Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The Publishing Biz Goes 21st Century

Regardless of whether you’re interested in publishing and the book business, you might want to consider uber-agent Richard Curtis’s article on how publishing on-demand can save the publishing houses. It's an illustration of virtual organizations at their smartest. An excerpt:

Early in the history of publishing in the United States, publishers made a Devil’s bargain with bookshops. The booksellers didn’t want to get stuck with unsold inventory, especially inventory of first novels and other marginal books. So they told publishers, “We’ll take those books on the condition we have the right to return unsold copies for full credit.”

For a long time that system worked fairly well because returns were held to about 10%. But after World War II, for many and complex reasons, the return rate began to rise, occasioning Alfred Knopf’s classic remark, ”Gone today, here tomorrow.” Though publishing seemed to be booming in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, the boom was in good degree illusory. By virtue of printing economics, publishers can make a profit on a bestseller even if thirty or forty percent of the copies are returned. But when the return rate continued to rise to 50%, 60%, or even higher in the 1990s, the chickens came home to roost and publishers started losing money.

2Blowhards ]

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