Recognition Triggers (Part II)

LeHatThis is the second part of my Recognition Triggers series. If you haven’t read the first part, you can do so here. And here we go!

Crossovers to other media forms is not uncommon. However, I am led to wonder at how many of these forays have been successful, with the exception of film adaptations. It is difficult to pinpoint a truly successful crossover, but in this case, the onus is on the recognition trigger prompted by other media forms. Let’s take the book as the main focus of objectivity in this post, with this flowchart as the point of reference:

BOOK > OTHER MEDIA > BOOK

The other media forms may be regarded as audio, movies, TV shows, apps, games, etc. For instance, the Harry Potter films and books were wildly successful, but the games have been less fortunate. To the best of my research, the video games have never been a top seller, although critics have given mixed and respectable reviews.

AngryBirdsHowever, the Angry Birds brand is a different story. Though originally an app, it has spawned a series of books, including children’s books published by Egmont UK. The example is unique as it further demonstrates the new web cohesiveness that is slowly becoming more mainstream.

GoTThe TV is also an excellent platform for triggering further recognition, as evidenced by the success of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, which originated from Archie Comics, and the Game of Thrones by HBO, which practically skyrocketed George RR Martin’s stock and gave a massive boost to the book sales of A Song of Ice and Fire series. C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe’s TV adaptation won a series of awards. A mention needs to be made of the Oprah Book Club and the Richard and Judy Book Club, which also contributed to sales of featured books.

What about auditory media? Can a book spark an interest into auditory media, such as songs, audiobooks, podcasts, and radio? It is honestly hard to say, but again the changing digitisation and with streaming becoming the norm, there are examples that strike out. Freakonomics, written by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, has become a global brand and boasts of a blog, radio station and lectures today. But, on the other hand, music and singers have been immortalised in books, especially non-fiction biographies and auto-biographies. Still, it is not relevant to the flowchart of reference.

TomClancy

Tom Clancy – an author who is attached to 51 video game titles, which is more than gaming stalwarts like Sid Meier.

It is difficult to say whether video games have successfully contributed to the general sales of books. The Lord of the Rings Online is one example of a successful game being adapted from a book and EA released Dante’s Inferno in 2010. Far Cry 2 borrowed heavily from Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. And there are the Tom Clancy game series as well, which borrow from the story lines of Clancy’s works. But, it is a safe bet that games do not trigger the same recognition effect as its visual cousins do – the movies and TV. Which is strange, but then again, games aren’t that reaching as the duo.

Finally, another interesting domino effect of books and their relationships with other media is how they serve to create an expanded universe. One such example is the Star Wars universe. But it also belays the question as to why books and comics are regarded as worthy expansion pieces, which may be pointed to an influx of factors. Nevertheless, the core reason is simple – there is nothing like a line to be read – be it printed or in digital ink.

Image Credits: Kotaku/Gawker, Hollywood Reporter, Danny Graydon

Recognition Triggers (Part I)

LeHat“Sometimes, when you have seen a movie, you may want to buy the book…” These were the first lines that I read when I was gifted an illustrated copy of Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty, when I was still a young child. Black Beauty is a beautiful novel, yet what I intend to focus is the relationship between books and movies.

books-moviesThere is little doubt that a movie adaptation of a book is a surefire way to generate additional sales. It is not uncommon for the sales of a book to see an upward surge after a movie has been released. Likewise, the same motion picture enjoys a pre-interest and recognition buzz, thus providing the marketers with additional campaign material.

In 2010, the printed books were bolstered by the release of books like Mockingjay and a domino effect from movie sustained titles, such as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and the Twilight Saga. Also, the film adaptation of the Hunger Games had been announced in March 2009, which may or may not have contributed to the initial sales for Mockingjay.

The relationship between movies and books brings forth many benefits for different parties. Some instances can be taken up, such as brand formation and the subsequent identification of the players involved with the brand. Think of Tom Hanks as Professor Robert Langdon of Dan Brown’s works. Or Heath Ledger as The Joker. The publishers and booksellers benefit massively from this, as the booksellers begin to restock the title and promote it along with the existing film publicity. The publishers release the movie tie-in editions, typically in both trade paperbacks and mass-market formats. So, there is usually a boom for most of the parties.

