Understanding Books – and the Changing Marketplace

Remember our conversation about the EDUCAUSE piece about standing at the wrong platform? I think I see some publishers huddled down the station, anxiously checking their watches.

The Economist has yet another analysis of Google Print and its “threat” to publishers. They buried the lead, though: the real impact of the Internet on traditional publishing is online sales of used books – jumping from 1% of market to 20%. (That was 2002 – I suspect it’s higher now.) Funny how that doesn’t seem to have made trade publishers reconsider their traditional practice of embargoing mass market availability for a year after hardcover. Now you can buy the hardcover at paperback cost within weeks of publication. If an industry can’t adjust to that reality, it has bigger problems than Google.

Luckily, university presses don’t generally play that annoying game of making us wait for the paperback. Which reminds me: are you all aware of the excellent “Books for Understanding” program? Wonderful lists of UP books that are ready to roll when an issue is suddenly in the news. Sign up for it today. I use it a lot for collection development, and faculty seem delighted with it too.

Author: Barbara Fister

I'm an academic librarian at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota. Like all librarians at our small, liberal arts institution I am involved in reference, collection development, and shared management of the library. My area of specialization is instruction, with research interests also in media literacy, popular literacy, publishing, and assessment.

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