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Would Publishers Be Better Off Dropping the Word “Book?”

In Discussion by Edward Nawotka

By Edward Nawotka, Editor-in-Chief

two booksA year ago, I wondered if Barnes & Noble could boost its stock price by dropping the word “booksellers” from it’s official name. Wall Street certainly might like it. After all, the it does make sense—today at B&N you can buy speakers, handbags, crock pots, yoga mats and all other manner of items. “Bookseller” is a convenient, if somewhat antiquated branding.

Of course, you might also say that it is a “brand differentiator,” in so far as it maintains and identity for the company from other retail competitors that sell an equally wide myriad of titles. And, naturally, books still are B&N’s core product.

Sounds absurd? Let’s not forget that Amazon has long dropped the tag line “the world’s biggest bookstore.”

But what if we extended this thought experiment to the entire book business. What if the publishing industry simply stopped using the word “book” to describe its end product. Would this simple change in thinking inspire a revolution in the way publishers look at their jobs.

The change is already happening. At this year’s ongoing Digital Book World conference you rarely hear the use of the word “book” as such. You hear “ebook,” certainly, as well as “print” and “digital” and “format.”

The word “content” echoes through the halls. Rarely still, “IP” — which is how James Frey describes the stories that his company, Full Fathom Five, develops.

Does the word “book” encumber the industry with too much history and tradition for it to move forward with the speed demanded by our new digital world? The words one chooses to describe oneself imply an awful lot about the person at hand. Would this simple alteration change our thinking for good? Or would it simply cause us to lose our identity?

As I said, it’s a thought experiment.

Agree? Disagree? Let us know what you think in the comments.

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.