Directly to the Public

Directly to the Public

An article in yesterday’s New York Times hints at what may come from publishers in the future. On two publishers’ lists of New Years Resolutions is an idea to sell their books directly to the public.

Edward Wyatt of the Times writes, “Last week, Peter W. Olson, the chief executive of Random House Inc., the nation’s largest publisher, disclosed the company’s tentative plans to sell books directly to consumers through its own Web site. On Friday, Stephen Riggio, the chief executive of Barnes & Noble Inc., the country’s largest bookseller, said that he was “deeply concerned” by Random House’s plans to enter into his business, raising the possibility of a growing rift between the publishing companies.”

In recent years, Barnes and Noble has increased its efforts to promote its own publishing initiatives, while traditional publishing houses rely solely on booksellers. Until now.

“The announcement of the new plans comes as the book business is suffering through a second consecutive year of almost-flat sales. The average age of book consumers continues to climb, and except for children’s and religious books, few areas of the business seem to be picking up new readers … “Those disappointing trends have led most big publishing companies to weigh new ways to increase sales or to reach new consumers. At the same time, publishers have complained that they are facing greater competition from Barnes & Noble, which has been aggressively trying to expand its own publishing business.”

It will be an interesting debate, but one that, for now anyway, is rather mute, according to the story. It has proven difficult to start online sales from scratch. But that too could prove false in the case of publishing. Deep discounts could draw a book-buying crowd. Without the bookstore in the middle, sales made by publishers directly go straight to the bottom line–no percentage of any sale would go to the bookseller. Perhaps good products at great prices may be on the way from publishers directly? We can only dream.