5 Questions for Julieta Lionetti [INTERVIEW]

JulietaJulieta Lionetti has more than 20 years experience in the book industry. An international trade publisher until 2007, she has embraced the digital (r)evolution from its inception. On Wednesday she’ll be speaking at BookMachine Barcelona “On How Freakin’ Techies Taught Me To Love Literature Again”. Fabrizio Luccitti interviews Julieta for BookMachine.


1. In advising publishers, is there a recurrent question you get asked about the digital revolution in publishing?

Questions have changed in the last 10 years, but they have changed dramatically during the last two. The Spanish ebook market is heading for an outbreak in 2014. We’ll witness an exponential growth during the first quarter, and many publishers are aware of this, so their worries have changed. Their main concern, if they have embraced digital, is how to manage the tools that allow a data-driven strategy. Nevertheless, the concern for the future of book-stores is the most universal of them all. How will people read, even in digital form, if the physical reference of “book” shrinks further? Up till now, ebooks have been referenced to the “book”, they are their de-materialized metaphor and benefit from a traditional concept of reading.


2. Do you think that services like Spotify or Netflix are transferrable to the publishing industry?

Different cultural contents need different business models. You don’t consume music the same way you consume movies. And books are a thing apart. I agree with Ed Nawotka, from Publishing Perspectives, that the analogy of services like 24 Symbols or Oyster with Spotify is catchy but misleading. You build play-lists in Spotify for your own consumption at different times or at different personal moods. You play them once and again. Books, instead, and especially books that serve only one purpose –entertain you while you are spending a week-end with your in-laws, for example– are done once they have accomplished that mission. Think of romance, one of the stars of the ebook environment –you need a new one each time you finish what you are reading.
The Spotify of Books has been a twofold label. Easy to understand, but what you understand is too simplified a reality. If services like Oyster or 24 Symbols succeed –and I’m sure they will succeed because “access” is the key word of the future– we’ll find a better analogy for them. Or simply we won’t need an analogy.


3. Would they represent a valuable revenue stream for publishers?

It will depend on the business model of each service. I’ve seen the team at 24 Symbols mature, candidly embracing the interests of the publishing industry and not only those of users and readers, without forgetting the concept of “books as a service”.


4. With publishers becoming trans-media content providers, is piracy likely to become a real threat as in the music industry?

I try not to think about piracy. It’s a paralysing mind-frame when it becomes an obsession. Piracy, since man arrived in commerce, has been an economic force. Sometimes on the fringes of legal commerce, sometimes in the darkest side of it. As providers of cultural content, we have to focus on cultivating our garden, making it as delightful and enticing as possible. Pirates will not kill us, but we must know that we can’t obliterate piracy from the big picture. It’s a constant battle, not a war with an end.
When people get obsessed with piracy, I recommend them to read “Widow Chin, Pirate”, a short story by Jorge Luis Borges. Literature is the best potion against the obsession illness.


5. Your blog is called ‘Libros en la nube’ (Books in the cloud). What are the new possibilities offered to publishers by Cloud technologies?

Cloud technologies are everywhere in our lives. Why shouldn’t they be relevant for the publishing industry? After all, we live in the world, even if we have built a marvellous castle for ourselves during decades. The name of my blog is more related to the way we consume books in the digital era than with anything else. It has to do with my belief that access, more than ownership, is what culture is all about. Services in the Cloud, like 24 Symbols or Oyster make all the sense –we are not selling books, we are licensing them to their users. That’s a reality that many in the industry want to avoid. And there’s an advantage to book services in the Cloud –they are an effective, albeit not lethal, weapon against piracy. I don’t approve of lethal weapons.