Publishers express fears over price, paperbacks and fragmentation at BEA

<p>Publishing is becoming &quot;fragmented&quot; with the downwards pressure on price likely to put the paperback book under threat, delegates at Book Expo America heard at the traditional first day curtain-raiser, the c.e.o. panel.<br /><br />The panel was moderated by Farrar, Straus and Giroux&rsquo;s Jonathan Galassi, who was clearly in mourning. &quot;Fragmentation seems to be the name of the game,&quot; he began, expressing fears about how we can &quot;preserve core activities, protect writers,&quot; and maintain the value of time-honored roles. He talked of &quot;the experience of cognitive dissonance and simultaneity being what it&rsquo;s all about.&quot;<br /><br />Penguin&rsquo;s David Shanks, Workman&rsquo;s new group publisher Bob Miller - ex-Harper Studio and Hyperion - the American Booksellers Association&rsquo;s Oren Teicher, Ingram&rsquo;s Skip Prichard, and Authors Guild president, lawyer and bestselling author Scott Turow were, with Galassi, there to discuss &quot;The Value of a Book&quot; in our new/old world. ICM&rsquo;s Esther Newberg, who provided the agent&rsquo;s perspective, was the sole female panelist.<br /><br />Turow began with authors&rsquo; fears about piracy and lower income: 25% of net in &quot;e&quot; is less than a traditional 15% royalty. Newberg made her first point: &quot;What are publishers doing to justify not giving authors 50%?&quot;<br /><br />Miller countered that &quot;terms differ from publisher to publisher&quot;. Newberg shot back, &quot;some terms are much better than others and we&rsquo;ll have to go public and some of you will look bad&quot;.<br /><br />&quot;Why did publishers agree to allow e-books to be available at the same time as paper books?&quot; Turow then asked. Galassi responded: &quot;It was a mistake to let Amazon put out e-books simultaneously and charge the price it did. It will have a negative effect on the paperback.&quot; The paperback may well &quot;go bye-bye,&quot; Newberg bluntly agreed.<br /><br />Overall, Galassi said: &quot;Something&rsquo;s radically wrong about the way the market has determined the value of the book. I don&rsquo;t think there&rsquo;s going to be a pick-up in volume to make up the difference.&quot;</p><p>Miller responded that the downward pressure on prices was not going to go away, &quot;although it&rsquo;s false to talk about all books in one great sweep.&quot; On the other hand, he added &quot;we cannot go back...we wouldn&rsquo;t want to keep people back from the ebook if they want it at the same time as print.&quot; </p><p>However, Turow disagreed. &quot;I&rsquo;m not sure you can&rsquo;t go back,&quot; he said, going on to tell publishers they should do a better job of &quot;seeing around corners&quot; and engage in &quot;a little more futurism&quot;. He pointed out that the industry was now dealing with two pieces of intellectual property: the book and the device.</p><p>Shanks, on the other hand, reminded delegates about the present, namely that &quot;more than 90%&quot; of the business was still in paper. &quot;We need to protect as long as we can the apparatus that sells physical books.&quot;<br /><br />Teicher agreed, defending the role of bookstores. &quot;We discover the book and put it in the hands of the appropriate consumer. We curate it. They want to come to a physical space. Preserving the showroom matters a lot. We need to ensure that books don&rsquo;t become like every commodity being used as loss leaders.&quot; Unfortunately, as some in the audience said later, too often books that are discovered in independent stores are ordered on Amazon later.</p><p>Prichard asserted that &quot;technology has evolved and publishing houses are going to have to turn into entertainment and education houses.&quot;</p><p>In the end, while Prichard spoke of ours being &quot;one of the most exciting times,&quot; Galassi spoke of it being a &quot;scary time&quot;. After an hour and a half, the common ground was that of course they were both right.</p><p><em>More on BEA to come. </em></p>