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Photography – Kiskadee Flycatcher, Bermuda

January 29, 2011 Leave a comment

The Kiskadee flycatcher is noisy, aggressive and, with its bright yellow colouring, clearly noticeable all over Bermuda.

200 Kiskadees were imported into Bermuda from Trinidad in 1957. They became the prolific and noisy ‘Mafioso’ of Bermuda, seen everywhere on trees, shrubs and telephone wires. They are a major threat to Bermuda’s beautiful bluebirds and other birds as well as to soft-skinned local fruit, crabs and fish. Beautiful to look at, nonetheless.

For my photo of the Colibri Hummingbird of Martinique, click here.

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Book Trade; eBook Sales and Digital Reader update

January 23, 2011 3 comments

From January 24 – 26, the Publishing Industry will gather in New York for the Digital Book World Conference to debate the new technologies. I really wish I was going but, like me, you can follow it on Twitter during the coming week. As Christians in this industry, we simply cannot ignore such immense changes to our market. If you are part of Linked In, you could also join the group, Digital Book World.

Like it or not, the eBook revolution is here. There’s also a lot of puff around with some drawing parallels such as the shift from the horse to the automobile! Somehow I doubt it. Print is still pretty massive! However, a number of commentators, admittedly mostly American, are stating that this Christmas was absolutely a ‘change point’ in terms of the sale of eBooks. Barnes & Noble, the largest USA bookshop chain, announced it sold one million e-books on Christmas Day. The fact that they developed their own ‘Nook’ eReader has been credited with keeping them ahead of faltering rivals, Borders USA.  

USA Today’s ‘Best-Selling Books’ list demonstrated digital’s new popularity; their top six books outsold the print versions in the week following the Christmas holiday. Of the top 50, 19 had higher e-book than print sales. Perhaps not a great surprise when around 3 to 5 million eReaders were activated in that same week resulting in this surge of sales. The big question; is will it continue? It’s obviously still early days but insiders are predicting that by 2012 three in every 10 books could be delivered digitally. Publishers are aiding this trend by very quickly adding more and more back-list titles.

According to AAP sales figures in the USA, eBook sales were significantly up in November. At the same time, adult paperback sales were down 19% compared to the same period the previous year. Their release states, ‘eBook sales continue to grow, with a 130% increase over November 2009 ($46.6 million); year-to-date eBook sales are up 166%’. It will be interesting to see the December eBook figures when they are released as what starts in the USA tends to end up here.

Gartner predicted that more than 15.8 million e-readers will be in use by 2013.  Some in the industry have expressed surprise at the speed of this transition, which has quickly gained ground particularly in the area of mass market fiction. eBooks sales account for about 9% of the USA market. Bowker, the research company says sales may flatten this year but could still be twice as high as they were in 2010.

Within Publishing, there’s a lot of uncertainty about what to do about piracy and DRM (digital rights management). Should DRM be employed at all as it can so easily by cracked? Is piracy really such a threat to book publishers in the same way as it was for the music industry? The answers may be different depending on whether you are a small niche publisher or one producing high volume, high worth, popular titles. These days it’s just so easy to scan and digitise a printed book and put them up on a web site. For a really informative thread; discussion here.

Google’s announcement earlier this week of its acquisition of eBook Technologies, a company that sells the technology used to operate digital reading devices is fascinating. Google by dint of its size, power, wealth and global reach has the ability to utterly transform the eBook landscape. Already consumers can browse and search through more than 3 million free books on its site.

Publishers are on the defensive. As eBook sales rise, the unspoken question is; will authors still need a publisher? It’s just possible than in the fast-approaching digital future that it will be the (online) retailers who will come to dominate the customer relationship. Why? Because it is the retailer who has the knowledge of their consumer base. They have the ability to market a book far more effectively. Why has Tesco been such a successful retailer? In one word; Clubcard! Consumer data and customer knowledge are all.

The future of eBook selling may therefore lie with the likes of Amazon, Apple and Eden. However, as of today, there are no Christian eBooks for sale on Eden.co.uk. As I write, one site launching to sell Christian eBooks is www.10ofthese.com – so I guess we shall see!

But a way does need to be found quickly for small retailers to gain access to this market. Andrew Lacey from GLO has suggested something along the lines of the now defunct Crown customisable website?

What all this tells us is that retail as we know it will need to be reinvented if it is to survive. My view is that we have a few short months to act and make changes before the impact fully begins to bite.

Opinion; 2010 in review – thanks everyone!

