|A Simple Plan for Publishing's Future|
by PNBA Executive Director Thom Chambliss
With the lawsuit filed against several of the largest publishers in the country challenging the way in which those publishers decided to adopt the "agency plan" for selling their eBooks (go here to Seattle Mystery Bookshop's blog for a nice summary of the settlement and what it means), all kinds of people are speaking out about the demise of publishing as we know it. Maybe they're right. My guess is, though, that at least some publishers will figure it out, will go their own way, and will eventually adopt agency plans--not just for eBooks, but for all of their new releases, new paperback editions, and new eBooks.
Why would publishers set minimum prices for their books? Simply to accommodate those authors who want to protect the value of their work, and in doing so, to protect the broadest and deepest ways of distributing books in a free market. Let me explain.
The movie industry has dealt with the issue of digitized product now for more than twenty years; perhaps the book industry can learn from its model. The movie producers, comparable to our publishers, decided early on NOT to release their movies directly to video at the same time as they released the films to theaters. Why? To maintain the value of their long and expensive work. Any movie released "direct to video," without first being run in theaters, was assumed to be so bad that it would lose money in theaters. Over the years, the film industry has established a logical, progressive marketing pattern for their products: first a film is released only to theaters, only at full price. Then the movie is released to video at full retail, and simultaneously to pay TV at premium prices. Finally, usually after a few years, the film is sold to network TV and the DVD is re-priced for mass-market sales.
What is the lesson for publishers? I believe that many publishers of quality books will soon begin selling their front list on an agency plan, meaning the book's price will be set by the publisher, NOT by the retailer, so that those people who most want the book will pay a premium for it. This would allow ALL retailers to sell the books competitively; no one vendor would be able to discount the book lower than its competitors. Perhaps, for many front-list titles, sales quantities would initially decline, because an author's book would not be available anywhere at massive discounts. However, after a reasonable time set by the publisher, that hardcover edition could be sold at discount by whomever. If the book had been well-received by the book buying public at its premium price, the newly discounted copies might see massively increased sales. Then, with the release of the first trade paperback edition, another wave of marketing would take place, dictated by the success of the total premium and discount-priced sales of the hardcover, and sold initially only at the premium paper price, under agency pricing. Again, within a time adopted by the publisher, those editions would eventually be sold at discount. At that point, the eBook versions would be released, many initially sold at publisher-set agency prices, before eventually being offered at discounts set by the retailers.
What advantages would such a system offer? Basically, the same advantages that it offers to the movie industry: the publisher maintains its income and control over the initial release of the product, provides itself with upcoming opportunities to re-market each new edition of the book, and assures the author that he or she will continue to provide the editorial and promotional opportunities, and income, that direct-to-eBook releases don't offer.
Some people complain that publishers should release their books at the lowest possible price, because the public shouldn't have to pay a "premium." Are these same people complaining that the movie studios should release all of their new movies to DVD, at the lowest price based on the cost of transferring the data to disc? If not, why not? Probably because they know that that model would be disaster for the movie producer, and would mean that no one would be able to produce movies at a profit. That is the dilemma facing publishers today: they cannot make a profit by releasing their new books direct to eBook at the lowest cost of data transfer. Some of us respond to that with "Well, duh."
God forbid that I, or anyone else, should tell publishers what to do. I mean this as a suggestion that publishers look at what is working and why. Yes, if publishers moved to agency plan sales for all of their "new releases," in every format, it would mean that independent retail bookstores could again compete on the sale of books, and a lot more of them might survive in such a rejuvenated industry. And, yes, I work for some of those book retailers, so I have a vested interest. But I also believe that publishers, big and small, provide enormous benefit to their authors and thus to the public. Almost every book they publish is chosen not so much with profit in mind, but to share ideas, often at a loss.
Publishers pay up front to acquire books; invest in editorial processes to improve them and make them even better than their first drafts; invest in sometimes wide and sweeping marketing and promotional programs to help the books reach their widest audience; and print, package and distribute the books, all in the hope that they will make enough money to pay for the investment. And, if they are enormously lucky and successful, additional profits may just help pay for the publishing of other books that might not ever make back the expenses. That is the nature of publishing.
