Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Current State of Publishing and Bookselling, Part 2

Continuing my overview of what has happened in recent months.


Amazon remains the Godzilla of online book sales in both new and used books while Barnes & Noble online, etc., eat the crumbs.

Amazon gives readers an incredible selection of books not found in brick and mortar stores so they are the place to go for serious readers. A month's entire line of books by most publishers is available at Amazon, and their search functions as well as their Listmania and "if you like this book, you'll like that book" features, and reader blogs help readers find books and authors they won't find elsewhere.

Used book sites like Alibris are a major force in book buying as readers search for bargains, and Amazon displays the used book right beside the new book in their search results.


Most major publishers do large print runs of their titles and store the books to sell through bookstores, etc.

A large print run requires a large expense up front in the printing followed by the cost of storing and moving inventory. For massmarket (standard-sized paperbacks), books not sold at the bookstore have their cover ripped off and returned while the book itself goes into the landfill. The publisher pays for the shipping in both directions.

Obviously, this is a serious waste of money and resources, but the bookstores and publishers seem addicted to this model.

In recent years, print on demand books (POD) are becoming an important part of the paper book process.

POD books are printed, one at a time, to order and shipped to the store or the buyer. Large publishers use POD for backlist, and small publishers and individuals who can't afford large print runs also use it.

Recently, a major publisher used POD to catch up on unexpectedly high demand of a nonfiction title.

Most of the major book distributors have their own POD company as does Amazon.


Tomorrow, I'll continue my overview by discussing ebooks and used books.

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The Dan Ward said...

I loved your comments on Nathan Branford's blog (holy cow he gets a lot of comments!), and your series here is great.

It seems to me the POD approach has less risk, is more environmentally friendly and is potentially even more efficient than big initial print runs. I hope to see more of it, even with "name" authors...

Marilynn Byerly said...

Thanks for your kind words, Dan.

POD is much more expensive than large print runs as far as the cost of printing each individual book. It will never be the solution for books in large numbers.