Bourne Set

Jason Bourne by Robert Ludlum: 1980 edition; 2000s edition; movie tie-in edition featuring Matt Damon; current edition featuring expansion of universe by Eric Van Lustbader.

Today, there is an increased overlap between the content platforms and the media forms. Few content forms are exclusive to one type of form, as there is always a business desire to create a brand and milk more from it. Movies are a proven trigger, but what about games, apps, TV shows? Can there be a consistent symbiotic relationship or a crossover from books to games or vice-versa? The relationship between books and the other forms of content is murky, at the best. I’ll be exploring this further in the next part of the series.

Image Credits: The Bourne Wiki, Wine Press Publishing/WarrenAdler

Link Of Interest: Goodreads (Books-Movies)

The Gatekeepers’ Conundrum

LeHatOften, we debate about the changing publishing industry. But, have we stopped to think about the possible scenarios that could occur with regards to the strong, silent gatekeeper of the world of books?

It is hard to pinpoint the exact nature of the commissioning editor role within the publishing industry, owning to the distinctiveness of the trade, academic, educational, and journal spheres. However, as the name suggests, the underlying function of the commissioning editor is to unearth potential authors and content that will deliver the best value possible, keeping in mind the nature of the frontlist and publishing company.

So, will the role of the CE change in accordance to the Internet and its digitally fostered environment? Common logic dictates, yes, evolution is bound to happen and change is inevitable. Also, history lends its voice as well. The question is how? Relevant skills to manipulate the cyber world are a necessity, rather than a requirement. Will the CEs start holding degrees that demonstrate expertise in information technology? Will XML knowledge become a prerequisite for an already formidable post?
XML2

There is already evidence of the changes taking place. Most of the major companies have embraced XML in its entirety, keeping in mind the benefits and its flexibility. This has given rise to a new type of editor – the technical editor, who deals with the content and the markup language, such as XML and HTML. Skillset, in particular, has identified skills such as product and brand development skills, multimedia production skills, understanding web analytics and the ability to price and sell in the digital environment as extremely relevant skills.

Commissioning editors have contributed to the enduring mural that depicts editors as gatekeepers and guardians of content. Yet, today, their role as gatekeepers is threatened from different sides. Self-publishing, the new darling of the industry, bypasses a lot of factors to get published and with major companies like Pearson and Simon & Schuster acquiring self publishing companies, there is something of a cloud brewing. Agents are slowly becoming more involved in the screening process, and as the growing perception is that CEs’ are too time constrained to fully invest the kind of attention required for a book and the author, it is likely that the agents may have a bigger slice of the entire pie. Finally, with market knowledge becoming more important, it is not implausible that sales/marketers may usurp some of the CE’s functions.

Assassin's Creed BrotherhoodCD assassinscreedbookToday, the CEs are searching for books that can stand its ground against game companies and other entertainment ventures. Ultimately, due to the crowded entertainment arena, the CE’s role may slowly deviate away from books and focus on acquiring content that can be produced in a plethora of formats. Yet, the most important thing to keep in mind is that a good story will always sell irrespective of the format it appears in. Plus, talent will constantly need to be unearthed.

Image Credits: Data Entry, Amazon

The Publishing Landscape in 5 Years Time (Part II)

LeHatLike the title says. If you haven’t read the first part, you can do so here. Okay, so down to brass tacks.

AppsMobileI actually think that the digital transition is already coming to an end. The facts aren’t disagreeable, for instance, the number of smartphone users in 2012 surpassed the one billion mark, the size of the tablet market being predicted to increase to 357 million users worldwide by 2016 and a new estimate forecasting that Android apps could be the first to hit the vaunted 1 million mark in June 2013. All this points to a different kind of environment that we now live in – a digitally oriented one at that.