If Amazon, or any one discounter, ever becomes the only source of publishing and distribution of books in this country, free speech will become a lost dream. I encourage my publisher friends to think for themselves, and to save themselves while they still can.
|Board of Directors News|
New Members, Budgets and Bad Apples
The PNBA Board of Directors met in Portland immediately after the ABA Forum on March 28 and confirmed the election of a new member, Tegan Tigani, children's book buyer and event coordinator at Queen Anne Avenue Books in Seattle. Tegan (pronounced "Tay-gun") is also the current chair of PNBA's Awards Committee and
was elected as the new Vice-President of the PNBA Board. The Board also confirmed the re-election of three current board members: Karla Nelson, owner of Time Enough Books in Ilwaco, WA; Courtney Payne, Northwest regional sales rep for Chronicle Books; and Susan Richmond, owner of Inklings Bookshop in Yakima, WA. The Board elected Karla Nelson as the new President of PNBA, and re-elected Brad Smith, owner of Paulina Springs Books in Sisters, OR, as the Secretary/Treasurer. Jamil Zaidi, a manager at Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle and PNBA's President last year, now becomes the Association's Immediate Past President, voting only in a cases of a tie. Sylla McClellan, owner of Third Street Books in McMinnville, OR, had been the Immediate Past President, and has now concluded her (current) stint on the Board. She was a member of the Awards Committee for three years, including one as Chair, was the chair of the Education Committee for one year and served a total of five years on the PNBA Board. We will miss her leadership.
Karla Nelson with Carl
In other action, the Board adopted an unbalanced budget for the first time in at least twenty years. With encouragement from the Executive Director, the Board decided that there is no time like now to be spending some of our "Rainy Day Fund" to benefit our members and to subsidize such programs as the fall show and the holiday catalog. The budget for 2012 projects a loss of at least $34,000. PNBA currently has about $250,000 in savings.
The Executive Director confirmed to the Board that a third bookstore member was expelled from the Association this year, for selling books collected for free at the fall show. All bookseller and library members are urged to note that when you register for the show, you are agreeing to abide by the rule that books acquired at the show may not be sold, either in your store or online. PNBA staff will collect evidence and expel any members about whom we receive verifiable complaints.
|Google Dropping eBooks Reseller Program|
ABA Going Back to the Drawing Board
Last week the American Booksellers Association learned that Google will be discontinuing its Google eBooks reseller program as of January 31, 2013. The Google reseller program is an e-book wholesaler to numerous online retailers around the world, including ABA IndieCommerce stores in the U.S. ABA addressed the Google announcement and the challenge of finding a new IndieCommerce solution in the April 5 edition of Bookselling This Week.
An FAQ resource page has been posted on the IndieCommerce site to help prepare stores for the coming changes.
|NWBL Noteworthies |
* Thanks to Lindsey McGuirk for presenting some tough questions and to Nancy Pearl for answering them.
* Amidst some good-natured coworker teasing, Klindt's Bookellers' Angela Hanson took a simple idea and turned it into smooth functioning system and increased sales.
* You aren't alone if you were a bit fooled by our April 1 essay from Portland's James Bernard Frost. He played it tight, and he played it cool. And he made a little fun of hipsters, too.
* We've been receiving some terrific recommendations on our One Nightstand. Remember, anyone can drop a note about what they are reading or have read. That means you!
Send Us Your Favorite Handsells Display What You Love to Book Lovers Everywhere
Did you know that NWBL features a new book recommendation from one of our booksellers every day in Face Out and that we link all of the titles and book jackets back to the sales sites for the booksellers' stores or IndieBound? As we get more readers, we hope they'll be clicking on those links and buying their books from you. Tell us what you love, so we can send more customers to you.
