Why I’m Bullish about Printed Books

The future for print books is strong and ripe with opportunity

Why I'm Bullish about Printed BooksMichael Weinstein, in his “Publishing Panorama” blog at BookBusinessMag.com, posted this headline: “Report from the Publishing Business Conference: This Just In: Sky Not Falling!” This was four years ago. I think his conclusions are even more true today.

Citing many credible and reputable sources, he builds a case for a strong future in print publishing, quite contrary to the naysayers who frequently spout, “Print is dead.”

Two of his key takeaways are “Real quality matters more than ever. Never forget what beautiful objects books are,” and “the world does not need another book, it does need another original and well-done book.”

He concludes his comments by saying, “We’re publishing differently; we might be delivering some content differently. But passion still counts and quality will always count most of all.

Although the book publishing industry is undergoing great change, this does not have to be a bad thing. With change comes opportunity and for those who are willing to adjust their thinking to include new perspectives, the opportunities are many. So don’t believe those who warn that the publishing sky is falling; it’s simply not true.

Do Readers Want Digital Instead of Print?

Do Readers Want Digital Instead of Print?There is a lot of hype and excitement about reading magazines and books electronically. All variety of statistics are being bandied about to support the deluge of digital. Studies are being conducted and consultants are consulting. There is euphoria over electronic reading.

But is it warranted? While digital reading is a tantalizing development and may someday change the way people interact with the written word, that day is not yet here. Consider some stats that I have stumbled upon from the magazine industry:

  • One magazine found that 75 percent of readers would not give up their print magazine. That means, the magazine can’t risk going fully digital.
  • A survey of magazine publishers over the performance of their digital editions found that 38% were “somewhat dissatisfied” and 22% were “extremely dissatisfied.” That means that among publishers, a full 60% are not happy with digital.
  • In another study, 61.5% of magazine publishers aren’t even sure how they can generate enough revenue to cover the costs of digital.

So, based on these stats, the majority of readers don’t want to read digitally, the majority of publishers are not happy with digital, and the majority of publishers don’t even know how they can financially support digital.

Going digital may be exciting, but the numbers are not behind it and the masses don’t support it — at this time.

Given this, shouldn’t the focus be on print?

How to Format Web Addresses in Books

Authors advised to format web addresses to ensure readability and usability

Three Tips to Formatting URLsWhen a book includes a web address, either in the text, a footnote, or in the front and back material, how it is formatted is important. There are two considerations: readability and usability.

Readability: When a reader comes across a web address (sometimes called a URL or uniform resource locator) it should not slow down the reader or imped the flow of the text. Having it in blue and underlined, as is the traditional method for websites, does not look good in a book. Black text and no underline is ideal in this regard for print books.

If the author has control over the web address, here are two tips:

  • Make it short
  • Use all lowercase

Of course if the link is a reference to another site, authors cannot make these adjustments and must use the source as presented. Some web addresses are unwieldy and dramatically reduce readability. If possible avoid these behemoths in your text.

Usability: The other consideration is usability. When the book appears in an e-reader (or PDF file) the link must be clickable.

  • Web addresses should start with www. or http://. If they don’t initially have one of these two prefixes, check which one works (usually they both will) and add it. This will ensure the web address will convert to a clickable link.
  • Subdomains in the format of “subdomain.yoursite.com” will usually not convert to a clickable link, either. In books always precede a subdomain with http:// as in “http://subdomain.yoursite.com”

If you follow these steps, when you make an ebook or PDF document, the web addresses will automatically convert to a clickable link. By default the text will usually change to blue and may be underlined. While this does affect readability to some extent, it confirms to readers that the link is active.

Following these simple steps will ensure web addresses in your book are both readable and usable. Your readers will appreciate this.

What thoughts do you have when including web addresses in books? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

What’s the Future for US Mail Delivery?

The future of mail delivery in the United States is murky. This gives magazine publishers and direct mail marketers much to be concerned about, including increased deliver times and costs, fewer options, and overall more uncertainty. Consider that:

  • Currently the number of distribution centers are being slashed. This will increase efficiency but also add one day to most deliveries.
  • Routes will be lengthened. This means that mail will arrive later. Currently our Monday mail often arrives after the business day is over. And if there’s a snowstorm it may not be until after 8 or 9 pm. If our carrier is given an additional 10 or 20% stops to make, how much more will mail be delayed?
  • Saturday mail delivery may be stopped altogether. This will mean more mail needing to be delivered on Monday with even later delivery times. Plus if Monday happens to be a holiday, then there will be even greater pent-up volume for Tuesday. Remember that mail will still be entering the mail stream over the weekend, it’s just that it will have no place to go.
  • Some post offices are being closed and more will likely be closed. That means more time and costs will be incurred when you need to go to the post office.
  • Rates will need to be increased, but no one knows how much.

The wise mailers are already looking for options and contingencies. Unfortunately, this will serve to remove even more mail from the system — and less volume is exactly what the US Post Office doesn’t need.

RIP Maghound: A Great Idea with One Problem

I’ve been a big fan of the “magazine membership services” website Maghound. With Maghound you select which magazines you wish to receive each month, are charged a fixed monthly fee, and they handle everything else. As a nice side-effect, the publisher doesn’t harass you with endless premature renewal notices or other annoying mailings.

Although I loved the service, there was one wrinkle. The model was built on the assumption of a monthly publication schedule, but few magazines come out monthly any more. Instead of simply charging less for those months, Maghound’s solution was a “substitute list,” which would provide a backup magazine when your preferred one was taking the month off.

Despite this small annoyance, I was greatly dismayed when Maghound emailed me the beginning of February to tell me they were shutting down the service, effective April 30.