Will eBooks totally shut down the printed word? The short term answer is no. The long term answer is yes, but it will take a long time. Until society gains access to a cheap, flexible and multidimensional tablet and it becomes the norm to do run of the mill activities with tablets, the printed word will always find a place in people’s minds. But what is also happening is that gradual, yet imperceptible phasing out of printed books is occurring, slowly, but surely.

PricingAbout pricing and eBooks, well, what has happened has happened, although parts of it have resembled a self-inflicted Shakespearean tragedy. However, the Big Six (soon 5) have more or less embraced the agency pricing model – where the publishers set the price and the retailers get a cut from it. The wholesaler model, which was the norm earlier, consisted of the publishers selling the books to the retailer at a fixed price, and the retailer set the final consumer price. Still, the irony’s not lost.

piracyPiracy. Ah, a controversial topic indeed. The easiest way to describe the potential impact that piracy has on eBooks is that a publisher can run a huge loss through a simple P2P share or a torrent started by a single person. However, a product can be only truly pirated if it is downloaded illegally – just because it is there – does not mean an automatic loss on the ledger. And as Mark Bide often reiterated in his truly inspirational lectures, obscurity is a greater threat than piracy. If you can’t get noticed, you are a complete zero. A study conducted by Brian O’Leary also  found proof that for a publisher – O’Reilly and Thomas Nelson, sales were spurred by pirated books. Yet, another study by Attributor painted a gloomy picture – that ebook piracy is on the rise. But this is somewhat co-relative – after all if there are so many tablet and smartphone sales, it’s also reasonable to expect a bump in the overall piracy levels.

Translations and formerly overlooked nations (factors were weak markets, Steig-Larrson-Millennium-Seriesunfavorable laws and lack of freedom) are becoming more important on publishers agendas. Stieg Larrson’s Millennium series, which was originally in Swedish, saw a wave of Scandinavian novels and penetrations. Today, the esteemed London Book Fair of 2013 has Turkey as its main target of focus.

Lastly, there was a major merge of publishers – with Random House and Penguin joining forces. But, not to be outdone, Amazon pulled off a really savvy business deal, which resulted in a Twitter outburst, with its acquisition of Goodreads. If a Big Six member had acquired Goodreads, instant advantage, but unfortunately the episode again demonstrates the failings of publishers and their tendency to treat consumers like one night stands. Still, there’s always hope.

amazon-goodreads

Well, that’s about it. The first series of The Publishing Hat. Thanks for reading!

Image Credits: GFK TechTalk, SWLearning, i.i.com and Mixtus Media

Quicksand in Book Selling

Bookshops could charge for browsing. Stunned? And then laughter? Or maybe a ‘what the hell’ thing? You’re not alone. That was my first and initial reaction when I read about this idea thrown forward by Victoria Barnsley. And the C.E.O of HarperCollins, one of the Big 5 to boot. Apparently, Victoria Barnsley thinks that the physical bookshop’s existence is the biggest question that publishers feel at the moment. She’s more or less right and I do agree with her to some degree. However, her remedy is not at all correct. You can’t expect a potential buyer to pay up a fee just for browsing. And if in the rare case, pay to browse bookshops did exist, it would mean the true death of bookshops and push the customers towards online retailing.

#FutureFoylesRather, what Ms Barnsley should take notice of, is how Foyles is trying to reinvent itself. The last few weeks have seen Foyles hosting crowd-sourcing workshops to get new ideas and feedback as to how it can survive in an digital world. The problem is how geared books are towards online retailing. They are compact, inexpensive and can be transported relatively quickly. Amazon realised this early on and now it is reaping the results of its foresight, even if we may decry its growing power.

So what can be done? In the near future, a day might come when there are no bookshops in the world, and everything is done digitally. Or there might come a day when publishers choose to put all their eggs in the bookstores basket and cut ties with Amazon. Perhaps they could elect to have a single, uniform platform solely run by themselves, even. Lastly, bookshops reinvent themselves and become centres where both print and digital books can be sold painlessly and hassle free, whilst having the best of both worlds.

