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Are Book Publishers Going the Way of the Railroads?

Over 72% of publishers surveyed on the impact of digitization on book publishing by the Frankfurt Book Fair and the German trade magazine Buchreport said the development of new business models, new multimedia products and effective marketing strategies are the biggest challenges facing publishers as they transition from print to digital.

Duh! The publishers are slow to react to the changing customer demands.

The publisher’s lateness to the party reminds me of the train industry’s reaction to the airplane. Railroad companies ignored the airplane until it was too late, and air travel replaced the railroads for passenger travel and some forms of shipping.

The railroad companies realized too late that they were in the transportation business, not the railroad business. If railroad companies had realized this earlier, we would have had Union Pacific Airlines and Burlington Northern Airlines instead of American Airlines and United Airlines.

The book publishers are in the information business, not the book business. If they had realized this earlier on, they would have made the transition to e-books and other digital forms of communication more easily. Instead, they find themselves wringing their hands and searching for new business models to catch up to consumers’ demands that have already passed them by.

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Comment by Jeff Howe on December 31, 2009 at 7:53am
The same can be said about the recording industry. Turns out they were in distribution, not creation. It isn't uncommon for new technologies to outpace traditional business models. Newspapers and television networks are still trying to figure out the transition to e-based models, and, even more so, how to monetize the new model. It's an age of transition that won't be complete any time soon.

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