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Yesterday at the Bath Digital Festival, a new event was launched. D:BATE held their first ever showdown between experts, on the subject “Digital Is Killing The Print Industry”.

In the Pump Rooms, the crowd was polled on whether they agree with the statement ‘Digital is killing the print industry- the presses will stop running in ten years’. The majority, 20 people, were undecided while 19 were against and 16 were for the statement.

The debate consisted of two teams of three who were fighting to convert the audience to their side.

Arguing FOR the motion were:

Chris Book (audiobook extraordinaire)

Richard Godfrey (who deals in making print products from online content. conflicted or what?)

Julian Gough (author and all around interesting person. Also, my notes say he was wearing a nice jacket).

AGAINST the motion were:

Mike Goldsmith (Future Publishing’s digital genius, again a conflicted position)

Sam Holliday (editor in chief of the Bath Chronical)

Robert Topping (of the beautiful bookshop).

Here are the best quotes to sum up the arguments:

FOR

“The Ability of the printed word is amazing, but why are we so wedded to this format? It’s a dead tree!”  – Chris Book (Julian Gough later added that “people think books smell nice but they don’t, they smell like dead trees!”)

“Traditional publishing is probably already dead, it just doesn’t know it yet.” – Richard Godfrey, who also compared this debate to one that may have been had before:

“Paper is killing the stone industry. Paper is easier, cheaper to make, more adaptable and easier to correct!” / “No no no, you’ll lose all the craftsmanship! I love the feel of heavy stones in my hand while I read…”

Julian Gough listing the things books have got wrong, “books don’t even stay open! We’ve had 500 years to sort that out, and they still don’t even stay open unless you keep your hand on them.”

“I do love books, but I don’t love the format I love the content… We want to hold onto the old thing because in the past change has always meant famine or war. Now it’s pennicillin or the iPad.” – Julian Gough

AGAINST

“The Sun on Sunday proves there is still a huge market for print journalism. If the industry was dead, why would News Int. have launched this new product, which has been a huge success.” – Sam Holliday, who also stated that “print will have to change and innovate… It may need to get smaller but it will survive.”

“Books have always been for niches… You have to sell the right book to the right person.” – Robert Topping, who also pointed out that “everything that was going to wipe out the book before (radio, TV…) has not managed…books won’t break or run out of battery.” He finished with the excellent point that “if you only read ebooks, what will your shelves look like?”

The way in which print is different to digital is that print “gives you memories, passed down for generations. (And yes, it smells terrible and takes up space.) Digital just doesn’t care. It doesn’t want to be collectable, it doesn’t ever look back. It looks forward, to your next purchase.” – Mike Goldsmith

“People want choice and digital offers that… (so) print needs to become better.” – Mike Goldsmith

RESULT

At the end of the evening, and using a very biased paper-based polling system, the audience voted AGAINST the motion that digital will replace print in 10 years, by a landslide 41 votes to 20.

5 voters were still undecided, perhaps because the general consensus at the end of the debate was that a hybrid of print and digital forms was the future publishing. And there was no little paper card for this option.

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The question of what should people be paying for ebooks has been raging since the moment the first ereader hit the shelves. Google and Amazon have now become locked into a pricing standoff which has created a storm of deals for customers, but may enhance some of the other problems on the horizon for Apple.

Huffington Post Books reported that  Google Play and their bargain-basement launch offers have caused Amazon to have a bit of a moment. Is this the dawn of a shiny new competitor for the virtual retail giant?

Google Play, which seems to be remarkably similar to Amazon in their product base and selling method, have opened by offering some of their biggest name books, movies and music for just 25c. Amazon have, in response, lowered their prices to match, thus reducing the appeal of the new venture and keeping their coveted spot as the lowest of the low. (In regards to pricing, you understand.)

In a slightly related tangent, The Wall Street Journal has revealed that there is a lawsuit pending by the US Justice Department which accuses Apple and five major publishing houses (including HarperCollins Inc.) of colluding to fix ebook prices.

The case suggests that the ‘agency model’ was used in ebook contracts: publishers made deals which allowed them to set the ebook price for iBooks, of which Apple would take a 30% cut. The deals prevented the publishers from allowing any other retailer to sell those same ebooks at a lower price, which has caused the anti-trust case to be filed.

Apple has stated: ‘Nu-uh, no way, it’s all Amazon’s fault! They started it! We are just refusing to play with them’. Actually, they said:

“Before Apple entered the eBook market, one competitor, Amazon, the nation’s largest bookseller, had taken 90% of the market by pricing key eBooks below their wholesale cost”

Apple argue that they are simply using a pricing method which will be sustainable in the long-term for both their company and the publishing industry. A spokesperson pointed ut that if they continued to challenge Amazon the prices drops would harm them all.

