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Shift to digital will hit revenue, says Barnsley

Publishers are unlikely to be able to replace the revenues lost in the shift from print to e-books unless they can significantly grow volume sales, according to HarperCollins c.e.o. Victoria Barnsley.

In a keynote address this morning (10th May) to open a new conference, the World e-Reading Congress, held in London, Barnsley said she put the 7% drop in the retail value of paperback fiction so far this year "almost entirely" down to the sale of e-books, despite her belief that combined volume sales of print and e-books had probably increased.

"The signs are that consumers expect e-books to be priced considerably lower than physical books. There's no easier way to drive an e-book up the charts than by massive price reductions," she said. Whereas in a bricks and mortar environment other factors, like the look and feel of books and recommendations from booksellers, can influence choice, most of these factors are stripped away in an online environment, Barnsley argued. "So, not surprisingly, brand and price become the deciding factors."

At what level the price of e-books will stabilise, the consumer will decide, she added. "And only then will we know if there is a viable e-book business."

Barnsley commended the agency retail model as well as price-differentiated digital products, from short chunks to enhanced e-books, and new subscription and lending business models, as ways to extract maximum value from publishers' content.

Most important of all, publishers need to listen to consumers, an area in which the industry has lagged far behind others, she added. "We need to look at consumers not merely as purchasers of content, but we need to maximise their value as brand  champions and buzz agents for our books. And we need to develop products—call them books if you will—where they can interact directly with authors."
 

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Spot on. I have a Kindle and I have stopped buying paperbacks.

Commercial print publishing is bloated with expense. Unless publishers embrace e-books, they, like many newspapers, will run dry.

Ms Barnsley - Another deluded Publisher who doesn't seem to have a clue what she is talking about.

"Publishers are unlikely to be able to replace the revenues lost in the shift from print to e-books unless they can significantly grow volume sales"
So it is clear from the start of the article that Ms Barnsley doesn't even appreciate the difference between Revenue and Profit. Losing Revenue is not what is important. Prices can drop if Margins stay the same or increase, resulting in equal or enhanced Profits. A shocking revelation about someone who is a CEO.
Right now it is clear that the A6 Publishers are earning enhanced profits from their eBooks because they are charging higher prices than paperbacks while incurring drastically lower costs.

" . . (For eBooks) brand and price become the deciding factors." Clearly, again, Ms Barnsley is clueless about the fact that eBook buyers probably spend far more time choosing their purchases than pBook buyers. They have access to social reading sites, recommendations from all around the world, previews etc. etc.

"Barnsley commended the agency retail model . . " ". . ways to extract maximum value from publishers' content." "Most important of all, publishers need to listen to consumers".

That paragraph really made me laugh.

What are the recycling plans for the reading devices? European standards for recycling are so much stricter than those in the U.S., I can't believe this problem hasn't gotten more coverage there than it has in the U.S. What are we going to do with all the detritus? Little children in third world countries are going to be poisoned and die to feed our reading habits. Trees/eucalyptis are renewable. We need to solve this problem sooner rather than later.

Trees are renewable? Is that really your main argument for keeping paperbacks viable as a profitable product? There is already a massive market for recycling mobile phones, I hardly think a Kindle or 2,000 is going to break the world.

One thing that no-one has said yet is that the editing quality of many ebooks is absolutely shite, which also drives readers' perceptions of their value. I've seen more typos on a single page of an ebook than I would have in the print edition, simply from scanning errors. This kind of carelessness does not drive brand loyalty, or increase confidence in the role of publishers as suppliers!

To me, Ms. Barnsley's comments betray the same old fact that print publishers so far have tended to only embrace the New (digital) Publishing as part of a larger, traditional framework of the Old (print) Publishing. They do not yet seem to understand that their print industry will vanish in the coming decade. The New (digital) Publishing will be the entire and only publishing industry soon.

