Publishers Launch Frankfurt had a banner lineup, including HarperCollins‘ Charlie Redmayne, Osprey‘s Rebecca Smart, Amazon‘s Russ Grandinetti, Wattpad‘s Alan Lau, and Goodreads‘ Otis Chandler, among others. The theme of the day was how different companies and countries are managing global change.
In the morning, Russ Grandinetti from Amazon shared data about its worldwide ebook and print sales, with slides made available after the presentation.
Then, Otis Chandler gave some updates about Goodreads (since its purchase by Amazon last spring). Chandler says 45% of visitors come from outside US, especially India and the UK. And the number of employees has, not surprisingly, doubled in the last year. Growth is likely to continue when Kindle begins integrating the Goodreads app onto all the devices it sells starting this fall.
In an interview with Mike Shatzkin, Quarto CEO Marcus Leaver remarked that display marketing is growing in Australia, and helps supply data on consumer preferences. Quarto has, meanwhile, reduced its worldwide inventory by 20% in the last year. Osprey’s Rebecca Smart, who sells books through the trade as well as direct (including subscriptions), talked about the increasing importance of customer loyalty and lifetime value.
Michael Cader introduced Charlie Redmayne, HarperCollins UK’s new CEO who talked about necessary skills sets in publishing today, especially in marketing — brand development, online marketing and advertising; merchandising backlist; digital opportunities beyond ebooks and apps; new channels, including direct to consumer models; subscription partners like Scribd, and pricing.
Jonathan Nowell talked about how Nielsen‘s acquisition of Bowker‘s business intelligence unit will add useful data to Bookscan. But he also provided disappointing sales numbers that suggested the real competition is video, not the dominance of one retailer or format over another.
A panel of German publishers discussed the impact of the country’s fixed price law for print books on the ebook market.
Alan Lau, from Wattpad, said they are now at almost 20 million monthly unique users, with 3/4 of that on mobile. Click-through rates on ads are at 2%, and newsfeeds can go viral. One of the power users mentioned that author Meg Cabot joined the site and 5,000 users followed her immediately. Series and companion stories are doing remarkably well. Book clubs works, too. One Canadian publisher created a fan fiction story about Taylor Swift to promote its biography of her. Sourcebooks is involved in Fan Funding (think Kickstarter) stories that they will publish.
The afternoon focused on issues like DRM and the spread of digital publishing globally, especially in education. Several countries like India, China and parts of Latin America, are distributing huge numbers of devices to students, resulting in higher literacy and, potentially, more book readers. On the commercial market, the six year old new global gorilla looks to be Scribd. CEO Trip Adler talked about how its subscription model has already changed its users’ habits. With 80 million monthly users in 100+ countries, it started with a good base. Its $8.99/month service allows readers to sample, begin several books simultaneously, and read whatever they want. Only 2% of users read more than 10 books a month, with fiction the biggest category for all subscribers. Scribd just announced that HarperCollins has signed on for its backlist titles, though frontlist are also available for sale.
The afternoon wrapped up with a conversation between Michael Cader and Mike Shatzkin, highlighting trends (vertical category publishing, publisher consolidation, new subscription models, discounts and pricing, growth in global markets and rights etc.) and summing up the info-rich day.
All presentation slides made available from the conference are available on the Publishers Launch website. Also, there were lots of tweets under the #publaunch hashtag for the entire conference. (For those not in Frankfurt, it’s also worth checking out #contec13, the other conference taking place simultaneously.)