Untethered – The future of book publishing
June 17, 2010 | 4:44 pm
By Paul Biba
Peter Davis, President McGraw-Hill Education; Brian Murray, President & CEO HarperCollins Publishers; Carolyn Reidy, President and CEO, Simon & Schuster; David Steinberger, President & CEO, Perseus Books Group; Tom Turvey, Director, Strategic Partnerships, Google; Peter Osnos, Founder and Editor-at-Large, PublicAffairs Books
Davis: at McGraw only a small part of business plays by the traditional rules of publishing. The educational part is very healthy. Sold Business Week because of desire to reduce exposure to advertising based revenues. In educational area see traditional publishing model breaking down because of applications of technology to make it easier to break down data. Promising for them because they also own many data analysis businesses and there are a lot of synergies between the two. Data driven business can be a big help in educational market. Haven’t joined the agency model and don’t expect to because many of their books command a higher price because are professional books. In 5 years bundled ebook and regular book will dominate.
Murray: our business model is under threat. What we do is not going to change but the opportunity now is to connect with readers in new ways. Very optimistic but in short turn will be very bumpy. Google, Amazon and Apple will be future digital partners. Can take a long term view because News Corporation going through the same think right now. Harper was on leading edge compared to other parts of the company. Don’t know the answer as to whether enhanced ebooks are good, but 60% of music downloaded are enhanced tracks. Ultimately consumers will tell us what they want as long as we have a competitive marketplace. In 5 years 50% will be digital
Reidy: can now take books anywhere and digital will eventually change the form of the book. Will be an explosion of creativity and at very, very beginning of figuring out what will work and how. Part of CBS and every part of the company is involved in the same transition and makes it easier to ask for capital because they understand what are going through. Not in favor of bundling at the moment because haven’t figured out the basic pricing for an ebook yet, but eventually may get to it. Hard to figure out royalties with bundling also. In 5 years 40% digital
Steinberger: future of publishing, overriding trend is that it lowers the barriers to connecting consumers with book content. Next big challenge is how to turn this technology into sale. From an independent product standpoint the changes coming are very beneficial. At early stages of book pricing. Building a set of analytics to test pricing and responses. Trend is that people are willing to pay for digital content. Good that not locked into some “arbitrary low cost” for ebooks. In 5 years 25% ebooks.
Turvey: publishers are in a permanently hybrid world and have to be as aggressive investing in digital as investing in print. Journal publishers 15 years ago were selling print and now libraries paying for digital and print is an afterthought. Have been asked by publishers for years to get into the “commerce game” and are now going about it. In 6 months hope to be a principle seller of ebooks and to be powering a lot of other book sales sites. In 5 years will be 25% digital. Not worried that agency model will harm us with consumers. It puts you closer in touch with consumer cause can see the results of pricing. At the moment the retailers have all the information about the consumer and they don’t often share it, so the agency model is the only touchpoint the publisher have right now.
Osnos: Book publishing not in deep peril, for publishers the big issue has always been inventory management. Technology is our friend if we can figure out how to take advantage of it.