Publishers, Books and Social Media

Tuesday evening I was listening to NPR’s Fresh Air program about whether the IPad and/or the Kindle might save publishers.  The show is available here http://www.npr.org/templates/rundowns/rundown.php?prgId=13&prgDate=04-27-2010 if you would like to hear it for yourself.

One of the big concerns of the publishing industry is that they cannot ignore the huge efficiency gains of publishing electronically to devices like Kindles and IPads.  However, many books are sold via knowledgeable store clerks at bricks and mortar stores.  These clerks do a lot of reading and generally have an idea of what books they think people will buy.  They are major purchasing influencers.

Nevertheless, the competition to be efficient has gotten so stiff that truly local, independent books stores are hard to find.  Publishers are in a significant quandary.  Their sales model depends on bricks and mortar, and their profits will likely depend on electronic delivery.

I think the only way out is to use Social Media.  I cannot say exactly what form it will take since Social Media is still evolving.  However, if sales is about getting people to talk, and you cannot afford a store, what other option is there?  So my advice to publishers is to start experimenting with social media.  (BTW, if any publishers stumble this far, A Site that Works, can build custom social networks for you to try.)  Create sites where people can share their book experiences, what they liked and what they did not, what other books they also read (with more links, some buy buttons etc.)

Some other pieces of information that I thought were interesting: Evidently, the Kindle and IPad are built around the notion that the author/publishing house have to agree to publish the book through the device and make specific contracts.  If I understand this plan correctly, it is a departure for Apple from the very successful model for ITunes. In another odd twist, Google is thinking of entering the market with a device that will not be tied to specific contract.  (Seems like that is what Apple did with ITunes and the IPod.)

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