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As E-Book Sales Slip, Publishers Invest in Print Over Mobile

Kindle users can switch between reading and listening without leaving the app - peoplewhowrite

Kindle users can switch between reading and listening to a book without leaving the app

Yesterday’s New York Times features a story that indicates publishers are no longer “seized by collective panic over the uncertain future of print.” In “The Plot Twist: E-Book Sales Slip, and Print is Far From Dead“, writer Alexandra Alter reports that publishers are, in fact, investing more in print:

Publishers, seeking to capitalize on the shift, are pouring money into their print infrastructures and distribution. Hachette added 218,000 square feet to its Indiana warehouse late last year, and Simon & Schuster is expanding its New Jersey distribution facility by 200,000 square feet.

Penguin Random House has invested nearly $100 million in expanding and updating its warehouses and speeding up distribution of its books. It added 365,000 square feet last year to its warehouse in Crawfordsville, Ind., more than doubling the size of the warehouse.

This outsize investment in shoring up print seems to ignore another finding in Alter’s piece—that “a growing number of people are reading e-books on their cellphones.” Shouldn’t publishers be investing in mobile; particularly in ways readers can seamlessly transition from print to mobile without losing their place in a book—same way they can with an e-reader and certain audio reading apps?

Anything could change as far as our collective dependence on our mobile phones. Yet another study could come out that details how the diodes of light our cellphone screens emit are searing our optic nerves, followed by a campaign to #lookaway or #shutdown and #spendtimenotselfies. But right now, telecommunications companies are investing heavily in content that can be pushed from mobile devices. It’s no coincidence Nigerian internet and phone data company Etisalat sponsors an eponymous literature prize. This in mind, shouldn’t publishers be paying closer attention to these trends and figuring out how to get in on or ahead of them?

Simon and Schuster President and CEO Carolyn Reidy is quoted as asking: “Will the next generation want to read books on their smartphones, and will we see another burst come?” I hope publishers are actively seeking and leading the charge in arriving at the answer.

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