January 15, 2011 1 comment

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 7,100 times in 2010. That’s about 17 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 54 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 103 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 118mb. That’s about 2 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was July 24th with 74 views. The most popular post that day was Book Trade; eBook sales v. Hardbacks – Hype or Tipping Point?.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, digg.com, twitter.com, who-will-win-fifa-worldcup-2010.com, and healthfitnesstherapy.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for cote d’azur, eze village, eze, marina bay sands, and queen mary 2.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Book Trade; eBook sales v. Hardbacks – Hype or Tipping Point? July 2010
13 comments and 1 Like on WordPress.com,

2

Travel – The Infinity Pool; 57th Floor, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore August 2010

3

Travel – Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games; Closing Ceremony in Marina Bay August 2010

4

Book Trade History; ‘Celebrating 200 years of Christian Bookselling’ – Part 1 April 2010
1 Like on WordPress.com,

5

Christian Book trade – 30th Anniversary; Good News Centre, Newent March 2010
3 comments

Categories: Opinion Tags:

Book Trade; eBooks – Leading Publishers weigh up the Digital Impact

January 8, 2011 1 comment

Having castigated The Bookseller recently for poor journalism, I draw your attention to a superb and in-depth reporting piece looking at what life for the trade could look like in 2011. Bringing together the opinions of a wide range of UK book industry leaders it looks at, amongst other things, the likely impact of digital sales on the industry.

You can read the full article here but I want to highlight the main points of interest to High Street book retailers as they face the imminent digital challenge.

Amongst the key points of the article;

  • Industry chiefs unanimously earmark digital as a key area of opportunity in 2011
  • Digital sales have reached a tipping point and will grow further next year
  • Those booksellers not getting a good share of e-book sales are going to find business tougher than ever
  • The main challenge lies in supporting retailers in an uncertain economic environment
  • However, nearly 95% of all books sold in the UK in 2011 will still be in print format

To my mind, here is the killer statement; ‘Growing e-book sales could lead to the Total UK Consumer Market being negative in 2011 as they hit 7% of the adult trade market’.  

Print may no longer be capable of ongoing growth. Fiction – in particular – and mass market publishing in general, is highly susceptible to this drift. How are High Street shops to deal with this change in their market? If print is dropping away, what steps do they need to take to get a bigger slice of the digital cake? If the High Street trade is not careful, it will be the publishers and not retailers that will benefit from an inevitable sales shift to digital.

Gardners’ respected commercial director, Bob Jackson, is quoted in the article as saying:

I think that the retailers who continue to focus on customer service and manage overheads will be doing the best they can. They need to stay very consumer focused. It won’t get any easier in 2011. We launched our digital service three years ago, so it’s available to every single retailer. I think the challenge might come more as retailers using e-books as part of their retail offering, I’m sure they [retailers] can be as creative as they have been to date. That’s the challenge’.

Faber Publisher, Stephen Page, said:

‘The big question is how retailers fared at the end of last year and how they will fare in 2011. Looking around the world I can see the retail environment changing and that change is not complete. Retailers have to adapt to a world with very powerful mass market retailing and online retailing and now there is a digital component too. Look at the REDGroup in Australia, Borders in the US. Here we have had a narrowing of the specialist chains to Waterstone’s and W H Smith, and it’s a question of how they adapt. Waterstone’s over the last nine months have been pursuing quite a different tack and it’s a question of where that gets them to. We all want a healthy retail environment. In 2011 we will see a hardening of the e-book market and a lot of people becoming habitual about reading electronically. We will catch up quickly with America – I’m estimating e-books will be 3-5% of the [UK] market in a year’s time’.

The long-serving chief executive of the Booksellers Association, Tim Godfray, stated:

‘This Millennium has seen a huge amount of change in the way books are sold and in the formats available. As ever, booksellers have shown great resilience and those who have adapted have survived. As we enter a new decade, only further change is on the cards. We face in particular three challenges. First, the Government cutbacks and the state of the economy; secondly, the digital economy; thirdly, the consumer having fewer leisure pounds to spend. But with challenges, there are opportunities. The tipping point concerning e-books has been reached and digital content is coming of age. The popularity of e-book readers demonstrates this. The selling of digital content is a threat to traditional booksellers, but it is also an opportunity. A lot has been written about the death of the printed book and the bookshop. Not far short of 95% of all books sold in the UK in 2011 will be in print format and booksellers will develop their offers, customer service and specialisations’.

