A Million Little P.R. Boosts
The Undercover Economist

Freakonomics of the Publishing Industry

My thanks to computer book publishing veteran Juliana Aldous at Microsoft for pointing this one out on her own blog, The Jaldous Journal. I missed it earlier this month, but one of the authors of Freakonomics had an interesting post about the publishing industry. I found the reader comments to be more interesting than the post itself.

Be sure to check out Juliana’s thoughts on this as well, especially the last point she makes in her bulleted list: "Books that sell well at brick-and-mortar stores don’t necessarily sell well online and vice versa."

Excellent observation. Sure, there are plenty of books that do well at brick-and-mortar as well as online, but there are even more that seem to move primarily at one or the other. Sometimes the online success is due to web-based promotional efforts, as Juliana points out. I think other factors can play a role in this as well, including the sense of urgency and cheapskate factors. I, for example, am more inclined to order a book online if I don’t need the content immediately and I would like to take advantage of the typical 30% discount I’ll get from Amazon.

Speaking of the publishing industry, here’s another interesting post from Jon Fine of BusinessWeek. Although it’s about the music business, not book publishing, I think there are many similarities. One reader comment in particular caught my eye: "What has happened to the music business is happening to media as a whole. We are becoming a nation of 'tribes'. The blockbuster era is dead."

It’s all part of the “long tail” phenomenon, right? That’s why we have 73 different flavors of Coke and mass-market advertising is fading away.

By the way, if you liked Freakonomics, be sure to pick up a copy of The Undercover Economist.  I'm about two-thirds of the way through this and have enjoyed every single chapter so far.  Highly recommended.

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