In this Monday’s Daily Telegraph there was an article ‘Book Minnow Opens New Chapter in Publishing’, written by Andrew Cave. What particularly caught my eye was the graphic below. (Sorry that the graphic isn’t very clear, but it wasn’t included in the online version of the Telegraph, so I had to scan it.) You may be able to make out that the source of the graphic is ‘PwC’, which I assume means Price Waterhouse Coopers. This chart looks rather suspicious to me for several reasons. First of all the total volume in dollars remains pretty constant over the ten year period: $16 billion. The total value should be increasing with inflation and with the number of readers, worldwide. Secondly, the value of Ebooks & Print and Audio books will be equal in three year’s time; since Ebooks are less expensive than physical books, the implication is that Ebooks will be out-selling physical books by about 50% in volume terms. If this is the case, it’s the first time I’ve heard of it. And third, the individual plots are both pretty much straight lines. While this may be true for physical book sales, the growth of Ebooks has been anything but linear. Strangely, this graph was not referred to in the article itself.
The article itself was about the self-publishing house, Blurb, founded by Eileen Gittens in San Francisco in 2006. The company has a turnover of $90 million this year. The article says that Blurb has published 3 million books. Does Mr Cave mean 3 million copies of books?. And it says that “a new title comes over the servers every 2.1 seconds”. This would literally mean that Blurb is publishing nearly 15 million new titles every year. I find this difficult to believe, given the turnover of $90 million.
But, let’s set the numbers aside.
Blurb is a software-based company which allows the author to choose Ebook or print copy formats. The minimum order size for printed books is 750. Blurb’s online platform gives the author tools to choose layouts.
Naturally, Gittens sees many advantages her company has over traditional publisher. Not the least of these advantages is getting published at all. Blurb’s price includes its mark-up. “If the price of printing your book is £5 because you’re going to order a few thousand,” Gittens says, “and you’re going to sell that book for £25, we would literally send you £20 every time somebody buys a copy.” (This must be if you happen to have one of the titles that Blurb has for sale on its website.) Blurb also sells through Apple and Amazon.
I can imagine what my publisher (a co-op publisher) would say about Blurb. “They don’t produce their books professionally. They can look homemade, unedited, without concise layout or a professionally designed cover. Besides, they offer no marketing help, which we offer at extra cost.”
Perhaps the most interesting point in this article is this: Gittins believes many people could one day have their own book, as well as their own Facebook page. “It’s part of your personal brand,” she says. I think this is true. Many people would like to leave a record of what they have achieved in life. The only problem is: would anybody want to read it?