By Tom Hallock
My friend Johanna Vondeling, editor of many of my books over the years, recently posted this article on Facebook. I thought it worthy of wider attention here. The author, Tom Hallock, is Associate Publisher at Beacon Press and a friend of Berrett-Koehler Publishers, where Johanna is Vice President. She reports that Hallock recently read Steve Piersanti’s “10 Awful Truths About Book Publishing” (posted here). He thinks Steve makes good points AND he wanted to point out some good news for publishers amidst all the recent change in the industry. “His ideas are spot-on and inspiring,” Johanna wrote.
1. Publishing is generally maintaining revenue during its digital transition, something most other industries have been unable to do.
2. There is a new efficiency in the industry causing returns to be dramatically reduced. Digital content, short run and print-on-demand manufacturing, the rise of direct and online sales and an improved supply chain have all reduced the impact of an industry practice that has been a drain on profit. This reduction of waste has also lowered our environmental impact.
3. Our content can be monetized in more ways than ever: eBooks, other digital content, digital download audio, etc.
4. Media continues to be most responsive to big new ideas that are first introduced in book format.
5. The need for investment in physical inventory has also been reduced by all the factors mentioned in #2 above and because we are less reliant on physical display in bookstores.
6. Publishers do not require the physical display of books in order for readers to find them. The 24/7 availability of all books everywhere through our own web sites and those of online booksellers means that readers have instant access to our titles when events, or media attention, or broader shifts in the culture create interest in them.
7. The international market has opened up and is providing access to readers throughout the world whether or not they have access to a physical bookstore that carries English language books. Readers discover books through multiple sources, most of which don’t recognize borders.
8. There is almost a daily growth in tools to build community and reach readers. In particular our ability to aid readers in discovery through BISACs (a Book Industry Study Group subject heading classification), metadata, keywords—as well as social media—has to some extent freed us from the activities of intermediaries and empowered us to grow our businesses.