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25 posts from April 2006

O’Reilly’s Computer Book Market Analysis

The O’Reilly Radar blog has three great posts covering the current state of the computer book market (look here, here and here). The third post is perhaps the most interesting. Here are a few excerpts:

Among the "majors" (Pearson, Wiley, O'Reilly, Microsoft, and McGraw Hill), only Wiley and O'Reilly outperformed the market.

Wiley was up 11% overall, with Wrox (up 116%) and Visual (up 46%) leading their growth.

The competitor we have our closest eye on is Wrox, which is resurgent under new management at Wiley.

Wiley picked up Wrox's top 35 titles when it went out of business. Wiley's strong performance with these titles (and new ones they've added since) shows how smart they were to cherry pick the list. While APress' growth has largely been driven by the publication of large numbers of titles (funded by APress' parent and distributor, Springer Verlag), Wrox is getting a lot of bang from each title, with average revenue per title in Q1 of over $19,000, vs. about $13,000 per title at APress.

Of the top 50 titles, Wiley had 17, Pearson had 13, O'Reilly had 10, Microsoft had 8, and McGraw Hill had 2. No other publisher had more than 1.

We here at WROX are of course flattered by Tim’s comments. My fellow WROX colleague Jim Minatel also offers his additional thoughts over on his blog.

Amazon’s “What do customers ultimately buy…” Feature

Have you noticed this feature on Amazon yet? I’m talking about the “What do customers ultimately buy after viewing items like this?” area on the product page. I’m not sure how long it’s been active but I just started picking up on it yesterday.

I assume Amazon has coded all their products with a field indicating which ones are alike. They then use the wisdom of crowds (again) and help prospective customers better understand what similar products are hot. I like the idea but I wonder what impact it will have.

For example, I’m looking at the product page for a Microsoft Press book, Beyond Bullet Points. (This book is currently #1 on Amazon’s Computers & Internet bestseller list – Juliana, I’m not sure if this one is yours, but if so, congrats!) The “What do customers…” section lists the following titles:

36% buy Beyond Bullet Points

17% buy How to do Everything with Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2003

12% buy Presenting to Win: The Art of Telling Your Story

9% buy The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint

8% buy PowerPoint Advanced Presentation Techniques

Makes sense. The #1 book on the bestseller list is also the #1 book on this short list. Hopefully this helps reassure customers that it’s a popular book and a good choice. But what about those books that don’t make the list? Look around and you’ll find plenty of these. What does that mean? Well, every book obviously can’t make the Top 5 list for a given topic, right?

I have no problem with Amazon (or any other retailer) reporting the top titles on a subject, but I wonder if it’s ultimately going to create even more of a gap between the bestsellers and the rest of the list. If you’re looking at the product page for title X and you notice that it’s not one of the 5 books listed in the “What do customers…” list, are you more inclined to second-guess your decision to buy title X? After all, 70-80% or more of customers who already came this way apparently picked some other book, one of the other 5 listed. Do you really think title X is the right one for you when apparently the vast majority of earlier customers didn’t think so?

Am I overanalyzing this? Perhaps. But I think this might be an example of too much information causing us all to act like a bunch of lemmings.

P.S. – I didn’t buy into the Amazon Prime program when it launched last year but I couldn’t resist signing up for a free 90-day trial membership today. I just need to remember to opt out by 7/19 or I’ll get hit with the $79 fee… Has anyone else signed up for the trial membership? I was surprised to see the offer – I wonder if it hasn’t been as popular as Amazon had originally hoped…

P.R. Honesty

Stacey Miller’s Book Promotion blog originally caught my eye last month. Her latest post entitled Does Book Promotion Increase Book Sales? is nothing short of excellent. Don’t click over that post in the hopes of hearing an expert tell you what percentage sales increase you can expect from a successful P.R. campaign though. No, Stacey chooses instead to be 100% honest and tell you that book sales aren’t her area of expertise and she therefore had no idea what number to provide.

Honesty! I love it. This is exactly the type of open communication blogs are intended for, right?

If you’re looking to hire a book P.R. expert I’m sure you can find quite a few who will take a stab at how many more copies there services will sell for you. Or, you can take a leap of faith with someone who’s going to tell the truth and do her best to avoid disappointing you. I know which one I’d pick.

My Publishing Swicki

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve got a fascination with the wisdom of crowds, the benefits of digg over Slashdot, etc. Thanks to Mark Cuban’s blog I just discovered a search tool that leverages the tendencies of others: Eurekster’s swicki.

This is a cool technology and one that could indeed impact Google. Eurekster is so convinced that their search results are more relevant and better sorted that they even offer a “compare results to Google” button on every results page. Go ahead, try it out. I built a publishing-focused swicki for my own blog in about 2 minutes (see the top right corner of the page).

What’s Your “Google Plan”?

Whether you’re an author, publisher or playing some other role in this business, you need to ask yourself “What’s my Google Plan”? Let’s face it. Google continues to grow and grow, expanding and investing in many areas inside and outside of search. They’ve quickly become what is arguably the most important technology company since Microsoft. So what’s your “Google Plan”?

You’re either “with” Google or you’re competing “against” them. You might be both for and against, I suppose. Any of those three choices is far better than the fourth one: Ignoring Google. I can almost guarantee you that option #4 leads to extinction.

Far too many answers that used to be found almost exclusively in a book, magazine or other print product are now being found in a much faster, easier and often free way via Google. What are you doing about that? Are you leveraging the 800-pound gorilla and all the eyeballs it represents? Are you coming at it from a different angle?

Here are three common myths that might cause you to ignore this question:

It’s not my responsibility and I’m sure someone else must be working on this in my organization. (Don’t count on it – there’s a lot of denial out there!)

Google won’t be the king forever. If I wait long enough someone will knock them off. (So what? Even if that happens you’re still faced with the same problem: Easy and often free solutions online!)

Our products are available in all formats, not just print. (What percentage of your sales is coming from non-print products? If you’re not rapidly closing in on 50% of your sales coming from non-print products I would argue that you haven’t solved the problem. Don’t feel overly comfortable just because you happen to offer your print product in e-book formats as well; e-books aren’t the answer today and who knows if they ever will be?)

What’s my “Google Plan”? It contains bits and pieces from option #3, both “for” and “against”. I’m sometimes guilty of believing any/all of the myths stated above though, so I think I need to spend more time asking my colleagues and myself “What’s Our Google Plan”?