Snippets from “Publish or Perish” by Ken Auletta (New Yorker, April 26, 2010). You MUST go read the full article.
Excellent stats from article
- Independent booksellers have declined from 3,250 to 1,400 since 1999
- Big Six publishers account for 60% of all books sold in the U.S.
- Breakdown of book sales in U.S.
- 30% – B&N, Borders, other bookstore chains
- 10% – independent bookstores
- 45% – Target, Wal-mart, Costco, other big box retailers
- 15% – Amazon
- Amazon generates more than half of its revenues from products other than books
- At end of 2009, Amazon accounted for 80% of all e-book sales
From Amazon’s Russ Grandinetti:
“The real competition here is not, in our view, between the hardcover book and the e-book. TV, movies, Web browsing, video games are all competing for people’s valuable time. And if the book doesn’t compete we think that over time the industry will suffer. Look at the price points of digital goods in other media. I read a newspaper this morning online, and it didn’t cost me anything. Look at the price of rental movies. Look at the price of music. In a lot of respects, teaching a customer to pay ten dollars for a digital book is a great accomplishment.”
Asked to describe her foremost concern, Carolyn Reidy, of Simon & Schuster:
“In the digital world, it is possible for authors to publish without publishers. It is therefore incumbent on us to prove our worth to authors every day.”
Jane Friedman, former president and C.E.O. of HarperCollins:
“The publishers are afraid of a retailer that can replace them. An author needs a publisher for nurturing, editing, distributing, and marketing. If the publishers are cutting back on marketing, which is the biggest complaint authors have, and Amazon stays at eighty percent of the e-book market, why do you need the publisher?”
Ken Auletta states near the end:
“… aside from returns, royalty advances are by far publishers’ biggest expense. Although critics argue that traditional book publishing takes too much money from authors, in reality the profits earned by the relatively small percentage of authors whose books make money essentially go to subsidizing less commercially successful writers. The system is inefficient, but it supports a class of professional writers, which might not otherwise exist.”