Thursday, July 29, 2010

Is reading a zero sum game?

Zero-Sum Game:   A situation in which one participant's gains result only from another participant's equivalent losses. The net change in total wealth among participants is zero; the wealth is just shifted from one to another. 

I ask the question, Is reading a zero sum game? because from the press I hear and read about Kindles, iPads or eBooks in general and the future role of bookstores presumes there has to be a winner and a loser because there is only so much that will be read in any format. 

I don't think that is the case.  EBooks are here to stay and will continue to evolve, but books are not going away.  I ride the Metro-North commuter train into New York with great frequency.  This week I shared a seat with a woman that went back and forth from her Blackberry to reading a hardcover romance book to reading on her iPad.  I noticed everyone with some sort of ereader also had newspapers folded under their arms or a book tucked into briefcases and backpacks.  Michael Shatzkin's recent blog was very interesting reading,  He simply did the math based on the expected growth of eBooks and extrapolated the fate of bookstores (Where-will-bookstores-be-five-years-from-now).  I think he raises some very real and salient points, but the premise only works if reading is a Zero-Sum Game.

For the 'explosive' growth of e-books, retail book numbers have been  mostly flat based on the monthly numbers from the AAP.  While people are buying a lot more eBooks and just as many are still buying printed books.  There is no doubt that the future of publishing will be digital.    Certainly all the current controversies in publishing are around digital issues.  The Wylie Agency stuff has been fascinating to read on a daily basis for the last week or so.  However I don't see that printed books will drop in a corresponding number to the total # of eBooks sold.  I may be naive, but the day to day examples I see - people still love books.  The Pequot library in Fairfield (where I reside) had their annual book sale, it was front page news for the 3 local papers and drews crowds from hundreds of miles, I did my regular home book purge in my company kitchen and 30+ books were scooped by by almost as many people within an hour.  I was at the Bank Street Bookstore in Mystic last weekend, it was busy and we bought books for our boys.  Even, if I did own a KindlePadeReadingNook and did read somthing like Matterhorn on it, it would not stop me from buying books for my boys or people from grabbing a good read in my company kitchen or people going the annual Pequot Library Book Sale.....

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

And the results are..........

.....mostly good to great, with areas that need to be addressed (which I will get into).  I am referring to the exhibitor and attendee results of BEA 2010 from the BEA Exhibitor & Attendee Post Show research.  It is critical information that is one of the biggest drivers in planning and strategy for BEA 2011.  This is a publishing industry event, so people do love to write - we received 40 pages of write in comments aside from the survey questions - well over 1,000 comments.  Every single one of them are read.  The comments that match up to the survey results are pulled out and held up when we as saying 'how do we fix this issue?'. 

Some top line results:
Attendee Satisfaction:  65% of BEA's attendee's are Completely or Very Satisfied. 
Attendee Loyalty: 71% are Extremely or Very Likely to attend in 2011.
Exhibitor Satisfaction:  62% are Completely or Very Satisfied (up from 47% in '09)
Exhibitor Loyalty: 69% are Extremely or Very Likely to attend in 2011.

There is always room to improve these numbers, but we are thrilled that 2/3's of BEA's exhibitors and attendees rate BEA so highly.  The numbers from what we term detractors (people who are not happy with the event, get no value and are not likely to return) has trended downward 3 straight years and is less than 10% of the overall BEA audience. 

Let me address the biggest complaint we did get, which was lumped under 'Organization' - that was the crowding and the congestion mostly in the Autographing Area as well as the show floor.   We have already expanded the amount of space for 2011 between the autographing and the exhibit stands.  We will have satellite signing areas and address autographing in booths so it will reduce the congestion around the show floor.  I promise - this will be fixed, you can plan that BEA 2011 will be easier to navigate.

I have to admit being confused by some results.  The #1 reason for attendees who love BEA to recommend attending  is "Number of Publishers & Authors".  The #1 reason for attendees who did not like BEA that would recommend NOT attending is 'Not Enough Vendors'.   There are other areas where we get conflicting data of people attending the same event at the same time have the opposite perceptions.  We will dig deeper into those, but please feel free to contact me to let me know how I can make BEA a better event for you.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

There is a glass and is half full of something

I came across a recent article in Entertainment Weekly discussing if To Kill A Mockingbird or The Catcher in the Rye were to be released in today's world, they would have likely been marketed as YA titles.  They raise an interesting point as to what that would have meant to their longevity and if there is a  bias in terms of critical success  for YA titles.   The thing I took from this article: for all the dire predictions on the future of publishing, the venerable 'old media' that publishing is deemed to be, it has the enviable postion of a growing and young fan base.  From Twilight to Lemony Snicket to Harry Potter to the Wimpy Kid to the Hunger Game books - there legions of kids and teens that are already reading books and the vast majority in the tradtional format, not via a device.  It is not a zero sum game between video games, the internet, television or music - a good product will find its market and a good story will find its audience.  

I am optimistic that as long as there are good books to read, the legions of fans from all the series and books I already listed will want that experience again and again and again.

Entertainment Weekly - To Kill A Mockingbird Turns 50