Publishing/Computing Deja Vu

Elastic Path ImageElastic Path is a Vancouver based commerce vendor who not only "get" business blogging but prove it by doing it well on their Get Elastic blog. They recently did a video-cast on their thoughts at the close at the Book Expo of America: Breaking Down the Book Expo. Book publishing is a topic I've loosely followed for quite a few years, so it was very interesting to hear their take.

A large part of their discussion involved changing distribution channels. Their comments resonated with my memories of this playing out in the computer industry as computers became cheaper. The established companies struggled with whether or not they should use sales channels that allowed them compete with their own distributors. The book industry has many notable differences from the computing industry of 20 years ago, so direct comparison isn't useful. However, I suspect there's some useful lessons buried in the past!

And I can't help but think, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Or is it same crap, different day?


Hi Dale,

Thanks for checking out the video. I was really surprised that the book industry is still adjusting to the changing distribution options. Seems to me that the model is already out there and the smart booksellers should be embracing any means to inject themselves into new markets.

I realize the the book industry has hundreds of years of tradition - and some seek to maintain the status quo - however, the "we've always done it this way and its worked fine" attitude seems to translate into an adversarial stance towards the web which is viewed as the harbinger of death for the small bookseller. As someone who shops at dusty used books stores (both on and off line), I disagree and I know shops and sellers who will agree that the portent of ecommerce ins't *scary-bad* for indie booksellers.

Indeed, I think this lack of enthusiasm about web channel is preventing many imprints (of many sizes) to miss out on their (what seems to me to be) their fundamental goal of "get the goods out the people (and make money doing so)."

The short-sighted approach sees only Amazon selling the newest HP book as a loss-leader but, there are ways to successfully compete against the Amazons of the space. In short, "add value to your shopper's experience" - this could mean adding thoughtful reviews and opinions, maintaining a specific variety of authors or periods, bundling unique sets, cross-selling with other media, creating book clubs and reading lists, ask your existing customers what they seek .. then blog about it, build community around it and share resources with other like-minded book-sellers.

I was really surprised that the book industry is still adjusting to the changing distribution options.