Thursday, February 08, 2007


How Publishers are ruining the Book Market

Figured I would share some thoughts on the IT book market...

Traditionally, book publishers pay book authors a royalty of 12% to 15% of the wholesale rate on books sold. Lately, there have been more and more exceptions to this rule. For example, Tim O'Reilly only pays 10%. Publishers such as Springer Verlag have dropped their royalty on many books down to 5% and in some cases expect that the author should pay for the privelege of being published. A downward trend on royalty rates simply isn't good for the consumer.

With IT jobs going offshore where folks in countries such as India aren't buying books but instead bootlegging them causes downward pressure not only in terms of price of books which hurts margins but also effectively eliminates the ability for publishers to procure books on certain topics.

Ask yourself why haven't you seen many books on topics such as patterns, enterprise architecture, J2EE, etc? It isn't because these topics aren't relevant. The problem is that publishers are now chasing quick fix titles that have short shelf lifes. For example, if a publisher covered a topic such as AJAX, it would come out of the gate very hot and start its downward sales trend within three months where as the topics I mentioned wouldn't be as hot initially but the sales trend would be consistent for three to five years.

You should also ask yourself why aren't the people you truly respect in our industry publishing anymore? Authors don't make a lot of money to begin with but by publishers not paying appropriate royalties it starts to add insult to injury. For folks who will get it twisted, a quick visit to Bookscan will uncover that I am one of the hottest book authors in this field.

My last book was published by Springer Verlag and I outsold 99% of their books by factors. I guess I should be priveleged to be published by a publisher who also publishes Nobel Laureates whom when they sell 200 copies of their books is a big deal, but somehow I really don't give a bleep. In this model, good authors are required to pay for the expenses of bad authors.

Self-publishing is one channel which others can pursue but will consumers look for quality information or is brand important to them? It is funny how Tim O'Reilly has coined the term Web 2.0 but hasn't shared on it can be part of his own business model. I wonder if he only provides coverage of others but has no thoughts for himself?

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