By Mike Shatzkin
One way in which the digital future for trade publishers seems likely to resemble the physical past is that most e-books, like most books, will be sold through intermediaries who aggregate the content across publishing houses and merchandise it for the consumer. In a big world with many languages and even more territories defined by local laws, customs, and currencies, the global sales infrastructure is now being built out.
Every publisher anywhere who wants to know the plans of the companies that will sell most of their e-books, which probably means most of their books, over the upcoming decade, will be able to hear about all of them at our one-day conference. The Publishers Launch Conference (PLC) at Frankfurt, “eBooks Around the World”, will have presentations from most of the e-book retailers that will build and manage that infrastructure.
We’ll have speakers appearing from (in alphabetical order) Amazon, Anobii, Barnes & Noble, Google, and Kobo.
Barnes & Noble, whose launch of Nook over the past two years has been a startling success story, is the only one of these companies that has no stated global ambitions, but they should still be of great interest to the world’s publishing community for two reasons.
One is that B&N has used their brick-and-mortar presence successfully to push into the digital realm, with their Nook and Nook Color devices becoming competitive with Kindle (some recent reports actually suggest Nook right now is outselling Kindle) and overcoming Kindle’s two year head start. Since there are dominant brick-and-mortar chains in many markets, some with ownership stakes by local publishers, there is much to be gained by them if they can somehow replicate the B&N strategy.
The other is that B&N is aggressively sourcing content from all over the world to sell to their American customer base. Patricia Arancibia, who manages B&N’s international content gathering efforts (and who will appear at PLC Frankfurt along with Theresa Horner, B&N’s VP for Digital Content), has aggregated more than 40,000 Spanish-language titles for B&N’s Spanish store. With non-English speakers in substantial numbers throughout the US (the New York Public Library told us earlier this week that the biggest languages for them in NY are Spanish, Russian, and Chinese!) and B&N’s efforts in that area, every publisher in the world has a potential customer in Barnes & Noble.
We got a great presentation from Amazon at our Digital Book World conference last January and we’re delighted that David Naggar will be speaking for them at PLC Frankfurt. The Amazon presentation will focus on what publishers should do to capitalize on Amazon’s ever-expanding global footprint to sell more of their books around the world.
Kobo is the upstart Canadian e-book retailer that has been taking on the global giants as the e-book market has enveloped the planet. They were early players in Australia and followed fast on Amazon’s heels opening up a store in Germany with more titles than either Amazon or the German aggregator, Libreka. Kobo has also developed its own reader hardware and has been very impressive in its ability to develop supplier relationships with content creators in all segments. Expect Kobo to address their plans to roll out across more of Europe (they’ve announced pending expansion into Spain, France, Italy, and Holland) and share insights gleaned from data.
Tom Turvey will be speaking for Google, which has just announced a reader device of their own and the rumors are (none of them directly from Google, mind you) that they will expand into several new markets this Fall. Google has ingested a lot of content in image files (as opposed to ePUB), which gives them plenty of illustrated e-book content that will work well on the multitude of tablet computers hitting the market for Christmas this year. Google also has a platform that enables any bookstore to sell their e-books. So if the chains in every country will be listening to B&N for clues about what they should do, the independent stores (and the publishers who depend on them) will want to understand what Google can offer them. Hundreds of US stores have already taken them up on it.
Our last retailer is the newest one, the UK-based Anobii. Anobii, which means “bookworm” in Latin, is built on the back of a social networking site that already existed. It was financed with the help of three major UK publishers who, like the American companies that have financed Bookish, believe that online discovery for general trade books has to be improved for everybody’s sake. Anobii’s approach, which will be described by their CEO, Matteo Berlucchi, combines elements of Facebook, Twitter, and Wikipedia to enable people to follow books, authors, readers, or topics. The topic categorization — the taxonomy — is crowd-sourced; you can effectively create any category you want. Anobii’s ambitions are global and multi-lingual and they definitely represent a new approach to online bookselling.
There’s a lot more to the “eBooks Around the World” conference than just retailers. But from the retailers alone, most trade book players around the world will get critical insights about their digital future from the day. Early bird sign-up is now available; claim your place.