From The Wall Street Journal:
Every day, the company BookBub.com sends out more than 7 million emails pointing consumers to e-books that cost as little as 99 cents each and free titles as well.
A host of big and independent publishers list titles there, including New York-based Kensington Publishing Corp. The idea is to entice readers with a bargain, so they get hooked on a new author or series and eventually buy full-priced works.
Kensington’s chief executive, Steven Zacharius, says BookBub is powering sales growth for the company, but he worries about the long-term value of his catalog if he nurtures a generation that won’t pay more than a few dollars for an e-book.
“We know we might be shooting ourselves in the foot,” says Mr. Zacharius. “But I can’t resist because it’s such a good way to stimulate sales.” Every promotion the company has run through BookBub has been profitable, he said, despite the steep discounts.
. . . .
“There are more of these promotion companies, and because their reach has expanded, their effectiveness has increased,” said Liz Perl, chief marketing officer at CBS Corp.’s Simon & Schuster. Many new e-books from major publishers are priced from $12.99 to $14.99.
For publishers, the promotions are a form of advertising in an industry that traditionally has spent cautiously. There is hope the services could help jump-start stagnant e-book sales. A survey of 1,200-plus publishers by the Association of American Publishers found e-book revenue for consumer titles fell 11% this year through August to $964 million.
. . . .
The risk for publishers is that consumers could become accustomed to paying lower prices and only purchase titles when they are on sale.
“It’s an industrywide concern,” said Heather Fain, director of marketing strategy at the Hachette Book Group. It’s hard to know, she added, whether readers who are dedicated to reading bargain books will ever spend as enthusiastically to buy full-priced titles.
. . . .
Offering cheap prices via BookBub and its rivals is seen as a way to pull consumers away from Facebook and other digital temptations. On Dec. 17, for example, independent publisher Sourcebooks Inc. used BookBub to promote Scott Wilbanks’ novel “The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster” for 99 cents instead of its regular $14.99 price.
“We want people to discover this book and start talking about it,” said Dominique Raccah,chief executive of Sourcebooks. “When that happens you get a viral marketing effect.”
. . . .
BookBub expects to spark the sale of 20 million e-books at its retail partners this year, generating about $30 million in retail sales. Chief Executive Josh Schanker said heavily discounted e-books don’t compromise overall sales for publishers because they target a segment of consumers who otherwise wouldn’t buy those particular discounted books at full price.
“What publishers are saying is that they’d rather you read our book than play Angry Birds,” said Mr. Schanker. “It’s a cluttered landscape with more and more titles. Price promotions give publishers the ability to get a large group of people to sample their books.”
Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire) and thanks to Nirmala for the tip.
PG says that a career hawking books to Barnes & Noble doesn’t prepare a publishing executive to have a clue about consumer marketing and retail pricing.
Over and over.
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From The Conversation:
Tales of strange alien worlds, fantastic future technologies and bowls of sentient petunias have long captivated audiences worldwide. But science fiction is more than just fantasy in space; it can educate, inspire and expand our imaginations to conceive of the universe as it might be.
We invited scientists to highlight their favourite science fiction novel or film and tell us what it was that captivated their imagination – and, for some, how it started their career.
Bryan Gaensler, astronomer, University of Toronto
Time for the Stars
– Robert A. Heinlein
Long before the era of hard science fiction, Robert Heinlein took Einstein’s special theory of relativity and turned it into a masterpiece of young adult fiction.
In Time for the Stars, Earth explores the Galaxy via a fleet of “torch ships”, spacecraft that travel at a significant fraction of the speed of light. Communication with the fleet is handled by pairs of telepathic twins, one of whom stays on Earth while the other journeys forth. The supposed simultaneity of telepathy overcomes the massive time delays that would otherwise occur over the immense distances of space.
The catch is that at the tremendous speeds of these torch ships, time travels much slower than back on Earth. The story focuses on Tom, the space traveller, and his twin brother Pat, who remains behind. The years and decades sweep by for Pat, in a journey that takes mere months for Tom. Pat’s telepathic voice accelerates to a shrill accelerated squeal for Tom, as Einstein’s time dilation drives them apart, both metaphorically and physically.
This is ultimately a breezy kids’ adventure novel, but it had a massive influence on me. Modern physics wasn’t abstruse. It was measurable, and it had consequences. I was hooked. And I’ve never let go.
. . . .
Duncan Galloway, astrophysicist, Monash University
– Larry Niven
It was Larry Niven’s Ringworld that led, in part, to my career in astrophysics.
