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Delivering books to readers in new, more accessible ways is the book industry’s new challenge. Yet few publishing insiders can claim to have pioneered new delivery systems the way Susan Danziger has with DailyLit, which offers subscriptions to regular book installments that can be read in 5 minutes or less via email or RSS.  Fewer still have devoted themselves to introducing publishing’s rank and file to today’s digital leaders. Yet that’s what Danziger has done with the free monthly speaker series The Publishing Point (formerly known as the Digital Publishing Group).
Susan Danziger

Susan Danziger

Danziger is used to looking at the industry from fresh vantage points. Trained as a lawyer, she began her career negotiating licenses at a children’s media company, before moving to Random House, where she headed up legal and business affairs in the children’s division. After spearheading a project to digitize thousands of the company’s backlist titles in the early ‘90s, she left Random to start her own literary agency, Fox Meadow Media, and then, six years later, DailyLit.

In this installment in our series on publishing professionals who are helping change the way we read, we talk with Danziger about the future of digital reading. For more background about DailyLit and the Publishing Point, keep scrolling.

What reading habits are emerging among your subscribers?
They’re all over the map. More than 60% of our subscribers change the default day and time that our e-mails arrive  – compared to 90% of people who accept the default with other subscription media. Commuters may start their day with an installment of DailyLit, or read it when they get to work; there are also people who read it on their lunchtime break, or tell us, “this is my 5pm martini”.

How do most people access DailyLit?
The iPhone is getting bigger, but last survey showed that most people were reading on PCs or laptops.

Do your readers seem to have different reading tastes, based on the device they are using?
We’ve been conducting a survey and people say that when they’re reading on the computer, it’s more for information than relaxation. I’m also hearing that younger people actually read blogs for relaxation on the computer. But DailyLit readers are  definitely reading serious books. They are reading and finishing Anna Karenina on DailyLit, saying things like “this is the first tool that’s allowing me to read the classics I want to read.” We have more fiction available, but nonfiction is doing well too.

How do you see the future of digital reading, based on the feedback you’re getting to Daily Lit?
It’s all about consumer choice and giving readers what they want. We’re just at the tip of the iceberg now. The whole industry will be completely transformed, and not very far in the future. I think there will be lots of options for people to read. Some will read a book in bed, or an iPhone app at the beach. DailyLit is one way for people to integrate books into their lives. As content is created for different mediums, the market for reading will only get bigger, and that’s where the fun begins.

How do you think the reading tastes of people who are in their 20s now will evolve in the next few decades?
My gut instinct is that books will be evolving in terms of content, and will emerge in different media. There will still be paperbacks, but there will also be a whole world of books that merge text with video and social media. We’re starting to see projects now that make use of the tools that are out there. But at end of day, it’s all about story and storytelling. Words will still play a big role, but they will be supported with visual and audio tools. Books as we know them will continue, and the great ones will live on.

Do you think Japanese-style cell phone novels have a chance in the U.S.?
We really want to keep DailyLit about high quality work. We want to make sure that we have content people can trust. We might open DailyLit up to previously unpublished work down the road, I’m definitely thinking about that, but it’s not currently a site where people can automatically add content they’ve created.

How will DailyLit keep up with reader tastes?
We’re in the process of adding more titles created specifically for DailyLit, and are allowing authors and publishers to create content that work well in the serialized format. We’re also developing lots of interesting technology to help market books and expand our reach to additional readers. For instance, we recently launched a virtual book club on Twitter, so that folks can read books on to the same schedule.

DAILYLIT Vital Stats

Laurels: Chosen by the Sunday Times (UK) as the # 1 best book website in August, 2009

Number of Daily Lit subscribers: “Hundreds of thousands,” says Danziger.

Number of titles read to date: More than 500,000 books in more than 25 million installments.

Number of titles available: about 1500 – including newly released and public domain fiction and nonfiction titles, language lessons, SAT prep, and original series, such as a “Wikipedia tour” of Greek gods and goddesses, and a fashion series, Shoes, Bags and Tiaras, which draws on book content published by London’s Victoria and Albert Museum.

Price range: About half the available titles are free, including classics and some new titles sponsored by their publishers. Short stories cost 99 cents. Full length books range from $4.99 to $9.99.

