makinson The Guardian has an interview with Penguin chief executive John Makinson, who also runs a small independent bookstore with his brother. Makinson is a newly converted iPad reader, carrying an iPad loaded with a number of books on a trip to India. He has a number of things to say about the iPad, and about e-books in general.

"It does redefine what we do as publishers and I feel, compared with most of my counterparts, more optimistic about what this means for us," [Makinson] says. "Of course there are issues around copyright protection and there are worries around pricing and around piracy, royalty rates and so on, but there is also this huge opportunity to do more as publishers."

He talks about wanting to make sure that e-books have additional, iPad-compatible content (such as author interviews and other multimedia). One example might be the recent iPad version of The Pillars of the Earth which included scenes and music from a TV adaptation.

Makinson is also very clear that he feels windowing—the practice of delaying an e-book release until some time after the printed release—is “a very bad idea. If the consumer wants to buy a book in an electronic format now, you should let the consumer have it."

And he also talks about disintermediation in self-publishing—authors taking their own books directly to the public—a model he says that the late Douglas Adams predicted and supported. Makinson thinks that it will not end up being very successful overall since editors are still needed to edit, publicize, and push books out to bookstores.

An interesting article, very much worth reading.

(Found via The Bookseller.)


  1. I don’t know how it works in the UK, but the big US publishing houses don’t really edit and publicize any more. They select from among the already-edited manuscripts submitted by agents. I suppose you can call the selection process editing, but it’s not what people normally think of when they hear the word.

    As for publicizing, that’s limited to the big names. Nora Roberts, Tom Clancy, James Patterson, etc., will get publicity courtesy of the publisher. For the lesser authors, it’s up to the agent to try to put together some kind of promotion plan, and much of the responsibility for execution of the plan falls on the author.

    The two big things that traditional publishers provide are the royalty advance and bookstore placement. For e-books, the bookstore placement goes away as a consideration.

  2. Relieved to hear that Makinson is opposed to windowing. I think it would probably be bad for business. Charge more for newness, let those excited enough to buy right away generate a new wave of buzz; then drop the price a certain number of months later. The timing of that could even depend on the book.

    I was just at a large used bookstore for the first time in a very long time, and was depressed that so many books that I paid full price for new, and which I’ve not yet read, were out on the used market for a couple of dollars apiece. This is good, from the publishers’ point of view. Because: Am I thinking, “if only I’d waited…”? No. I’m thinking, “darnit I shoulda read that sooner.” My buying behavior is unlikely to change, except that most of my new book purchases by far are in e. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. If I’ve learned anything from the intertubes, it’s that there are like ten trillion people in the world exactly like me.

  3. When publishers let their editors go in a cost saving measure, they lost their reason for being. Those editors are now independent and can be hired by the authors or have some sharing deal struck if they cannot afford an editor. This makes it even easier to “self publish” a quality book, instead of some of the illiterate pieces showing up in the Internet that profess to be good writing. If a publisher provides nothing to the author except to take part of the profits, they should be bypassed.

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