Here are some of the interesting things from May's reporting that are happening in our industry:
- New life is being breathed into Barnes & Noble with a huge investment by Microsoft in what amounts to an as-yet undefined partnership. Microsoft invested $300 million in Barnes & Noble to support Nook and establish a stake in the tablet game utilizing its Windows system, with an additional $300+ million promised.
- A significant e-book publisher is fighting Amazon's predominance by going DRM-free (this link picked up from a Sisters In Crime report)
- For all you indie authors attempting to navigate the rocky shoals of Amazon's rulebook for success, Amazon has changed the rules (again). Those books you give away are now credited at only 10% of the value of sold books in the Amazon rating algorithm (also from the Sisters In Crime report).
- Apple, Penguin and MacMillan are fighting back against the Department of Justice lawsuit filed against them recently, in which the DoJ accuses them of price collusion using the agency model.
- The Savvy Book Marketer shares some great ideas from a PR specialist on how to throw a book launch party for an e-book
- Okay, this last one is impressive and scary. (I'm scared, anyway.) Big Brother is not only finally here, he's got a new code name: BIG DATA. You'll have to read the Publishers Weekly article to get the full picture about how massive data collection and crunching is fueling highly specific (and therefore better) product marketing for publishers and other retailers. Here are a couple of key sentences from the article: "In an era when more people than ever are shopping online and consumers are making use of digital apps, e-books, and digital reading devices, all of which capture and transmit a wide variety of usage data back to publishers and retailers . . . . . (p)ublishers can get feedback on how long a reader stays on a certain page or why readers have stopped reading on a certain page." Wow. And yikes. (PW's author does not seem to share my concern. hmmm.) It's a long article, but worth a read. A couple of the major points: in spite of the possibilities mentioned above, publishers are not as natural a fit for Big Data as industries that already collect massive amounts of information about their users (like health care), and there are hurdles to overcome before Big Data can be effectively implemented. However, the article's author predicts that no industry will avoid Big Data if it wants to survive. One of the major hurdles for the publishing industry is that Big Data marketing is based on demand as shown by user data, not on "supply or a publisher's intuition." It's a very different business model—one that drives, in my opinion, toward the lowest common denominator. That can have the effect of leveling the playing field so that anyone who produces a product worthy of broad consumer approval can play (a good thing); but it can also gouge the playing field so that anything outside the quantitative desirable level of return is obliterated (a seriously bad thing). Swept away in such a process will be not only books that don't reach a high enough quality standard, but those that are totally worthy from a quality point of view but are more challenging or more experimental or simply appeal to smaller audiences. Will Big Data incorporate delicate balances of consumer behaviors that accurately reflect quality choices? Are publishers' and editors' opinions about books valuable to consumers, and if so, can Big Data reflect them fairly? It doesn't appear that these questions are currently on the table. Nonetheless, it doesn't look like this tsunami-in-the-making will go away. Something to think about.
What are your feelings about any of these news items? Have you heard anything about any of them? Let us know.