Partners: Publisher partners include Harper Studio, which entered a sponsorship making all of their fall titles available for free, and Macmillan, which is sponsoring a backlist push for suspense author Joe Finder. Non-book title sponsors have included H. Stern Jewelers and Gallery Collection.

Promotion: Users can link their DailyLit profile to Twitter, to automatically tweet about when they start and finish a book

Extern program: Publishing people who want to learn about digital world can join this program, which requires starting your own blog, usingTwitter and Ning to engage a community, and eventually presenting project results to Daily Lit.

THE PUBLISHING POINT Vital Stats

Launched: Spring 2009 as the Digital Publishing Group; Relaunched October 2009 as The Publishing Point

Mission: “The group is a way to educate and empower and inspire people in publishing to move to the next level in publishing’s industrial revolution, and to help publishers become more comfortable in this space.”

Features: Free monthly speaker series typically meets in conference rooms at the Random House building, 1745 Broadway at 55th St., New York City. New website includes community forums, a listserv, and a video interview series (first up: Cory Doctorow).

Members to date: 304

Next meeting: Michael Healy, Executive Director of the Book Rights Registry, to speak on The Google Book Settlement: What You Really Need to Know (November 18, 2009 at 12:30pm). Details here.

Speakers to Date:

  • Hanny Hindi, from Clickable, on Search Engine Marketing and Search Engine Optimizaton
  • Seth Godin, author of Tribes, etc., on Rethinking the Publishing Industry
  • Andrew Savakas, from O’Reilly Publishing, on Why Mobile Matters
  • Gail Harwood, from Martha Stewart Omnimedia,  on What Is a Publisher?
  • David Karp, from Tumblr.com, on developing books ideas via social media
  • Neilan Choksi, from Lexcycle/Stanza, on mobile e-publishing
  • Debbie Stier, from HarperStudio, on the future of publishing

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The presentations from the Making Information Pay conference organized by publishing consultants Mike Shatzkin and Ted Hill for the Book Industry Study Group are now up on the web.

Having attended the conference, I recommend checking out “The Customer’s Always Right: Who is Today’s Book Consumer?” by Kelly Gallagher of Bowker. His data-rich slides reveal fascinating customer behavior by age and gender that should be required reading for editors and publicists as well as booksellers, librarians, and media. In other words, a much wider audience than the publishing operations executives, indie and university press publishers and academics who attended the half-day program at the McGraw Hill Auditorium on May 7th.

Why does it always seem like the publishing rank and file are the last to be exposed to this crucial information? Oh well, I guess that’s where Follow the Reader can play a role.

Getting to Know the Customer

Gallagher prefaced his talk by arguing that we need to work harder to understand people who buy books, since they are buying them in new places and in new ways. As it happens, Bowker, one of the show’s sponsors, has a helpful product in this area: PubTrack, a syndicated consumer research service that delivers monthly stats based on responses from 36,000 book buyers–selected according to age, gender, income, household size and location–who buy 120,000 books over the course of 80,000 “shopping occasions,” and have signed on to answer 75-question surveys. Nice information, if you can afford it!

To his credit, Gallagher did share a lot of great information. For example, did you know…

Most readers now get book information online

  • 67% of readers say they find reviews online vs. in traditional print media
  • 54.8% rely on online/internet ads to find books
  • 24.8% rely on retailer e-mails

Seniors are embracing e-readers and e-books

  • Of Kindle owners, people 50 or older are the biggest adopters, followed by 18-34 year olds
  • 35-49 year olds who read e-books prefer doing it on their iPhones
  • But most people (48%) are still using their computers or laptops to read e-books
  • E-book sales grew 183% among seniors aged 65+ and 174% among seniors aged 55-65

Sales channels skew by age

  • Online is the #1 selling channel: 23% of the market vs. retail chains at 21%
  • Younger readers are big supporters of bricks and-mortar retail, while older buyers tend to buy online
  • 20% of all female buyers and 16% of female buyers 65+ buy books through traditional consumer book clubs

Here are more highlights for all the omnicurious number crunchers out there. There’s lots to chew on and discuss. We welcome your comments below!