There has certainly been support from the industry for their stance. Many retailers and publishers have spoken out saying that any action to stop or reduce the impact of the agency pricing method will give Amazon an advantage. Certainly, there is a consensus that if the stack ’em high/ sell ’em cheap model continues then there will be nothing left of the industry to sell.

Just what people will make of the Google Play Vs Amazon price smash in this arena remains to be seen. The fact that it has only pushed prices further down, even for this limited period, will certainly cause concern.

The image based social network Pinterest has become insanely popular incredibly fast over the past few months. So of course there has been much fevered discussion about how it can be used by the publishing industry.

Many publishers including Bloomsbury, Penguin and Harper Teen are already making the most of the site and this article from The Bookseller (which I found via @KatieFQ) highlights the importance of sites like Pintrest for marketing books.

The article points out that

“according to Shareaholic, Pinterest now drives more referral traffic than YouTube, Reddit, Google+ and LinkedIn”

making it an indispensible tool for promotion. Surely, only a fool would not rush into this network of selling gold…

Or should they? The internet has recently been ablaze with the news that Pinterest has some seemingly sneaky clauses in their terms and conditions

What we have to remember is that many, many sites have privacy clauses we don’t expect when we sign up to them. Because Pinterest has worded theirs in a relatively simple way, people have noticed that they state:

“By making available any Member Content through the Site, Application or Services, you hereby grant to Cold Brew Labs a worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, royalty-free license, with the right to sublicense, to use, copy, adapt, modify, distribute, license, sell, transfer, publicly display, publicly perform, transmit, stream, broadcast, access, view, and otherwise exploit such Member Content only on, through or by means of the Site, Application or Services.”

The use of the terms ‘sell’ ‘royalty-free’ and ‘exploit’ in reference to member owned/created content has certainly got people in a tizzy. There have, of course, been a lot of people accusing Pinterest of taking the (picture of the) biscuit.

The most important thing to consider is that this clause is not so different from those hidden in the terms of service for most other sites. Yes, that’s including the terms of service for Facebook and Twitter. People are often shocked when they’re made aware of the rights companies hold to our content on the internet.  But this doesn’t necassarily mean all social media platforms are out of the question for marketing. It certainly doesn’t mean anyone should be afraid of Pinterest.

This video, from Tech Tonic, gives a great overview of the issue, specifically relating to Pinterest:

Pinterest and Your Rights

Within reason, that there is little legal or financial reason not to advertise and promote your products on Pinterest. Especially if you are already doing those things on other social media sites. But be sure to read the terms of service, or at least google for someone who has.

So, as usual, people who are making things are looking for ways to get people to buy those things. In the publishing industry that means getting people to buy books. Clearly. What is changing drastically is the way publishers are having to get their content across.

  For a long time, marketing for books was limited to print adverts and good reviews, combined with author appearances. The internet is changing that. Not only can authors meet and greet fans without having to leave their bedroom, but multi-media advertising is becoming the expected method of marketing any new product.

Because of this, book trailers are becoming more common for every genre. It’s important  to remember is that this is a growing sector of the industry and growing sectors need time to find their place. Book trailers are definitely still working hard to find theirs.

It seems to me that the biggest mistake being made with book trailers is the tendency to advertise the book as though it were a film. This is especially true of children’s books, where the use of book trailers over the internet has been spreading since at least 2007.

A good example is this trailer for The Alchemyst by Michael Scott:

Even though the trailer is well made and intriguing, it doesn’t necessarily make me want to read the book. It actually makes me want to see the film. Crucially, if I do choose to pick up the book, having seen that trailer will change the experience of reading it for the first time. I’ve already been given an image of the characters, places and emotions I’m about to read, and that is going to impact on my experience when I start looking at the words.

A more effective trailer, for me at least, is for James Thurber’s The Thirteen Clocks;

This, even though it is adding to the reading experience with images, stays true to the text of the book. I think the reason I prefer this method of advertising is that it is doing what a trailer does. It is offering a sample of the product to encourage you to buy more. That advert sold me the content of the book, rather than the content of a non-existent movie.

The future of book trailers is very much evolving. Fan made trailers (like this one) are one of the best ways to encourage a grass-roots readership and engage with an audience, and are particularly popular when it comes to series of books.

Over time, the effectiveness of the different types of trailer will be proven (or not) and publishers will start to create content which sells their books. Until then, I’m going to choose my books in the old-fashioned way. By asking Twitter what’s good…

UPDATE: Some kind soul over at Twitter pointed me in the direction of this trailer for Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan:

Another beautiful example of advertising a book through making the words the most important part of the experience.