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Not The End of The World – January publishing off to a good start

It’s pretty well documented that January is the most depressing month of the year if you live in the UK. We’ve got nothing to look forward to except the two long months between now and the possibility of Spring, which, to be honest, is likely to be late, cold and disappointing. It seems commentators in the book world have caught this negativity virus as I’ve read more articles bleating idiotically about the demise of the printed/edited/published world this year already than I did for all of December, but let me assure you there is plenty to be excited about this year in publishing. Before we all top ourselves, let’s run through a few things that have gone right lately.

 

Barnes & Noble sell Sterling

Planned sale of Barnes & Noble’s publishing ‘arm’, Sterling, was announced last week, much to the chagrin of many, who took this to be a signal of impending doom as certain as a cross on their door. Publishing ‘arm’ might be a bit strong – isn’t it more of a middle toe than a vital limb? To put it in context, this isn’t a university selling their 200-year old press, it’s a bookseller correcting a mistake they made 8 years ago. They had precious little reason to believe they could successfully run a publishing house and have every reason in the world to focus their energy and resources on their digital offering. Estimates have them at controlling 27% of the US eBook market, which is no small feat given they were late-ish to the game and are up against an international company that here in the UK holds roughly 90% of the eBook market. I think this move by Barnes & Noble shows admirable foresight. Maybe if Angus & Robertson in Australia had gone in for something digital instead of something lame, they’d be in a far better position today.

 

Websites

I’ve run into some cracking websites this year: here, and here. Publishing websites are changing all the time, introducing more functionality, crowd-sourced content and providing a better way for people to talk to the publishers themselves. The evolution is like watching a very hungry caterpillar turn into a beautiful butterfly.

 

eBook sales for December kill 2010 figures

This year’s Christmas eBook sales ripped last year’s figures apart with the enthusiasm of a meerkat on speed. (ASIDE: You know why this isn’t bad news for the industry? Because publishers are awesome enough to have had the foresight to implement the Agency model before eBooks reached tipping point, when they would have been forced to claw back the price cent by gruelling cent to turn a profit.) Apparently 1.3 million people got an ereader this Christmas, which is hayuuuuuuge news. Added to this, Kobo announced a ten-fold increase in customers over the holiday period, and eBook gifting up 200% on last year. This is a sign that last year, rather than waiting for the next release in the hope of better hardware, people found the devices they want to read on. Now, with the focus firmly on selling the intangible doodads any way we can, the fight is truly in discoverability. Sink or swim. Get your teeth into it. Other clichés.

 

I’m excited, anyway.

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Felice Howden

Felice Howden had opinions before she knew what the word 'opinion' meant. She wrote for the publishing and ideas blog Socratic Ignorance Is Bliss, and has had short stories published around the place. She graduated from the University of Melbourne in 2008 with a degree in English and Philosophy, and now spends her time typing code and hatching brain eggs for the future of publishing in a major publishing house.

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