Who was reading in 2008

  • 45% of Americans read a book last year
  • The average age of those who read a book was 44
  • 58% of readers are women
  • 32% of readers are over the age of 55
  • The average reader spends 5.2 hours reading per week vs. 15 hours online and 13.1 hours watching TV  (In 2008, going online surpassed watching TV as a primary activity)

Who was buying books in 2008

  • 50% of Americans over 13 bought a book
  • The average age of the most frequent book buyers was 50 years old
  • 57% of book buyers are female and they buy 65% of books (e.g. women buy books and they buy in volume)
  • 67% of books were bought by people over 42; Gen Xer bought 17% of books; Gen Y bought 10%
  • Of books purchased by those who earn $100K or more, mystery and detective fiction represent 16% of sales, juvenile 13%, romance 6%, thrillers 4%, and comics and graphic novels 4%
  • 41% of all books are purchased by those who earn less than $35K
  • The average price of a book purchased last year was $10.08
  • 31% of all book purchases are impulse buys

Who bought what digitally in 2008

  • People 50 or older are leading the way in adopting the Kindle, followed by those 18-34
  • People 35-49 prefer using their iPhones to read e-books
  • But most people (48%) are still using their computers or laptops to read e-books
  • While e-books are1.5% of the total book market, ebook sales grew 125% overall in 2008
  • E-book sales grew 183% among seniors aged 65+ and 174% among seniors aged 55-65

Today’s fiction consumer

  • Mystery/Detective and Romance account for more than half of all fiction people buy
  • Fiction buyers in every category are predominantly female

Where people bought in 2008

  • Online is the #1 selling channel: 23% of market, vs. retail chains at 21% (these numbers flipped in 2008 vs. 2007, when retail chains were at 23%)
  • 21% of fiction was purchased online in 2008
  • Younger readers are bigger supporters of bricks and-mortar retail while older buyers buy online
  • Traditional book clubs (e.g. Bookspan) still capture significant part of older adult market – 20% female buyers and 16% of 65+ female buyers

How people became aware of books in 2008

  • 67% say they see reviews online vs. in traditional print media
  • 54.8% rely on online/internet ads to find books
  • 24.8% rely on retailer e-mails
  • 15.7% rely on ads in newspapers and magazines
  • 21% of fiction purchases in 2008 were based on online awareness, with online book reviews the lead source of information (6.2%), followed by online ads (4.8%), the author’s personal website (4.6%), e-mails from retailers (3.2%), publisher’s website (2.9%) and online forums, blogs, Google and Yahoo searches (1.1%).
  • Fantasy readers and romance readers are more active on social networks than thriller and mystery lovers

Please feel free to share your thoughts below. And please join us tomorrow (Friday, May 15) on Twitter from 4-5pm ET for our weekly publishing discussion at #followreader. To listen to our discussion in real time, go to Twitter Search and type in #followreader. To join in the discussion, follow @charabbott and @katmeyer on Twitter, and include #followreader into your responses.

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Addendum to original post:

Matt Supko contacted me today and offered a note of clarification regarding the ABA/Indiebound’s plans for an IB iPhone app eBook purchasing option:

At no point has ABA been in direct partnership with Lexcycle.  We had been planning to use a publicly documented protocol which any developer may use ( http://www.lexcycle.com/booksellers ) to send ebooks to Stanza for reading.  Those plans are now under review. Otherwise, our ebook strategy remains unaffected.

Again, we’ll be in touch when we have something exciting to announce!

- Matt Supko, Web Content Coordinator, American Booksellers Association

Book curation is much on my mind lately. And it’s also on the minds of some of my favorite people.

Thanks to #AmazonFail, we now know that we can’t believe everything we find in search is everything there is to find. Automated lists based on alogrithms and key words work quite well to a point, and have their place in the world. But, when it comes to something as specialized as finding a book that will fit my interests and tastes and changing whims — I’d prefer to trust that kind of search to a human being who has made a professional career of matching books to people.

Unfortunately, at the same time that more and more books are finding their way into the world, more and more of the people who help us find our way through the stacks are finding themselves out of work. Ironic? Well, maybe. Depressing? Definitely. And, as not to be all gloom and doom on a Monday, I’m holding the sad stories for Part II of this 2-part post.

