Monday, June 09, 2008

Richard Curtis Has a Blog

I've mentioned literary agent Richard Curtis numerous times on this blog dating back to October 7, 2005 here.

In my humble opinion, Curtis is a very smart man as well as a publishing industry visionary. Since he periodically posts articles on Backspace here, I dropped by there last night to see if he had anything to say about Amazon.

As I poked around, I found a reference to a site I'd not encountered before: e-Reads. Apparently Curtis created e-Reads as an online publisher in 1999.

Of more interest to me was the e-Reads blog here.

Curtis has had a couple of brief mentions of Amazon this month on the blog. On June 2, he said:
At Book Expo America, . . . attention focused on the fact that one of the few areas that is growing at a double digit--indeed, at an exponential--rate is e-book sales on the Kindle. And, according to the New York Times, the publishers are genuinely nervous. The Times pointed out that "...excitement about the Kindle, which was introduced in November, also worries some publishing executives, who fear Amazon’s still-growing power as a bookseller."

Worried they should be. Surprised they should not. They have had ten years to ponder the meaning of the soaring growth of e-book sales and spent half of that decade deriding the trend as a flash in the pan. Now they're rushing to put their backlists into e-book format even as they are haunted by the prospect that e-book sales undercut the profits they make from sales of traditional printed books . . .

But publishers are still missing the point, which is that profits from printed books are hamstrung by a wasteful retail system that takes back one copy for every two distributed. The beauty of e-books is minimal distribution costs and zero returns.

Curtis also directed his blog readers to a post dated May 22 in which B&N CEO Stephen Riggio talked about "the insanity" of the book returns system.

You can read that post here.

I addressed the issue of returns in a post on April 7th in response to Bob Miller's announcement that he'd be starting a new imprint for HarperCollins that would take a new approach to bookstore returns and large advances. You can read that post here.

1 comment:

Peter L. Winkler said...

Richard Curtis is a nice guy who once spent a few minutes going through his files to try and help me locate information about a defunct paperback publisher from the 70s.

That having been said, the problem of returns is like the weather. Everybody talks about it, but nobody does anything about it.

William Jovanovich of HBJ, tried in the 70s and was rebuked by booksellers. Since then, no publisher, no matter how big, has had the courage to buck the chain bookstores by announcing non-returnability for book from all that publisher's imprints.