E-Books, Google Editions and Struggling Book Sales

In Digital by Erin L. Cox

By Erin L. Cox

(This story originally appeared in the Publishing Perspectives show daily at the Frankfurt Book Fair on 7 October 2010. Download the complete show daily here or click on the image to view the online version.)

Livres Hebdo, in partnership with Publishers Weekly, buchreport, and The Bookseller, hosted a panel yesterday titled “CEO Talk: The Global Ranking of the Publishing Industry 2010,” featuring C-level speakers from the US, UK, French/Italian, Spanish, and German markets.

The CEOs answered questions on the changing face of publishing and industry challenges present and future.

On the cause of the decline in print book sales—e-books vs. the recession:

“Last year, consumers closed their wallets rather dramatically. They were going less to destination stores and more to mass merchandisers who sold other things beyond books, so while the bookstores were struggling, we saw an increase in sales at those mass merchandisers.” — Carolyn Reidy, President and CEO of Simon & Schuster USA and International

“I listen to Carolyn because what happens in the US happens in our market a few years down the track. I always dread going to Frankfurt because while I was gone last year, our biggest distributor collapsed. The year before, Borders closed. The UK Kindle store only opened in August, so we’ll know more after this holiday season.” — Peter Field, CEO of Penguin UK

“It’s difficult representing two markets that have such different perspectives. France gives the impression of stability and traditional publishing is still very strong—publishers defend the price of books and the role of bookselling. It’s the opposite in Italy. The whole panorama is changing in the way of modernity…a cruel modernity.” — Teresa Cremisi, CEO of RCS Libri

On agency models:

“By going to the agency model, publishers were acting on a desire to level the playing field among sellers of digital books. In the US, we have a robust market for e-books and we did not feel that all frontlist titles should be priced the same. We wanted to take control of pricing ourselves.” — Reidy

“In the Spanish-speaking market, all publishers invested in a platform called Libranda. We are now reaching agreements with Barnes & Noble for their Spanish-language titles, Apple, Sony. The agency model is the right price for our market.” — Jesús Badenes, Managing Director of books, Planeta, Spain

“The pricing of e-books in Germany is similar to the pricing of print editions. The problem we have is that there are only 10,000 ePub titles. What we really need in this market is to get much more content.” — Pascal Zimmer, Managing director, Libri, Germany

On e-book awards in the future:

“[An e-book] is just another edition. It is the work we celebrate rather than the channel.” — Field

“There isn’t anything imaginative in what we’re doing right now with e-books. Perhaps there will be in the future, but not now.” — Reidy

On Google Editions:

“It’s extraordinary. Google made a deal with the American Booksellers Association so smaller bookstores can have an e-book presence.” — Reidy

“It’s device-agnostic, so a reader can choose which device to download to.” — Field.

“It’s our direct competitor to create an online platform.” — Zimmer

On e-books and universal access:

“The really exciting thing about digital editions is that, for readers who speak that language around the world, they can get the book with just the click of a button where before they couldn’t get the book because publishers weren’t able to ship directly to them.” — Reidy

[In response to Reidy:] “I thought that was true, but it doesn’t seem true at the moment.” — Cremisi

About the Author

Erin L. Cox

Erin L. Cox has worked as Business Development Director for Publishing Perspectives. She is a Senior Associate at Rob Weisbach Creative Management, where she represents writers and handles publicity and advertising clients.