built into ebooks — how many extra sales are there in books, just waiting for someone to highlight a line and tweet it or + it or Facebook it? Ebooks are a licence for publishers to print money — real money. But to do so, they have to think digital first.
In my earlier post, I said publishers need to start thinking about bookstores as niche markets for them. I think it’s time they also start thinking of print books as niche products for them.
It’s the 21st century. The readers are here. Where are the publishers?