Today is all about the hope and happiness — and you can’t beat the ABA iPhone App for happy!

IndieBound on Call!

IndieBound on Call!

The awesome IndieBound for iPhone app announced early last week is my new best friend. It’s like having my favorite indie bookseller at my beck and call, ‘cuz with it I can:

  • Browse indie bookseller recommendation lists (The Indie Next List, The Kids Indie Next List) and bestseller lists (The Indie Bestseller Lists)
  • Search for books from a comprehensive database of in-print titles
  • Review detailed book information
  • Buy books online from indie bookstores
  • Find local, indie bookstores nearby, or across the United States
  • Find other independently-owned businesses, like coffee shops, movie theaters, and bicycle stores

After downloading and trying it out, I simply had to talk with Matt Supko, Web Content Coordinator for the American Booksellers Association and the guy behind this very cool app, and find out how it came to be:

KM: When did the idea for the IndieBound iphone app first originate, and how long did it take from start to finish to get it created/approved by Apple/and officially launched?

MS: Probably the first mention of an IB for iPhone app goes all the way back to last summer, but we didn’t decide to really jump on it until early December. I worked on it in my spare time from December through March (I do a lot of other stuff for ABA, too!). The backend, web service stuff was easy to do, but to make the app itself I had to teach myself Objective-C–that took a while! Then we had a beta test with some booksellers and some publishers and everybody in the office with iPhones frantically trying to break it. It went to Apple early this month; came out on Monday.

KM: What has reaction been among IndieBound bookseller members; iphone owners; and tech trade pundits/reviewers of new apps?

MS: Booksellers have basically said: “Thank you.” They’re excited, whether they have iPhones or not, because they recognize how large a market this is and what the future potential for independent booksellers is in the mobile marketplace. I think it caught a lot of people by surprise, even though Avin let it slip in his address back at Winter Institute. My goal was to make an app that was fast and fun to use, and everyone I’ve seen who has actually *used* the app has agreed that it came out well. We’ve had very positive reviews in the App Store so far, and I’m pleased that most people seem to immediately get what the app is all about.

KM: Rumor has it you will be adding ebook purchasing capability/access — can you elaborate, or is it still being worked out?

MS: Sure. ABA’s E-Commerce Solution is working feverishly right now on ebook functionality for members’ websites. This will be a complete, robust ebook solution with availability in multiple formats–notably Palm (eReader) and ePub–etc. Concurrently with this, we’ll release an updated version of the iPhone app that adds ebook search functionality and an “also available as an ebook” feature to relevant titles on the book lists. Users will also have access through the IB app to ebooks they have purchased on any ABA E-Commerce Website. Ebooks will download directly into Lexcycle’s popular Stanza app for reading.

I can’t give you an ETA, but it’ll be ready sooner than you think. I think it’s worth pointing out that, with the exception of Stanza, most other ebook solutions for iPhone (Fictionwise’s eReader, Amazon’s Kindle app) also currently require you to purchase on your computer, then sync to the phone. Further down the road, we’re planning to integrate ebook purchasing directly into the app as well, avoiding the hop to Safari.

KM: Philosophically, what is the ultimate goal of the IndieBound App, and does IndieBound have other such innovations in the pipeline?

MS: The goal of the IndieBound app is the same as the goal of the whole IndieBound movement: to raise awareness of the importance of shopping local, and to call attention to the vast curating expertise of independent booksellers. That’s really where I feel our niche is in the App Store right now. There are plenty of apps that will let you search for books, but if you don’t know what you’re looking for, they’re not going to be much help. Our app does both: it includes a search, and carefully-curated book recommendations. And that’s what we’ll continue to focus on even as we add additional functionality to the app. Do we have other innovations in the pipeline? Of course!

***

I, for one, am incredibly impressed. No, it’s not the same thing as shopping/browsing AT an indie bookstore, and you can’t get that sense of community via an app, but it’s a really great way to take some of the expertise housed in our wonderful bookstores and make it more widely available.  Check out the IndieBound app for yourself - but be warned — it can lead to major book shopping!

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