Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant
Location: Enroute to Santa Rosa from BEA
Weather: Um, cloudy, looking at the view below the plane
A couple of you asked for trend info based on what Etta, Wendy, and I observed at BEA. I think the best way to respond is to give a brief report today on the CEO round table, which was held the day before the ribbon was cut to unleash everyone onto the convention floor.
Hearing the perspectives of the heads of publishing companies is a good way to put your finger on the pulse of the industry. This year’s round table was led by Tina Brown, founder and editor-in-chief of the Daily Beast. But she was losing her voice and didn’t make it through the hour-long discussion, turning to her hubby, journalist Harry Evans, to finish out the moderating duties.
The participants were: HarperCollins’s Brian Murray, Macmillan’s John Sargent, Simon & Schuster’s Carolyn Reidy, and Perseus’s David Steinberger. Tina started out the discussion by describing the media as being “in the middle of an industrial revolution,” with a reimagining of an industry taking place, with fewer and fewer places to talk about books (referring to the demise of magazines, newspapers, and book reviews).
One of the questions weighing on John Sargent’s mind was: “Amazon shows Kindle readers buy much more, but do Kindle reader continue to buy long-term?” (My personal experience is, oh, yes. I find I’ve increased my reading–and buying–threefold since purchasing my Kindle July 2008. Wendy would agree with that.)
David Steinberger said, “The danger is the development of monopolies because there’s someone who has come between the publisher and the reader.” (Referring to Amazon, Google, and Yahoo.)
Brian Murray’s concern was: “Consumers are used to paying for books. What are the ways to make the migration to electronic publishing profitable?”
Carolyn Reidy wanted “thinking electronically to be in everyone’s DNA at the publisher’s. The true explosion happens when people can read on devices they bought for other purposes. How do we step into this world and take control of it?”
The publishers talked about crashing books and how that will become the norm in the future. Carolyn Reidy observed that S&S crashed 150 books last year “and they did well.” Rapid response, David pointed out, is the future of publishing.
Each CEO also weighed in on thoughts regarding marketing, and while each gave a nod to viral marketing, they all agreed that, as Reidy said, “The Internet has not replaced ‘The Today Show’ yet.” In other words, national publicity still is the way, in the CEOs’ opinion, to generate word of mouth.
So, there you have it, straight from the CEO roundtable, the trends. You’ll note they’re all preoccupied with electronic publishing and technology and are thinking hard about how to wrestle that beast into submission. They’re determined, but I also suspect they’re very nervous. Who wouldn’t be when you’re in the midst of a revolution?