The Value of Books and eBooks

Although the festive cheer of Christmas is long over, I feel a necessity to revisit it once more. Christmas is a time of cheer, joy and giving and publishers as well booksellers had an extra reason for having a wider and shinier smile. The Guardian reported that, ‘big name titles helped bolster the physical sales to £75m, and the weekly takings of £75.4m was a near 20% increase as compared to the last week.’

Now, all that is very well, and it’s nice to see that print books still occupy a place in the people’s psyche, especially during the festive season. However the queries are many – if that was the case, then why are the yearly sales of print books slowly declining? Why is that Hachette UK saw 250, 000 e-book sales in the season? And why are e-readers still among the most popular gift choices? The final and most important question is, what is the reason for the difference in the perceived value between eBooks and books?

EBooks are popular for a variety of reasons, the major being accessibility, ease, and mobility. At the same time, there is a perceived and clear-cut sense of lack of value. For example, if you ask an ordinary person to select what they value the most out of music, books or videos – they are more likely to choose their music collection. More evidence? Take the fact, that during the Christmas season, print books actually sold more than the eBooks, even though it is probably easy to gift someone an eBook. People still do hold an attachment for the physical object, to some degree.

But why the lack of value for eBooks? A possible reason is the same flexibility, which made eBooks so popular, also corroded the sense of value felt for books. There is no way to display your collection of eBooks or show them off, or any physical occupation to invoke memories of actually buying and spending hard-earned cash.

Publishers and distributors are also to blame for the corrosion in the value of books. In the first place – the most significant indicator to value is the price of the object. And with eBook prices jumping up and down as if they are on a trampoline, there’s little reason to hope that consumers attach serious importance to a product that is so unstable. Secondly, the 20p price tag? That’s right – books, and even bestsellers carry a price of 20p – and it’s pence. Perhaps the publishers are trying to emulate the music industry to some degree, but even a song is more expensive with a tag of £0.99. Ultimately, a 20p price tag is more likely to do more harm than actual good, and it does no favours for the value of the eBook.

When it is all said and done, the publishers need to realise that it’s no more a business-to-business world. It’s a business-to-consumer world now. And when they are able to bridge the widening schism between the price of print books and eBooks, it will go a long way into restoring the value of eBooks and ultimately the future books.

Image courtesy of: Victor Habbick / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Reading Experience

Let’s get this right out of the way – I’m a bookworm. To the core. I absolutely love books (yes, clichéd indeed, but it’s the truth). Back in my pad, I had at least four overflowing bookcases in paperback and hardback formats. However, today in London, as I sit on the couch typing these lines, just my term books lie around. And I’m sure that they don’t exactly count. But out of the corner of my eye, I spy my iPad. And I’m reminded of my conscious decision of not bringing any books over with me to London.

Why so? There is something unique and distinctly beautiful about holding a book – you are actually holding one of the oldest inventions of mankind in your hand. The eye catching cover design which gives you an idea about what the book holds, the feel of the pages on which you scribble, annotate, fold among your fingers and the sturdy and comforting spine which supports the pages – all of these define a book. Also, let’s not forget the smell of a book – it’s a little quirky, but that’s what art is. A book is essentially a work of art with the author’s words, the designer’s illustrations and the publisher’s layout.

Books:iPadA multifaceted product, the Kindle/iPad fits with the mind-set of today’s generation, who seek to multitask and do more with less effort. In a jack of all trades sense, if you will. Reading a book on it is somewhat of a less visceral pleasure, yet the words aren’t lost. They still move, impact and entertain you. Plus, software like iBooks seek to manifest the reading experience to a certain degree, by providing a flipping animation to replicate the feel of turning pages over. It’s not the same thing, but it’s close. But the last thing is the ease of storage. I’m basically free to carry around whatever I want, without any noticeable inconvenience.

While I still do miss the physical book, the switch over to a digital format has been easier than I thought. If the appearance/font settings are tinkered around with, it’s ridiculously easy to replicate a print book. Think of it as a hardback to some degree, if you will. As I’m a person who focuses on the word and the realities spun by the author, the physical structure matters little to me. And I think it is a mentality shared by today’s generation which is more focused on ease, mobility and accessibility than ever.

Image courtesy of: adamr / FreeDigitalPhotos.net