Frustrated that I would need to resume interacting with individual publishers and endure their incessant mailings, I happily discovered that Amazon has a comparable magazine service. Interestingly, they handle theirs by the year, not the month.

So I am all set up with Amazon as my new magazine subscription provider, but I will miss Maghound, a great idea that didn’t quite work out.

Magazine Growth Shows Print is Not Dead

You may be surprised to learn that for the first quarter of 2011, there were more magazines started then for the year prior.

Even more telling is that the number of launches far exceed the number of magazines that folded, which remained about the same as the prior year.

This means that there is a net year-to-year growth for magazines, with more startups but about the same number of shutters.

I guess they didn’t buy into the oft-quoted “wisdom” that print is dead.

Not only is print not dead, but it is alive and thriving!

Twelve Facts About Magazines

The following is from the 2010/11 MPA Magazine Handbook:

Magazine audiences are growing – and young adults read heavily: The number of magazine readers has grown more than 4% over the past five years. Ninety-three percent of adults overall and 96% of adults under age 35 read magazines.

  1. Magazine audiences are expanding across platforms: The number of magazine websites and mobile apps is increasing; e-readers are projected to grow rapidly – and consumers want to see magazine content on them.
  2. Magazine advertising gets consumers to act: More than half of all readers (56%) act on magazine ads. Plus, action-taking has increased 10% in the last five years.
  3. Magazines improve advertising ROI: Analysis of client-commissioned cross-media accountability studies found that magazines most consistently generate a favorable cost-per-impact throughout the purchase funnel.
  4. Magazines contribute most throughout the purchase funnel: Magazines are the most consistent performer in the purchase funnel, with particular strength in the key stages of brand favorability and purchase intent
  5. Magazines build buzz: Magazine readers are more likely than users of other media to influence friends and family on products across a variety of categories. Magazines complement the web in reaching social networkers, whom marketers increasingly favor to generate word-of-mouth.
  6. Magazines spur web traffic and search: Magazines lead other media in influencing consumers to start a search for merchandize online, ranking at or near the top by gender as well as across all age groups. Also, magazine ads boost web traffic, and magazine readers are more likely than non-readers to buy online.
  7. Magazines prompt mobile action-taking: Magazine readers are most likely to use a text message to respond to an ad and redeem a mobile coupon versus other media. Plus, magazines rank high in generating other mobile action.
  8. Magazines and magazine ads garner the most attention: When consumers read magazines they are much less likely to engage with other media or to take part in non-media activities compared to the users of TV, radio, or the internet.
  9. Magazine advertising is valuable content: Consumers are more likely to have a positive attitude toward advertising in magazines compared to other media.
  10. Magazines supply credibility: Multiple sources show that consumers trust ads in magazines.
  11. Magazines deliver reach: Across major demographic groups, the top 25 magazines deliver considerably more rating points than the top 25 primetime TV shows.
  12. Magazine audiences accumulate faster than you think: More than three-quarters of readers read their copy within the first three days. The average monthly magazine accumulates approximately 60% of its audience within a month’s time, and the average weekly magazine accumulates nearly 80% of its audience in two weeks.

What the Growth in Magazine Readership Means

I am tired of hearing about the demise of magazines — especially when it is not true.

David McDonald, of True North Custom Media wrote in the February 2011 issue of Folio: magazine that “year after year magazine readership continues to grow,” noting that “magazine readership has increased for the past five years — right through the recession.”

He then shares some facts to back this up:

  • 4 out 5 adults read magazines (MPA)
  • Young adults — those under 35 — read the most, “despite the abundance of new media alternatives” (MRI)
  • 90 percent of magazine subscribers prefer the printed format over using an electronic reader (CMO Council)

That’s why authors want their work to appear in magazines, not online (online is a secondary bonus, but not a main objective).

And that’s why print advertising deserves a higher priority and more attention than online. Advertisers should put their dollars were the reader are.

When to Mail Magazines: It’s Not When You Might Think

I regularly receive more that a dozen magazines. Although I am intentional about reading each one, it is never right away. Generally I have a few in queue waiting for their turn – expect for over the Christmas holidays. As magazine publishers have migrated away from producing an issue each month, many seemingly have strategically avoided the holidays. The result of this is that my magazine queue shrinks and eventually I am caught up.

As the pile of waiting magazines decreases, I find that I begin reading more articles in each one, read them more slowly, and read them more thoroughly. This is good news for those who do send me a holiday-time issue – their message is more likely to be seen. The same goes for the advertisers in those magazines.

(As an aside, I wonder if the holidays might be a good time for a direct mail piece to gain more attention. There would certainly be less competition in the recipient’s mailbox.)

Before you categorize me as an anomaly, doing an abnormal amount of reading over the holidays, which is not the practice of “normal” people, let me share some anecdotal support.

Many of my websites – all of which would be classified as “informational,” not e-commerce – enjoy a spike in page views during holidays. This is not just for the Christmas/New Year season, but also Memorial Day weekend, Fourth of July, Labor Day weekend, and Thanksgiving weekend. I sometimes see a similar blip on my blog traffic as well.

Lastly, I usually see a spike in subscription requests over each of these holidays as well.

So even if “we” spend time with family over the holidays, a good many also find time to spend reading and surfing the net.

If you’re in publishing, taking a break for each holiday, while seemingly sage, may be a missed opportunity.

Two Print Publications Set Revenue Records

In the November issue of Folio magazine, Matt Kinsman reported that two print publications recently hit records for advertising revenue.

One was Premier Guitar, a relative newbie on the print scene at only four years old.

However, for the other magazine, The Atlantic, the record is much more impressive — given that they’ve been around for 153 years.

Imagine that, hitting a 153 year high in print revenue — and at a time when the economy is less than ideal.

Just imagine what will happen when things actually turn around. I’m ready — are you?