Bonus Material: Catalogs, Galleys…Is Something Lost if Publishers Go all “E” for B2B?

In Discussion by Edward Nawotka

By Edward Nawotka


In our lead article, Dev Ganesan, CEO and President of Aptara, argues by implication that the business-to-business market is far more significant than the trade market. In the piece he suggests that all forms of printed business communication, from annual reports to brochures, could be efficiently replaced with e-books, and at a significant cost savings as well.

Of course, trade publishers are also making use of e-books for their B2B communications as well, particularly with the eventual phasing out of printed seasonal book catalogs in favor of digital-only or PDF editions and the increasing use of e-books as galleys.

I find that some publishers do e-catalogs better than others. Earlier this year, HarperCollins announced a plan to go all-digital for its catalogs (you can see their catalogs here) and Random House is converting in the spring of next year. Smaller publishers like PublicAffairs have posted their seasonal catalogs online for years, encouraging reviewers to click a checkbox next to titles they’re interested in reviewing. (For a good listing of links to the current season of publisher’s catalogs see EarlyWord—scroll down the right-hand column to the bottom.) In the United States, independent booksellers have been taking advantage of aggregated system of publishers catalogs called Edelweiss, which has a variety of proprietary features that make it far more user friendly than the typical catalog. (It is also open for use via registration by reviewers, bloggers and others.)

I like the idea of an e-catalog, in concept: It won’t get lost, I can go back to it for reference, and it is convenient—provided I don’t accidentally delete the email indicating where to find it online. But there’s something about a printed catalog which gives a kind of visceral satisfaction that e-catalogs can never offer.

E-galleys are another matter. As the owner of numerous e-readers, I still don’t find e-galleys a compelling prospect. The big issue, for me at least, is that when I read, I have an idiosyncratic system for noting what I want to revisit when I go back to write about a book. This involves various ways of dog-earing a page and then writing on the blank back side of corner. It allows me to flip through a book rapidly to find see the overall theme and find passages quickly for citation. It is something I depend on and no “note taking” system offered by an e-reader has been able to replicate it, nor do I anticipate it ever will.

Of course, it makes perfect sense for publishers to scale back the amount of printed material they produce—not only is the printing a big expense, so is the shipping—but is there a downside, as well? Is something lost if publishers go all “e” for B2B? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below or on Twitter using the hashtag #ppbonus.

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.