Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Makinson on Electronic Publishing

Penguin Group CEO John Makinson sat down with The Wall Street Journal to talk traditional versus electronic publishing in an interview released May 9, 2011. Excerpts:
WSJ: Will there come a time when physical books are no longer published?

Mr. Makinson: No, I really don't think so. There is a growing distinction between the book reader and the book owner. The book reader just wants the experience of reading the book, and that person is a natural digital consumer: Instead of a disposable mass market book, they buy a digital book. ... I looked the other day into the sales of public-domain classics in 2009, when all those books were available for free. What I found was that our sales had risen by 30% that year. The reason is that we were starting to sell hardcover editions -- more expensive editions -- that people were prepared to pay for. There will always be a market for physical books, just as I think there will always be bookstores. ...

Mr. Makinson: This is a new market that can't exist economically in print. You can't manufacture, ship and store a book at those prices. But we as publishers probably need to participate.

We'll look at new content that maybe we can popularize in different ways. We'll also look at our backlist. Maybe there are customers for westerns at $1.99.
Read the entire thing. If the Journal's Web site wants to curtail your access to the article, remember that Google is your friend. Makinson's partial acceptance of e-books mirrors my own slight migration away from print. Thanks to a relative's new Kindle that I've had the privilege of perusing, as well as a kind electronic publisher who has seen fit to put some of my stuff in print, I think I understand the new medium a little better. However, I really do think e-books best serve those who don't need to intensively study a text. Due to a poorly stocked campus bookstore, I had to settle for an electronic textbook for a grad class last semester. Every with a search feature, attempting to find old highlight sections of text proved far more difficult than simply thumbing through a ream of physical pages. Short stories on a screen? Perfect. Complicated technical info? Hello, Mr. Migraine.

(Picture: CC 2008 by Horia Varlan)

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