Friday, April 16, 2010

About BiblioBazaar ... and PL and PW

Yesterday was an interesting day in the publishing world. Publishers Lunch (PL) --the little engine that could--took a public swipe at the venerable Publishers Weekly (PW) .

Publishers Lunch, founded and run by the fabulous Michael Cader, is the weekday newsletter that combines news about the publishing industry with information about book deals and jobs in publishing.

Publishers Weekly is the 138-year-old trade news magazine now owned by George W. Slowick, Jr.

According to an interview Cader did with the New York Times in August, 2003 here, his PL newsletter began as his effort to keep track of publishing news for himself. He began sharing the information with his friends and then with others in the industry.
Nine months into doing ''the world's most unjustifiable hobby,'' ... It was time to pull out the philosopher's stone and try turning the lead of content into the gold of revenue. ''There was a business there somewhere,'' he said. ''I set off to find it.''
Ten years later, Publishers Lunch is considered an indispensable daily read by industry insiders. At the same time, Publishers Weekly was sold about ten days ago by its parent company Reed Business Information to Slowick, a former publisher of the magazine, according to Folio Magazine here.

Wednesday's Publishers Weekly had an article about the Bowker stats for 2009. That article sent me to the Bowker press release and was the basis for my blog on Thursday.

In Thursday's Publishers Lunch, Cader said:
For starters, in exchange for being handed Bowker's press release before everyone else (scoop!) PW mangled the story itself, claiming "Self-Pubbed Titles Skyrocket"/"Self-Published Titles Topped 764,000." Um, no.

Bowker's "nontraditional" category is exactly the same as what last year was called "on-demand/short-run" books. The only distinction ... [between traditional and non-traditional] is that ... for the latter, they were manufactured one at a time, or by digital short run, while the former were printed offset. So some "traditional" trade publishers issued books that appear in Bowker's "nontraditional" count. Just as important, the bulk of those nontraditional titles are not "self-published" at all.
Bowker's giving the "scoop" to Publishers Weekly is understandable when you realize that Richard Rogers Bowker began that magazine back in 1872 with his friend Frederick Leypoldt, who started the company now known as R.R. Bowker. That's some long-time and very deep ties.

Perhaps trying to redeem itself from the misleading "Self-Pubbed Titles Skyrocket" headline, Publishers Weekly had an article on Thursday morning about BiblioBazaar, the #1 publisher under the "non-traditional" heading in Bowker's press release. According to the Bowker press release, BibioBazaar produced 272,930 titles in 2009. Compare that figure to the projected number of 288,355 for ALL traditional book titles and editions released in 2009.

If you google BiblioBazaar, you'll find BiblioLife, its parent company. In the "about us" section, the home site describes the company this way:
The BiblioLife Network (BLN) is a project aimed at addressing some of the huge challenges facing book preservationists around the world. Namely, that the 60-90 million out-of-print books at libraries and archives are in need of digitization, descriptive data and relevance to people in the modern age seeking the knowledge they contain.
Sound familiar?

While Google has been getting all the press for digitizing the world's books, BiblioLife has been quietly partnering with libraries to digitize their public domain books. Then BiblioBazaar prints these books, using a print-on-demand methodology: "We only print books when a customer requires them so have zero waste in our publishing process."

The Publishers Weekly article reported:
... BiblioLife is one of handful of smart, new, technology-enabled companies driving an exciting trend in the publishing world. Working closely with libraries, archives and aggregators, the company puts out-of-copyright books back into good old-fashioned print, one copy at a time, using print-on-demand technology ... All of the company's content is in the public domain, and are basically "historical reprints," [Mitchell]Davis [BiblioLife's president] told PW, with foreign language books, and their "added layers of complexity" the fastest growing category of books.
It's probably no accident that BiblioLife reports that "Five of [its] core team members were founders of BookSurge - the world’s first global print-on-demand book retailing infrastructure that revolutionized the way “Long Tail” books are sold on the Internet. BookSurge was sold to in 2005."

By focussing only on public domain books, BiblioLife has been able to avoid the publicity Google's efforts at digitizing the world's books have brought it. But after the Bowker press release, I doubt BiblioLife or BiblioBazaar will be able to hide in the shadows again.

1 comment:

Miriamne Krummel said...

Maya: What else do you know or have learned about Bibliobazaar? Is there an implicit publishing directive other than getting books back in print?