Future Uncertain For Book Startups

Laura Hazard OwenThe business of publishing is in disarray and experiencing disruption, but for a generation of whiz kids, that’s the good news. They see opportunity. If and when they can find venture capital, they pursue their dreams of paradigm shifts with energy and enthusiasm. Never mind Amazon, never mind Apple, never mind even the Big Five.

What does it take to survive and thrive if you’re a book startup? And what are the odds of proving the doubters wrong? In a recent essayLaura Hazard OwenGigaOm news editor, offered several keen observations.

“I started writing about book publishing about six years ago. It seemed to me then that we might see a startup emerge, and be able now to look back and say, wow, that business came along and changed publishing – book publishing – as we know it,” she remembers. “And six years later, I really haven’t seen a startup that has done that. One of the main reasons I believe is that Amazon is still the chief disrupter out there. Amazon is not a startup anymore – it’s a 20-year-old, multi-billion-dollar company – but it is still innovating in the e-book space and the publishing space in a way that other companies find very hard to compete with.

Raise the subject of media companies, and many automatically dismiss them as a dying breed. But as Owen tells CCC’s Chris Kenneally, the book world is set apart.

“The book world is markedly different from the newspaper world. For one, book publishing is doing fairly well – at least relative to the sorry state of newspaper publishing,” she explains. “When you stop and look at the earnings reports coming out of these publishers’ parent companies – the ones that do release those, at any rate – you can see that these companies are actually doing pretty well – that their profits are increasing, thanks in part to e-books, even if their revenues are flat.”

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