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|Final Week Countdown|
And One Last Rundown
Bookselling This Week released some final notes about the big event, with a few last-minute checklist items and logistical clarifications as well as a list of the top 25 giver cities. Congratulations to PNBA store towns Hamilton, MT and Corvallis, OR for making the top 25 in per capita participation. It's guaranteed that Chapter One and Grass Roots had an impact!
|Indies Choice and E.B. White Winners |
Northwest Hit Makes the List
The American Booksellers Association has announced the indie bookseller favorites of the past year and one of PNBA's biggest hits is on the list.
Amazingly, Lynnwood, Washington's Colin Meloy tied with his sister, Maile Meloy, as winners of the 2012 E.B. White Read-Aloud Award for Middle Readers. Colin Meloy and his wife, Carson Ellis, are the creative force behind Wildwood, PNBA's 2011 holiday catalog theme title and a long-running bestseller. Maile Meloy won for The Apothecary.
All winners have been invited to participate in ABA's Celebration of Bookselling Author Awards Luncheon at BEA in NYC.
|Plan Ahead for Page Ahead|
Book Drive Set for Late May
Washington stores have the opportunity again this year to generate sales and receive regional media attention while providing new books for children from low-income families across the state through The Books for Kids Book Drive, sponsored by Page Ahead.
Page Ahead will produce and distribute all of the advertising, which will encourage their supporters and other potential customers to visit participating stores from May 28 through June 8 and buy books for donation. Page Ahead will even produce shelf ads to download and print for use in your store to identify the program. All you have to do is promote the program to your customers, sell the books and collect them for Page Ahead.
Look for mailings from the PNBA office or contact Thom for program details.
|Lit Grant Program Available|
Help Out Your Town and Your Store
Booksellers: It's time again to be thinking about PNBA's Matching Literacy Grants program. Any time you donate retail books or cash to a non-profit, literacy-oriented group, you and your recipient may be eligible for a matching grant of up to $300 from PNBA. In 2011 the program was revised so that the grant money is offered in terms of "credit" for the recipient literacy group to spend only in your store, so your efforts are guaranteed to pay you back.
Mary Gleysteen, who handled donations for Eagle Harbor Book Company last year, said, "The new process was just as easy as the old." And Deon Stonehouse at Sunriver Books and Music told us that, "This was the first year we submitted a grant application. The kids at Three Rivers School were thrilled! We were very grateful to PNBA for helping to make this happen."
We hope that you'll consider taking advantage of the program, too.
A Greeting from Your New Commander in Chief
As noted above, your new PNBA President is Karla Nelson of Time Enough Books, in Ilwaco, WA. We've posted her introduction
on the Board of Directors page on the PNBA web site.Idea Exchange
The PNBA Spring Forum kicked off last month with a session urging stores to share promotions, events and changes they have executed during the last twelve months that enhanced traffic and sales in their stores. The resulting compilation can be viewed on the Bookseller Resources page at PNBA.org: One Great Idea That Worked in My Store
.Anniversary and Future Plans, Bookbroads Style
Broadway Books believes that surviving 20 years as an independent bookstore is a big deal, and they plan to party up
the occasion on May 6. The anniversary celebration comes on the heels of their recent State of the Union announcement, which we profiled on NWBL
and is posted as a reference on the Bookseller Resources
page at PNBA.org.
Third Street Tightens Up
Former Board President Sylla McClellan announced in her most recent newsletter that the McMinnville, OR, store is shrinking its footprint and attempting to lease a portion of its space. "We have been facing very real challenges in the last few years. We have managed to reinvent ourselves enough to continue to move forward. Making significant changes to our physical space is another way we hope to be able to continue to sustain ourselves."
|2012 Calendar |
Apr 19 BPNW meeting, Seattle
April 23 World Book Night
April 26 NABP meeting, Lake Oswego
June 4-7 BEA 2012, NYC
Now On NWBL
PNBA classified advertisement listings are now featured on the NW Book Lovers blog. NWBL greatly broadens the options and the audience for NW book-related postings. Current PNBA members are eligible for free classifieds. Contact Jamie for guidelines and scheduling.
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