Our Publishers Launch Conferences venture is doing two shows in Frankfurt: a full-day “eBooks Around the World” program on Monday, October 10 and our first conference dedicated to children’s book publishing, “Children’s Publishing Goes Digital”, which will be a half-day program on Tuesday, October 11. We’ve enlisted the capable help of Lorraine Shanley of Market Partners International to program the children’s show. This post will talk about what I’ve been developing for the all-day Monday program.
There are other things going on, but there are two central themes for Monday: data and retail.
We are always focused on data about digital change because in this transitional time we’re in, none of us can get enough of it. Things are changing fast and if you haven’t looked at the thermometer in the past week or two, you probably don’t know the temperature. That’s even more true on a global scale, because global data is that much harder to get and track.
We are focused on retail because the list of “major accounts” for all publishers will be changing in the next few years. Global players will often (but not always) be replacing local ones as each publisher’s biggest intermediary customers. The ebooks marketplace in the US demonstrates how rapidly new channels can rise with the Kindle and Nook.
To begin the day at Frankfurt, we will have what we believe is the most comprehensive research report yet produced about the digital transition country-by-country and region-by-region. The Milan office of the global consulting firm, A.T. Kearney, working in conjunction with Italy’s Bookrepublic, will update and expand some substantial research they did at the end of last year. They presented their findings at the IfBookThen conference in Milan in February.
The Publishers Launch Conferences team — Michael Cader, Emily Williams, and I — have suggested some additional lines of inquiry around the intrusion of English and the expansion of the global players’ activity which we believe will enhance the already-robust research the Kearney team did before.
We’ll have a data presentation of a different sort from Jonathan Nowell of Nielsen, the company which both is the guardian of a worldwide bibliographic database and the operators of BookScan, which collects point-of-sale information around the globe. Jonathan is going to focus on how metadata affects sales and specifically how deficient metadata costs sales. The lessons here will be the ones everybody will take home and implement immediately. Nowell will point publishers to the metadata fixes which are absolutely necessary to avoid sales leakage.
The retail conversations and presentations will be sprinkled throughout the day.
We wanted to focus our audience on what we consider to be a remarkable story, the resurgence of Barnes & Noble in the digital realm since the introduction of the first Nook device 20 months ago. B&N’s success in using their brick-and-mortar presence to combat Amazon’s two year head start with the Kindle is a case history that retailers in every country in the world will want to examine carefully. That’s why we’re giving it close attention.
Theresa Horner, B&N’s VP for Digital Content and Patricia Arancibia, Manager, Digital Content, International, will join Michael Cader and me for a conversation about how they did it. They started out with a Nook that was pretty similar in price and features to the monochrome e-ink Kindle, but then they carved out their own device niche by offering Nook Color and a touchscreen version which, to this point, nobody else has matched. The color capability enabled B&N to expand their ebook product offering to include content, like magazines and children’s books, that wouldn’t work well on a Kindle or original Nook device.
But they also expanded their content base of non-English publications, building a Spanish-language store for their domestic US market that is more comprehensive than any other in the world!
All of this has propelled B&N to a spot where they are a significant challenger to Amazon’s ebook supremacy in the United States. There have been some recent indications that Nook devices may now be outselling Kindle devices, although not everybody agrees with that proposition.
Many countries have a dominant brick-and-mortar retailer that is contemplating an impending challenge from Amazon. Whether or not the B&N formula is replicable in other markets, perhaps by licensing the Nook or the Kobo reader or the new Google reader or another device, is still a fair question. The answer might be much clearer after the B&N section of our show.
But B&N has not (yet) announced any plans for a global presence. Four other ebook retailers that will grace our Frankfurt stage are declared global players.
David Naggar of Amazon.com will talk about what publishers around the world should do to best benefit from Amazon’s continuing global expansion. We know that Amazon will be a market leader in every country they enter. They are the biggest account for most US publishers today and they will be a top account soon for every publisher in the world if they aren’t already. Tips from their experience about what works best for publishers to increase their sales are useful to every publisher in every language. We had a presentation from Amazon at our Digital Book World show in New York last January which attendees all agreed was helpful and enlightening; we’re expecting the same at PLC Frankfurt.
Tom Turvey of Google will also have a lot to talk about at PLC Frankfurt. Google has just announced a Google ereading device and we keep hearing rumors (although not yet directly from them) that they will be pushing their ebook capabilities hard this Fall when a host of new tablet computers hit the market. Google’s program is the only one really built for participation by retailers and web sites everywhere and there has been a pretty widespread uptake by independent stores in the United States in the program’s opening months. If the biggest dominant chains in each country will want to pay close attention to what B&N has to say, the independent stores around the world, and the publishers that depend on them, will be paying close attention to what Google has to say.
Kobo just opened a store in Germany, following quickly on Amazon’s heels in the biggest single European market with a title base larger that is larger than Amazon’s and larger than the German aggregator, Libreka and with a special reader for the German language. They have said they’ll have stores opening in Spain, France, Italy, and Holland in the next few months. We’re working out the details with Kobo about what they’ll discuss in conversations early next month, but we know they’ll be on the program. Kobo has been distinguished among their competitors so far by their declared willingness to share sales data with publishers and, indeed, they have established a reputation for revealing things we didn’t know about the market at presentations they have made before. Kobo is the purest ebook play among the global competitors that have been in the market for some time; all the rest have other fish to fry.
But there’s a new entrant to global ebook retailing that, like Kobo, is (at least for now) purely about ebooks. That would be the UK-based start-up, Anobii.Their CEO, Matteo Berlucchi, will explain their very enticing proposition to enable crowd-sourced curation and taxonomy for books. On Anobii’s format-agnostic discovery-social platform, you’ll be able to follow a book, an author, a reader, or a topic, and you’ll be able to name your own topics. The basic functionality is supposed to go live in the next month or so and we believe our October conference will be a debut of sorts for what promises to be an entirely new approach to ebookselling. And publishers will be excited to hear that Anobii intends to share data with their vendors as well.
It could well be that the retailers we will have on the stage at PLC Frankfurt will be delivering half the sales or more for most of the world’s publishers in a few years, or perhaps even sooner than that.
Data and retail are our features, but there will be much more covered in the show.
Tracey Armstrong, the CEO of Copyright Clearance Center (which is, along with Perseus Constellation, one of our Global Sponsors) will talk about the importance of collective licensing to capture revenue that will otherwise be lost in a world where any fragment of any book might be a key component of somebody’s new app or web site.
A panel of agents will discuss the emerging new models in that segment of publishing’s value chain.
We’ll have what I think will be a very provocative panel of trade publishers who are benefiting from the fact that their company works in segments other than trade which made the digital transition sooner.
Octavio Kulesz did a pioneering study of the digital transition in the developing world that suggests that entirely new tactics will be called for if publishers are going to realize revenue from the masses who will read books on cell phones, but can’t afford to pay much.
Chris Bauerle, the Director of Sales for Sourcebooks, a mid-sized (or perhaps we should say small-major) US trade publisher, will explain their transition to a digital workflow, done a few years ago but paying off in big ways now that they want to use their content in new creative ways.
And Michael Cader and I will have a thing or two to say as well.