Let's do the time warp again
Then Amazon switched to per-page payouts on KDP Select. Right?
And then Amazon changed it to different per-page rates for various territories.
And then Amazon opened a physical bookstore. Run for your life! (If the latest Shelf Awareness account of reactions to that bit of bricks and mortar is right, there's still a hefty wave of consternation to crest among the booksellers, the surf is up, way up.)
And then Ingram bought Aer.io and did a deal with Diversion Books to get indie authors into its mighty distribution channels.
And BitLit's Shelfie suddenly is bundling audiobooks as well as ebooks in a deal with Findaway. (Were you consulted? I wasn't either.)
And one of my favorite authors came out of FutureBook 2015 saying that the whole day was focused on tech: she'd had no idea that the trade was doing so much, let alone talking so much, she said, about new innovations—from Judith Curr's Crave app and self-publishing authors at that bastion of Big Five-ism Simon & Schuster to the "page-breaking" user-experience concepts of Peter Meyers and Georgina Moore's excellent discussion on what happens when corporate marketing people take to the choppy waters of social media .... only to get funny looks from their bosses?
Meanwhile, we gathered trade authors, independent authors, and publishing people into a single room for Author Day, avoided serious injury, lit up the tweeterie with our #AuthorDay hashtag, and didn't sing a single verse of Kumbaya. Here's #FutureChat regular Carla Douglas of Ontario with her impressions of the event.
And the few points I've just listed (right?) are relatively late-year if not quite recent. What about earlier 2015? When London Book Fair returned to the Olympia or Frankfurt Book Fair exited Halle 8 or BookExpo America condensed its run by half a day?
My colleague Philip Jones at The Bookseller asks:
What has been the big story for the book business this year?
Never one to pass the buck, I'm turning to you.
What has been the biggest story for the book business this year?
That's what we'll talk about in #FutureChat.
This story was written as the walkup to the #FutureChat of 18th December 2015. Join us today and every Friday live on Twitter at:
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No really, what had the most impact, as you see it?
What I'm more aware of this year than in the past is how fragmented the industry can be in its views. This is not necessarily the negative it might seem at first. Everyone must focus on their own access point and needs in the business, that's natural and healthy, as long as we remember to listen to—and respect—each other's concerns. But what a vast range of viewpoints this is.
Granted, one player in the industry just sent me a note about "setting a new trend in literary hair." And she wasn't even talking about Sarah McIntyre's fetching hats.
On a slightly more serious note, the ever-fashionable Jones answers the "big development" question this way:
The answer is obvious: the return of print. Whichever way you spin it, the surprise strength in physical sales feels both special and pivotal. Unraveling the story behind this is not simple and the lines of narratives are not linear, as the mooted closure of Penguin Random House’s Rugby distribution centre and the continuing decline in library numbers show. Nevertheless, the market growth that began falteringly has emerged as a major plot twist.
Agree? Print, is it?
There's a good deal of hubbub Stateside this week about Stephen Heyman's take at Slate on Waterstones, especially in counterpoint to the "lifestyle store" goals now being expressed by the Barnes and Noble leadership. Wherever you come down on James Daunt's performance in the UK, you have to enjoy his comment on Barnes and Noble: “My faculties just shut down when I go in there.” How do you see what happened in (or to, or despite) the bookstores this year? Run for your life, right?
Last year, we did a lot of talking about the supremacy of blockbuster titles and their effects on the market. This year? Same or not so much? Jones notes:
In 2015 there was room for Go Set a Watchman and Grey; The Amazing Book is Not on Fire and The Road to Little Dribbling. Not only is the TCM up by both value and volume, the average selling price is up, too: whisper it, after 20 years, we may finally have sussed out how to respond to the ending of fixed prices. The improving economy also has a walk-on role, even if its impact on the high street generally has yet to be felt. The recession has been as big a player as digital in what happened to this industry over the past half-decade, and its lifting is key.
Wall of Content? The 700,000-Title-Per-Year Gorilla? Tsunami of Content? Choose your metaphor. Are we cruising or drowning? Are we floating all boats or about to founder? (That is founder, not flounder, by the way. How close to your dictionary did you sit in 2015?)
Oh, and how's the reader doing? I said the reader. You remember the reader. Right?
At last week’s FutureBook Conference, we heard that publishers had to go mobile, find new audiences, broaden the retail footprint and discover new content types. The irony is that many did—in the print market. Ink is incredibly important to this sector, and publishers are deft at reinventing what can be done with it. It is little wonder that, even at FutureBook, two of the presentations came from print-on-demand publishers (Lost My Name and This is Your Cookbook), and I expect to see more use made of new technologies for print in the years ahead.
What meant the most in publishing's 2015? Have a look in that rearview mirror and tell us.
See you in #FutureChat.
Join us each Friday live on Twitter at 4:00 p.m. London (GMT), 5:00 p.m. Rome (CEST), 11 a.m. New York (ET), 10:00 a.m. Chicago (CT), 9:00 a.m. Denver (MT), 8:00 a.m. Los Angeles (PT), 5:00 a.m. Honolulu (HAST).