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The OUPblog on Publishing's "Upper Hand"

Oupblog_2Evan Schnittman of the Oxford University Press blog recently featured this post about the current state and future of book publishing.  He talks about three important reasons why the book publishing industry finds itself in a very favorable position with some of the world's largest technology companies: discoverability, print on demand (POD) and deep repositories of content.

On the discoverability front, Schnittman talks about the ongoing battle for search supremacy between Google and Microsoft.  It doesn't seem like a fair fight given Google's dominance, but at least that hasn't stopped Microsoft from trying (e.g., Live Search Books).  Improving the book search and discovery experience probably isn't anywhere near the top on either company's priority list but it's been fun watching each one try to leapfrog the other with new features.  New features likely lead to more exposure and discoverability, both of which are important in the content world...assuming this all leads to new revenue streams in the form of book sales or advertising income.

Schnittman's comments about POD are valid, but I still think the dramatic change to this playing field won't happen till POD equipment is cheap enough to sit in the back room of your local bookstore.  The value of POD isn't that significant if you still have to wait a day or two for your book; instant gratification could be POD's "killer application" and help level the scales between online and brick-and-mortar stores.


Timothy Fish

It is still anyone’s guess how things will turn out with POD, but I think the big winners will be Ingram, Amazon, Wal-mart and Target. When in-store POD becomes cost effective, it would not surprise me to see Ingram and Amazon partnering with Wal-mart and Target to install machines that will print any book that is in their print ready database. Amazon may be the big winner because they already have a customer base that might be interested in buying online and then picking up the book at Wal-mart or Target.

Even now, I do not see a the waiting period between ordering a book and receiving it as a major problem. More and more people are shopping online. People who read a lot often have several books that they have not started yet. I think most readers are happy if they get the book within the next few days. I may be a bad example, but I have a $25 gift card from Christmas 2006 that I have not used because I keep forgetting to go to Barnes and Noble when I have the time to do it. It takes five minutes out of my day to order a book from Amazon.com, but it takes and hour to buy a book from a Barnes and Noble store.

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