This photo doesn’t really do justice to the window in my office, but the fact that since the first of the year—after our big move across campus into a newly remodeled suite of offices—I HAVE a window at all after five years of working in something of a cave in our old building is wonderful in its own right. Plus, for the first two months of the year it was gray, cold, and rainy outside most of the time which wasn’t too cheerful a view but spring is finally starting make an appearance with lots of blue sky and sunshine.
For all us here it’s been a busy week: Sheila and Wes are at the Texas Community College Teachers Association conference in Houston, we picked up our new summer catalogs from the print shop, a couple of forthcoming titles are being indexed . . . the last stage for them to go through before being sent to print, and the Lust, Violence, Religion: Life in Historic Waco Facebook page is up to 158 fans. (For anyone who hasn’t been there yet, you can listen to a podcast of the first chapter as narrated by Mike Jones, who is recording every essay in the book for us.) And, on the subject of LVR podcasts, within the next few weeks those audio files will also be available to download for free at Podiobooks during the run-up to the book’s 9/1/10 publication date.
Beyond our own publishing shop, though, recent news & information we found most useful from the larger world of the publishing industry includes:
It’s a common misconception that ebooks, with their lack of paper, printing, and binding (PPB) costs combined with no relative shipping or warehousing costs, will drastically reduce the retail price from their hard copy versions. There are a couple of things, though, that folks don’t realize: 1) the first edition development and production costs of a book are essentially the same whether the final output is ebook or hard copy; and 2) the pricing discounts between publishers and ebook distributors/retailers like Amazon.com are so one-sided (see the John Sargent post below) that publishers can wind up losing money—or, rather, clear less net revenue—from ebook sales compared to hard copy sales. There’s been a lot of buzz in the blogosphere this week about the particular financial figures in this post, all of which are well worth scouting around and taking a look at as well.
While this doesn’t deal directly with book publishing or ebooks per se, I think this is a trend that you’re likely to see appear as the ebook format and ereader device wars heat up: manufacturers and developers suing each other for patent infringement as everyone scrambles to get the technological market edge.
The big news earlier this year was the dust-up between Macmillan and Amazon.com. Basically, MacMillan objected to how Amazon’s ebook pricing and percentage of revenue for publishers from ebook sales was set up. For about a week all Macmillan titles—both ebook and hard copy—were pulled from Amazon’s listings. So, after the big (metaphorical) staring match, Amazon seems to have blinked first, Macmillan got much of what they wanted, and the fallout from all this will probably change the ebook retail landscape for both buyers and publishers in the future. In this post John Sargent gives an overview of his point of view . . . make sure to read the follow-up comments at the bottom of the post as well.
While this is not exactly late-breaking news, this post at Joel Friedlander’s blog provides a succinct yet thorough overview of proof copies vs. uncorrected proofs vs. advance review copies. As the tagline at his blog says: practical advice to help build better books.
As this article discusses, within ten years most students will be reading their course materials on electronic devices. But, as a outgrowth of the same general idea above about ebook pricing, is this a business model that will actually sustain textbook publishers? (As a side note: I sometimes find it ironic that a guy like me who got into book publishing because I like books as tangible objects is in reality just some last-millennium dinosaur.)
As always, I hope you find the above information—culled from the articles and posts flying through my Google Reader—useful . . . especially as it relates to our primary concerns—and the concerns of a lot of people—about the future of digital textbook publishing.