Thursday, March 15, 2012

BEA 2011 (Book Expo America) and the Future of Publishing

May 28, 2011

Last week I attended the BEA in New York City and found it to be the heart of publishing, as it always has been. But the heart is not well. This BEA had fewer attendees and fewer authors doing autographing for bookstores. While eBooks were featured with their own arena, the topics in eBooks were somehow out of sync with my beliefs about the reality of the eBook tsunami. All in all, I found the experience alarming. One trad (paper and print books) publisher stated that they hadn’t figured out yet how to merchandise eBooks. That statement seems very troubling to me (as a former eBook publisher).

The trads people still maintaining their attitude of exclusivity. The indies are pushing their new author-centric models, and most literary agents are now either toying with the new models or exiting the business. So, nothing has been resolved. When I attended a session by the BISG (Book Industry Standards / Statistics Group), someone asked why they didn’t supply a breakdown of sales by price, especially for eBooks. The panel replied there was certainly a wide range of eBook prices. That’s a non-answer, and it is probably the most important question there is. Prices on eBooks range from $0.99 to $17.99, and those at the low end seem to be outselling their higher-priced brethren by multiples. Is this because of the continuing economic recession? And regardless, will the lower prices for Amanda Hocking’s and John Locke’s currently available eBooks become the standard price for an eBook? Why didn’t the BISG take this issue on? At the BEA, Barry Eisler, who I’ve known for over a dozen years, reconsidered going indie. Seems Amazon offered a much better deal than the trad he turned down about a month ago, and, of course, Amazon is likely to be the big survivor of the eBook tsunami. While I was disappointed he reversed direction, I do understand his objectives in doing so.

As we move through the coming year, I wonder how long it will be before the trads adjust their aim and hit the target. It’s no mystery and it should be pretty obvious. Lower your eBook prices and increase your sales!

If you’re in the business of publishing, what do you think?


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