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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Tic, Tic, Tic

Sorry to be late with today's post. Internet problems again. Argh!


The Kindle is still making headlines a year later. There's talk of a version 2.0, and other manufacturers are jumping in with cheaper alternatives.

And the chatter I'm hearing is even more interesting. People want multi-purpose tools. The I-Phone is coming in as a strong contender. It's got everything! Email, internet, reader, music player, GPS, and of course, a phone.

Again, the price is prohibitive. But it is getting closer to being cost effective, especially in a mobile society.

This brings me to the other debacle facing the publishing industry—getting people to read. I hate to be the bringer of bad news, but you are not going to change the habits of an entire society just because you buy them a book for Christmas.

I don't think force feeding books to a somnambulant public will work. You have to instill desire first. Rowling swept a world. Dan Brown riled millions to read. And Meyers made teen girls swoon for vampires. The one thing that sets them apart from the rest of us is that they got people who didn't ordinarily pick up a book to read theirs.

The publishing industry is hurting on two very different fronts. They, like every other industry is reeling from a burdened economy. They are also operating on an absurd business model whereby booksellers can return what they don't sell. Add them together and, well…you can see where we landed.

But there is a third variable in this equation. People aren't reading like they used to. The reasons are complicated but I think I can break it down to simple terms. Today's society is far more mobile and faster paced than it was 30 years ago. We are not the same people we were then. Tastes have changed. Life is faster and instant gratification is expected.

So how do you solve for that equation?

Firstly, books have to be aligned to tastes. Knowing the pulse of the public is nonnegotiable.

Secondly, books need to fit the lifestyle of the public. The avid reader is always going to buy. Instead, spend your promotional dollars on the occasional reader, the one who only picks up a book because her friend told her it was worth her time. Those are the consumers who will add real revenue. (We'll discuss where to find the non-avid reader in a later post.)

Lastly, don't hang on to the old ways because that's the way it’s always been. Life doesn't work that way, and neither does growth.

Which leads me to an article that was in the news yesterday.

I was deeply saddened to hear that the Chicago Tribune Newspaper filed for bankruptcy. The Trib was my very first adult job, so it has a very special place in my heart. I learned a lot from my first real coworkers and managers and that experience made me the manager I am today.

Newspapers, much like books, are suffering a similar fate. It's easier and cheaper to read online. Where is the impetus to buy the paper?

It was painless for me to switch to ebooks, but I hated to give up my newspaper despite its flaws. That was my morning constitution and comfort. I would get up before anyone else, have my little breakfast and read contentedly. Now like most of my other reading, it is simply more convenient and practical to read online.


Heather B. Moore said...

I usually sit with the newspaper for a few minutes each day. But 9 times out of 10 if I have to look up anything like a movie time, weather, or a sports game, I go online.

Maria Zannini said...

Reading the newspaper used to be my favorite constitutional. I still miss it.

What you said also brings to mind that buying advertising in print directories (yellow pages) has sunk to an all time low. People prefer to go online rather than use the yellow pages.

But while I was offline, the yellow pages were all I had to rely on to see what was available in my area.

The internet has taken over. If you're not in--you're out.

Marianne Arkins said...

Very true... my DD barely knows how to use a dictionary. You can GOOGLE IT.. right?

OTOH, she's a huge reader and has bookshelves full of books that she loves like old friends.

While I think we certainly are a faster paced society, the big part is in raising children who read. That's where we (and our parents, to a certain extent -- not mine, both of whom read and passed on the passions to their kids, but ones like my DH's, who do NOT read and, in fact discouraged their kids from reading and into physical activities instead) have fallen down on the job.

Thank heavens for the breakout YA!! Even kids who'd never read before picked up "Harry Potter" or the Traveling Pants series. Right?

I'm not sure I had a point, really... just gabbing. :-)

Maria Zannini said...

LOL! English was not my first language so it was a real struggle for me to read when I was a youngster. For the first 12 years of my life, reading was a chore, a burden that I had to overcome if I was ever to master English.

But once I did grasp the language--look out--you couldn't stop me. I felt like Helen Keller finally understanding what was on the page. Reading was an adventure for my mind.

When I was a kid (back in dinosaur days) we didn't have internet, ipods, or video games. Heck, I didn't know what a color tv program looked like until I was 18. Reading was it.

Today, kids have so many more distractions. It really is up to parents to point them in the right direction, especially when they're little.