Ms. Barnsley says: "Most important of all, publishers need to listen to consumers, an area in which the industry has lagged far behind others..." Well, duh... First of all, readers have almost zero brand loyalty to publishers. She is in a bunker of denial, resisting the future that has already arrived. Secondly, if they really listened to consumers, they would begin phasing out the entire expense-heavy, inefficient print segments (racksize, quality, hardcover) and switch to the efficiencies of the New (digital) Publishing. That would be 'listening to consumers' and it would relieve them of the onerous burden of supporting a necrotic, elephantine cost center that is sure to pull them down.

In fact, my prediction: any print publisher that does not make this transtition, with open eyes, willingly and proactively, will disappear in the weight of its own resistance to change. Dorchester, Borders, the handwriting is on the wall...

Spot on. I have a Kindle and I have stopped buying paperbacks.

Commercial print publishing is bloated with expense. Unless publishers embrace e-books, they, like many newspapers, will run dry.

Ms Barnsley - Another deluded Publisher who doesn't seem to have a clue what she is talking about.

"Publishers are unlikely to be able to replace the revenues lost in the shift from print to e-books unless they can significantly grow volume sales"
So it is clear from the start of the article that Ms Barnsley doesn't even appreciate the difference between Revenue and Profit. Losing Revenue is not what is important. Prices can drop if Margins stay the same or increase, resulting in equal or enhanced Profits. A shocking revelation about someone who is a CEO.
Right now it is clear that the A6 Publishers are earning enhanced profits from their eBooks because they are charging higher prices than paperbacks while incurring drastically lower costs.

" . . (For eBooks) brand and price become the deciding factors." Clearly, again, Ms Barnsley is clueless about the fact that eBook buyers probably spend far more time choosing their purchases than pBook buyers. They have access to social reading sites, recommendations from all around the world, previews etc. etc.

"Barnsley commended the agency retail model . . " ". . ways to extract maximum value from publishers' content." "Most important of all, publishers need to listen to consumers".

That paragraph really made me laugh.

What are the recycling plans for the reading devices? European standards for recycling are so much stricter than those in the U.S., I can't believe this problem hasn't gotten more coverage there than it has in the U.S. What are we going to do with all the detritus? Little children in third world countries are going to be poisoned and die to feed our reading habits. Trees/eucalyptis are renewable. We need to solve this problem sooner rather than later.

Trees are renewable? Is that really your main argument for keeping paperbacks viable as a profitable product? There is already a massive market for recycling mobile phones, I hardly think a Kindle or 2,000 is going to break the world.

One thing that no-one has said yet is that the editing quality of many ebooks is absolutely shite, which also drives readers' perceptions of their value. I've seen more typos on a single page of an ebook than I would have in the print edition, simply from scanning errors. This kind of carelessness does not drive brand loyalty, or increase confidence in the role of publishers as suppliers!

To me, Ms. Barnsley's comments betray the same old fact that print publishers so far have tended to only embrace the New (digital) Publishing as part of a larger, traditional framework of the Old (print) Publishing. They do not yet seem to understand that their print industry will vanish in the coming decade. The New (digital) Publishing will be the entire and only publishing industry soon.

Ms. Barnsley says: "Most important of all, publishers need to listen to consumers, an area in which the industry has lagged far behind others..." Well, duh... First of all, readers have almost zero brand loyalty to publishers. She is in a bunker of denial, resisting the future that has already arrived. Secondly, if they really listened to consumers, they would begin phasing out the entire expense-heavy, inefficient print segments (racksize, quality, hardcover) and switch to the efficiencies of the New (digital) Publishing. That would be 'listening to consumers' and it would relieve them of the onerous burden of supporting a necrotic, elephantine cost center that is sure to pull them down.

In fact, my prediction: any print publisher that does not make this transtition, with open eyes, willingly and proactively, will disappear in the weight of its own resistance to change. Dorchester, Borders, the handwriting is on the wall...