 Victoria Barnsley, chief executive of HarperCollins is quoted as saying:

Digital developments continue to present both the challenges and the opportunities for our industry. E-book sales more than trebled over the Christmas period as people rushed to buy e-books for their new gift devices. And, unlike some, I really do think the growth of the digital market is a huge opportunity for bookshops—not only to provide a unique and personal service to book lovers, which is hard to replicate online, but to capitalise on the new readers these devices are creating. …  finally, I believe that we should all fight vigorously to support and encourage a broad range of retail options on the high street and online which hugely benefits consumers, retailers and our own industry’.

Well done, The Bookseller – some fascinating opinions and really insightful reporting. I cannot help but think that we continue to be in very uncertain territory with even the most able minds in the trade pretty unclear as to how that future may turn out.

However, I am beginning to think that the tipping point for eBooks is beginning to tilt – albeit slowly but surely.

POSTSCRIPT – If all this gloom and uncertainty is getting you down then read these recent comments by the Editor of The Irish Times;

‘Yet there are opportunities for the retail sector. Barnes and Noble in the US have really got on top of things with their own device and have encouraged their customers to become digital readers. They’re looking at sales of about $400 million (€308 million) for digital content in a 12-month period – and that’s impressive’.  He believes, though, that there will always be a market for print books. ‘It might not be huge. It might be down to 30 per cent of the market in 10 years’ time, but there will still be a demand for physical books and the browsing experience that you can’t get from Amazon or the Book Depository’.

Book Trade; NIV Bible eBook tops USA bestseller Lists this Christmas

January 8, 2011 Leave a comment

More news of interest to book trade readers as eBook sales continue to gain momentum. Zondervan has just reported its NIV Bible eBook (released on 15 Dec 2010), featuring the newly updated New International Version of the Bible (NIV), is the company’s fastest-selling eBook, and made it onto the USA Today bestsellers list.  The digital release marks the first time that a new Bible translation has launched in a digital format prior to publication in a print format.

Chip Brown, Bible Publisher at Zondervan is quoted as saying, ‘Millions of people unwrapped an iPad, Kindle, Nook or other e-reader during the holiday season, leading to an industry-wide spike in eBook sales, and we are delighted that the NIV Bible was among consumers’ most desired eBooks to download’. 

Zondervan claim to be the first publisher to have had Bibles available in Apple’s iBookstore at the launch of the iPad. In total, the company has published more than 30 Bible titles for eBook readers, including the iPad, Amazon’s Kindle, B&N’s Nook and the Sony Reader.

Travel – The Hampshire Hangers; Walking from Alton to Petersfield

January 2, 2011 Leave a comment

A New Year – and, for us, a brand new walking route.  A casual throwaway remark introduced us to walking the Hampshire Hangers. Nothing to do with aircraft, these ‘Hangers’ are a beautiful area of English countryside set in Hampshire in southern England.

The name ‘Hanger’ comes from the Old English word hangra, meaning a steeply wooded slope. The Hangers are described as ‘probably the richest woodlands on English chalk. Here the chalk that covers the central and northern parts of Hampshire abruptly ends in a scarp slope giving way to farmland’.

We followed part of the ‘The Hangers Way’, a 21-mile medium distance footpath from Alton station to Queen Elizabeth Country Park passing through Petersfield, Steep and Selbome. Hampshire County Council publishes an excellent little brochure Walking in Hampshire’ which states;

‘The Hanger Way has been divided into eight sections, each providing a really good day out. Choose between quiet villages or bustling market towns, meadow picnics or cosy pubs, steep hills with exhilarating views or cool, peaceful woodland. 

We set off from the lovely little village of Steep. We soon discovered why it was named Steep! The scramble up the side of the Hangar from Steep to the Poet’s Stone was truly vertiginous! The HCC brochure describes this section (from the other direction) thus;

‘Leave Hawkley and cross a stream to reach the medieval hamlet of Oakshott. Continue along the way and climb the steepest ascent of the whole path, from Oakshott up to the Shoulder of Mutton Hill. In a clearing on the hill is The Poet’s Stone, dedicated to the memory of local poet Edward Thomas who was killed at the Battle of Arras in 1917. Walk along to Ashford Hill, down into Lutcombe Bottom and along a boggy valley to arrive in Steep. The scenery is such that this area is known as ‘Little Switzerland’. Passing through the churchyard of All Saints Church, some tombs of Jane Austen’s family can be found’.

A superb walk in a beautiful area of southern England – well worth the effort, well worth a visit.

Further details (including maps) are available from Hants CC and East Hampshire Partners.

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