Discoverability and the move to B2C
Publishers are realizing that to compete with Amazon they have to be able to sell directly to consumers. One way they can do that is by making their books more discoverable. Joint venture Bookish is now almost a year late and nowhere to be seen, so startups are trying to fill the gap — for instance, Zola Books, a New-York based company that lets publishers and authors sell e-books directly, is launching at the show. Meanwhile, the always-interesting Peter Hildick-Smith argues at Publishers Launch on Monday afternoon that bookstores are still a crucial source of discovery for readers, and that SEO and social networks aren’t coming close to filling the gap. Just don’t expect the discoverability question to be answered this year.
The two elephants in the room
Those would be the Department of Justice, which is suing Apple and big publishers for allegedly colluding to set e-book prices, and Amazon, the presumed beneficiary of the DOJ suit. Nobody’s talking about DOJ loudly or on the record, but the lawsuit affects the mood in the Javits Center and makes publishers wary of throwing back too many drinks with their colleagues from other houses.
Amazon, meanwhile, is at BEA. Its booth (which is far from the big-six publishers, but happens to be right next to the Authors Guild, which should make for some awkward conversation. Last year Amazon dropped the Larry Kirshbaum announcement the night before BEA; this year it’ll be showing off the first fall books from Kirshbaum’s New York imprint.
E-books in libraries
Library e-book distributors OverDrive and 3M Cloud Library have been battling for attention this week ahead of the fair; OverDrive rolled out an HTML5-based Web reader, while newcomer 3M is announcing new partnerships — including one with self-publishing site Smashwords — that increase its collection to over 200,000 titles. (OverDrive has about 500,000 titles.) I’m still waiting for 3M to announce a bigger client, a big-six publisher — Hachette, Macmillan or Simon & Schuster — signing with the service to make its e-books available to libraries for the first time.
In the BEA Young Adults’ Editors Buzz panel, Macmillan’s FSG imprint pitches “Crewel,” an upcoming dystopian trilogy from YA author Gennifer Albin: “Gifted with the ability to weave time with matter, she’s exactly what the Guild is looking for, and in the world of Arras, being chosen as a Spinster is everything a girl could want…But if controlling what people eat, where they live and how many children they have is the price of having it all, Adelice isn’t interested.” And Quirk pitches its upcoming Harry Potter-meets-Goosebumps-esque series, beginning with “Tales from Lovecraft Middle School #1: Professor Gargoyle.”
What happened to Google?
Last year Google was a big presence at BEA. This year, Google Play has a booth but none of its execs are on panels, as far as I can find (though there is an education session about using Google+, “the next big thing right now!”). It seems that Google, which ended the partnership that allowed indie bookstores to sell its e-books earlier this year, is backing away from the e-books space, and that e-book rental service the company alluded to at BEA last year has evaporated into the cloud.
Come see me at BEA! At Publishers Launch on Monday, June 4, I’m moderating a panel at 11:25AM ET: “Agents in Transition: Direct publishing, new deals and rethinking sub-rights. At IDPF Digital Book on Tuesday, I’m doing a presentation on e-singles at 9:00AM ET: What they are, why they matter and what’s next for that format. And on Wednesday at 9:00AM ET, I’m leading “Apps for Publishers: The What, Why and How Workshop.” In between, you’ll find me on the floor and on Twitter @laurahazardowen.
Plus, don’t miss GigaOM executive editor Ernie Sander at IDPF Digital Book on Monday, talking about emerging models for content monetization.
Photos courtesy of Flickr / ButterflySha