BookExpo Has A Word for 2015: Subscriptions

Andrew AlbaneseFor a business with a global, contemporary outlook like book publishing, BookExpo America is full of small ironies. Print has regained some of its lost luster quite recently, while educational programming remains focused on the digital. And though China has  prominent presence as this year’s Global Market Forum “guest of honor,” BEA is very bit a New York, New York production.

“In a year of change I expected more issues and complaints, frankly. Yet I think it was a good show,” says Andrew Albanese, Publishers Weekly senior writer. “The booksellers we spoke to were quite enthusiastic; the show floor seemed bus;, the librarians in the library lounge were quite happy.”

Each year, BEA sees one topic gain the lion’s share of attention among publishers as well as the media, and like e-readers and twitter before, the word for 2015 was “subscriptions.” Not everyone liked what they heard, though the consensus seemed upbeat.

“In the age of tablets and phones, subscriptions make reading work the same way other content works—be it Netflix, or Spotify,” he tells CCC’s Chris Kenneally. “I thought Scribd’s Andrew Weinstein was particularly persuasive: under Scribd’s model, subscribers can browse and read books at will; when a reader hits a certain point, the publisher gets paid their full retail share—as opposed to a piece of a revenue share.

“Of course, the question publishers want to answer is whether that is a sustainable business model. So far, yes, it is—  because most users are reading less than two books a month.”

Every Friday, CCC’s “Beyond the Book” speaks with the editors and reporters of “Publishers Weekly” for an early look at the news that publishers, editors, authors, agents and librarians will be talking about when they return to work on Monday.

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