Borders has been having heavy financial issues lately so it's pretty loco that a) they're making this request and b) expecting pub companies to just go "oh okay, here!" and everybody's happy.
Couple this with the recent address from Simon & Schuster president and CEO Carolyn Reidy calling for "CEOs to step up and lead during the deep economic slump and warned that possibly worse scenarios may be on the way".
"Reidy reminded publishers that industry-changing practices, such as the concept of returns, came out of the Great Depression, and asked, “Are there similar industry-changing practices which will evolve out of the times we are facing?” What might evolve, in her opinion is publishers “taking a good hard look at returns causes, effects and practices, and coming up with ways to diminish or eliminate them,” as well as looking for opportunities to apply a consortium model for the distribution part of the supply chain."
Reidy goes on to urge "publishers to do the hard work of making entire [sic] catalogues available as e-books for electronic reading devices, to create possibilities for print-on-demand when a title becomes slow selling, to design new work flow and supply chain practice systems, and to delineate new policies to address complicated issues such as international territories, pricing, the security of copyrights and royalty rates for those formats.
While declining readership is certainly an issue, Reidy told PW that “now we have the chance to actually find the reader where they are spending their time—in front of a screen—and cement a relationship with them through e-mail newsletters, viral marketing, mobile delivery and other tools.” Publishing survives, she noted, because readers have a fundamental need for information, inspiration, and entertainment, “and they get that in a book, directly from an author, in an unfiltered way that they cannot get from any other medium.”
Reidy mentioned several challenges, including powerful retailers who have ambitions to be publishers. Reidy also wondered out loud that with self-publishing so easy, “is it only a matter of time before one of (the major authors) actually strikes out on his or her own?” However she affirmed that “editorial expertise, the desire to reach readers with great writings, skill and imagination, and the ability to figure out how to get writers’ words in front of readers,” will always be in demand.
And for goodness sakes, get rid of the bloody DRM! These are fabulous goals for big publishers to go for but it's interesting to note that small press pubs have already been there and are still working the system this way. I was recently shopping at S&S for a Kresley Cole book in e-format and I was jazzed at the prices they have for their ebooks. The only problem was the formats available, only three (Adobe Digital, Microsoft eReader & Palm OS) none of which are compatible with my phone. Hmph! The places that do have my phone format are at places like Fictionwise or direct from Mobipocket. The problem? They were higher than what S&S was offering on their site.
While there is a widespread scramble across the industry to take a look at itself then go forth and reinvent, I wonder if it's a situation of too little too late.
At the same time, I think we're seeing the slow collapse of the hierarchy that says ebooks and PODs aren't "real books" and the one's that write them aren't "real authors". Many authors with big pubs who aren't selling in big numbers may find themselves without contracsts, if what Bransford said is true about the coming days; but that doesn't mean the end of their career. Like I said before, writers will write no matter what because they have stories to tell. Readers will follow their favorite authors no matter what medium they move to and will be eager to escape in a read, especially in the face of these hard times ahead.
Like EditorialA says, "Hopefully this scare will help them revise The System."