Ringworld describes the exploration of an alien megastructure of unknown origin, discovered around a distant star. The artificial world is literally in the shape of a ring, with a radius corresponding to the distance of the Earth to the sun; mountainous walls on each side hold in the atmosphere, and the surface is decorated with a wide variety of alien plants and animals.
The hero gets to the Ringworld via a mildly faster-than-light drive purchased at astronomical cost from an alien trading species, and makes use of teleportation disks and automated medical equipment.
The appeal of high-technology stories like this are obvious: many contemporary problems, like personal transportation, overpopulation, disease, and death have all been solved by advanced technology; while of course, new and interesting problems have arisen.
Grand in scope, and featuring some truly bold ideas, Ringworld (and Niven’s other books set in “Known Space”) are as keen now as when they were written, 40 years ago.
Link to the rest at The Conversation
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Twenty years ago . . . Forbes predicted academic publisher Elsevier’s relevancy and life in the digital age to be short lived. In an article entitled “The internet’s first victim,” journalist John Hayes highlights the technological imperative coming toward the academic publisher’s profit margin with the growing internet culture and said, “Cost-cutting librarians and computer-literate professors are bypassing academic journals?—?bad news for Elsevier.” After publication of the article, investors seemed to heed Hayes’s rationale for Elsevier’s impeding demise. Elsevier stock fell 7% in two days to $26 a share.
As the smoke settles twenty years later, one of the clear winners on this longitudinal timeline of innovation is the very firm that investors, journalists, and forecasters wrote off early as a casualty to digital evolution: Elsevier. Perhaps to the chagrin of many academics, the publisher has actually not been bruised nor battered. In fact, the publisher’s health is stronger than ever. As of 2015, the academic publishing market that Elsevier leads has an annual revenue of $25.2 billion. According to its 2013 financials Elsevier had a higher percentage of profit than Apple, Inc.
. . . .
Brian Nosek, a professor at the University of Virginia and director of the Center for Open Science, says, “Academic publishing is the perfect business model to make a lot of money. You have the producer and consumer as the same person: the researcher. And the researcher has no idea how much anything costs.” Nosek finds this whole system is designed to maximize the amount of profit. “I, as the researcher, produce the scholarship and I want it to have the biggest impact possible and so what I care about is the prestige of the journal and how many people read it. Once it is finally accepted, since it is so hard to get acceptances, I am so delighted that I will sign anything?—?send me a form and I will sign it. I have no idea I have signed over my copyright or what implications that has?—?nor do I care, because it has no impact on me. The reward is the publication.”
Nosek further explains why researchers are ever supportive by explaining the dedicated loyal customer base mantra, “What do you mean libraries are canceling subscriptions to this? I need this. Are you trying to undermine my research?”
In addition to a steadfast dedication by researchers, the academic publishing market, in its own right, is streamlined, aggressive, and significantly capitalistic. The publishing market is also more diverse than just the face of Elsevier. Johan Rooryck, a professor at Universiteit Leiden, says, “Although Elsevier is the publisher that everybody likes to hate, if you look at Taylor & Francis, Wiley, or Springer they all have the same kind of practices.”
Heather Morrison, a professor in the School of Information Studies at the University of Ottawa, unpacks the business model behind academic publisher Springer and says, “If you look at who owns Springer, these are private equity firms, and they have changed owners about five times in the last decade. Springer was owned by the investment group Candover and Cinven who describe themselves as ‘Europe’s largest buy-out firm.’ These are companies who buy companies to decrease the cost and increase the profits and sell them again in two years. This is to whom we scholars are voluntarily handing our work. Are you going to trust them? This is not the public library of science. This is not your average author voluntarily contributing to the commons. These are people who are in business to make the most profit.”
Should a consumer heed Morrison’s rationale and want to look deeper into academic publishers cost structure for themselves one is met with a unique situation: the pricing lists for journals do not exist. “It’s because they negotiate individually with each institution and they often have non-disclosure agreements with those institutions so they can’t bargain with knowing what others paid,” says Martin Eve, founder of the Open Library of the Humanities.
In addition to a general lack of pricing indexes, the conversation around the value of a publication is further complicated by long-term career worth. David Sundahl, a senior research fellow at the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, says, “We actually understand how money passed through to artists who wrote music and authors who wrote books?—?but it is not clear how the value of a publication in a top tier journal will impact someone’s career. Unlike songs or books where the royalty structure is defined, writing a journal article is not clear and is dependent not on the people who consume the information but rather deans and tenure committees.”
Link to the rest at Medium
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