A manifesto for new business models

A manifesto for new business models

"The readers will always need curation." Sometimes the simplest statement of what we know is so refreshing. Here, the mellifluously named Jaya Jha of Pothi.com and InstaScribe speaks to us of seeing the advantages in change and the change in advantages. She uses "bundling" not to refer to selling digital and print products together but in terms of functions and services typically vested in publishing. As with so many of our manifestos-en-route-to-#FutureBook15, hers is a hopeful take on what, in moments of fatigue, can look so daunting. After all, she dares to ask us if showrooming might not be turned to publishing's advantage. Plus this: "One reader, one review may end up giving new life to a long forgotten title."—Porter Anderson

On the unbundling of publishing

Once upon a time, a publisher needed to own a printing press, employ editors, designers and all the other experts needed to bring out a book; invest in a decent print run for each book and maintain access to distribution. It was a tall order. Few had access to all these resources and therefore publishers were the ultimate gatekeepers of the industry.

Things have changed. Printing had been unbundled long ago. Now it turns out that other “services” that publishers provide are being unbundled too.

  • Print on Demand (POD) has made printing even more accessible.
  • eBooks and e-commerce have brought distribution within everyone’s reach.
  • Access to good editors or designers is also not limited to publishing houses.

Publishing, therefore, will have to discover new business models that work in this unbundled world.

Some of them are obvious.

There are already freelance editors, designer and other publishing professionals providing services to individual authors, indie presses as well as large publishers. The future will call for newer business models too.

Showrooming as business

Showrooming is the bane of offline bookstores. On the one hand, there is clear value for a reader in being able to pick up a book, scan through it and make up her mind about whether or not she wants it. But readers can still get it cheaper online. Sometimes, guilt will push them to purchase from bookstores where they browsed. But this is not the case with all people all the time.

So, can showrooming be turned into a business opportunity instead? Can the marketing dollars of publishers and authors pay for showrooming businesses so that they are paid for the value they add?

Curation as business

More and more books are being published every year. And yet, a reader has limited time. She wants to make the best use of it.

Authors may not need a publisher to bring their books out in the market, but the readers will always need curation.

Earlier, publishers did this by acting as gatekeepers. Only what they deemed worthy could be published. Not any longer.

So, the publishing community needs to think about how to create a business out of post-publishing curation.

Better monetization of backlists

The publishing industry today is largely frontlist-driven. While with online selling and ebooks, the shelf life of titles has become forever, marketing and promotional support is only available for a few months unless the book takes off. In a world in which no title ever becomes unavailable, we need strategies that can provide long-term, periodic exposure to these titles, without requiring monumental human effort.

One path to this lies in generating and maintaining ever-rich metadata for titles.

While retailers have a hold on making recommendations using sales data, publishers can provide recommendations that can only come from the content of the books. Another strategy is to open reader review programs for entire backlists instead of only for new and forthcoming titles.

One reader, one review may end up giving new life to a long forgotten title.

This is another entry in our series of more than 30 "Five-Minute Manifestos" for The Future of the Book Business. In his article Those magnificent manifestos, The Bookseller editor Philip Jones revisited his call for the FutureBook community to reflect on five years of the digital dynamic, "to challenge the customs we have begun to adopt." The response has been robust, and we thank all our manifesto writers. See their articles here.

  • Please plan to join us on 4th December at The Mermaid in London for the fifth-anniversary FutureBook Conference
  • And bookings now are going very fast for our inaugural Author Day (#AuthorDay) in central London, 30th November, the kick-off to a week of #FutureBook15 events.

As we add more in this series, our most recently published #FutureBook15 manifestos are:

Main image - iStockphoto: Pinky Pills