News

B&N to shed publishing arm

American book chain Barnes & Noble is reportedly seeking bids for its publishing arm Sterling.

The bookseller acquired Sterling in 2003 for $115m but is now looking to shed its publishing business to concentrate on its technology and digital arms, according to the Wall Street Journal, which cited its source as people familiar with the situation.

The American newspaper also said increasing pressure from Amazon had forced B&N to shed Sterling, which focuses on non-fiction, children’s books, crafting, cooking and self-help imprints, among others.

Speaking at the Publishers Association's International Conference recently, Theresa Horner, vice-president for digital content for B&N, said the retailer’s e-reading Nook device would be available in the UK in the "not too distant future".

Barnes & Noble has been publishing books since the 1970s.

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It is shameful that this has to happen, as digital media will eventually take full control. The entire experience of the paper book, the real book if you will, shall suffer in so many ways. The artistic value of real books takes a downward spin, the value/love of a first edition, and even the AUTOGRAPHED copy will become nearly obsolete. As a writer, I do understand the cost of paper publishing, and the fluctuation of economy, however; real books held in the hand also hold the magic of the craft. To handle an electronic device is like catching snowflakes in your hand; each snowflake is unique, yet no sooner melts before its other unique replacement lands.

Our marketing research indicates that e-books, at least for the moment, are the preferred medium for text. That seems to be driven by a desire for cheap books and a separate market from dedicated readers who will pay more for good books; a shrinking demographic if there ever was one. In terms of producing new titles with an uncertain reception in the marketplace, e-books will be our first choice with the print edition going over to print-on-demand production. Our current book "The Queen of Washington" is only available in hardbound and that will continue for several months to harvest maximum sales from the early adopter and collector markets. The previous book, "The Shenandoah Spy" is available in trade paperback and e-book and we just did an experiment where we lowered the price of the latter in the USA and UK by 90% with the goal of selling 100,000 copies. (The old joke about "losing a little on every sale but making it up on volume" applies here. It was worth trying if the sales were there. They weren't and the sale ends January 8th to stop the bleeding.) Lower prices does not generate more sales, just less profit. So, in the future we will charge what we think the book is worth with the goal of generating a reasonable royalty and publishing profit. Print is not dead; far from it, but there will be less of it because it is not the best medium for many texts as long as customers prize low price over high quality.

It is shameful that this has to happen, as digital media will eventually take full control. The entire experience of the paper book, the real book if you will, shall suffer in so many ways. The artistic value of real books takes a downward spin, the value/love of a first edition, and even the AUTOGRAPHED copy will become nearly obsolete. As a writer, I do understand the cost of paper publishing, and the fluctuation of economy, however; real books held in the hand also hold the magic of the craft. To handle an electronic device is like catching snowflakes in your hand; each snowflake is unique, yet no sooner melts before its other unique replacement lands.

Our marketing research indicates that e-books, at least for the moment, are the preferred medium for text. That seems to be driven by a desire for cheap books and a separate market from dedicated readers who will pay more for good books; a shrinking demographic if there ever was one. In terms of producing new titles with an uncertain reception in the marketplace, e-books will be our first choice with the print edition going over to print-on-demand production. Our current book "The Queen of Washington" is only available in hardbound and that will continue for several months to harvest maximum sales from the early adopter and collector markets. The previous book, "The Shenandoah Spy" is available in trade paperback and e-book and we just did an experiment where we lowered the price of the latter in the USA and UK by 90% with the goal of selling 100,000 copies. (The old joke about "losing a little on every sale but making it up on volume" applies here. It was worth trying if the sales were there. They weren't and the sale ends January 8th to stop the bleeding.) Lower prices does not generate more sales, just less profit. So, in the future we will charge what we think the book is worth with the goal of generating a reasonable royalty and publishing profit. Print is not dead; far from it, but there will be less of it because it is not the best medium for many texts as long as customers prize low price over high quality.