Encouraging News about Books

Considering the quakes rumbling through the book industry, even slightly encouraging news lifts the heart. Because I believe so fundamentally in the vitality of book content and the future of reading, I’m not alarmed that the reading of books is threatened. But what’s nearly impossible to predict is the course book reading will take over the next few years.

That said, of late I’ve noted a number of small indicators that may affirm the future of the book industry.

  1. During this holiday season, TV ads for a half dozen brands of digital devices are noting how attractive their device is for book reading, whether in low light, bright light, in bed, or on the beach. Those TV spots are defacto consumer ads proclaiming the joys of book reading. Yay!
  2. On the other end of the spectrum, there was a Publishers Weekly story saying Barnes & Noble bookstore profits were up and that sales increased 1.8% for the quarter, excluding Nook hardware (in transition to a partnership with Microsoft). There’s little the book industry needs more than a healthy Barnes & Noble. Go, B&N!
  3. E-books accounted for 22% of book sales in the second quarter, up 14% over the previous year, according to Bowker Market Research. It appears quick adopters have settled in with their reader of choice, but notice that physical books are still 78% of the total unit sales. We need new technology, yet everyone involved—authors, publishers, retailers—need an element of stability in our shared industry. Christmas cheer all around!
  4. AAP reports trade book sales for August 2012 were up 10.4% over 2011, whereas ebooks are now growing at a far slower rate. Great news!
  5. Family Christian Stores just announced a new investor group that is committed to its mission. Having spent time in recent days with one of those investors, I’m encouraged again about moves toward more stability in book retailing. Prayers for Family!

Change is inevitable. But smart change will better protect the flow of great content to consumers in a way that works for author, publishers and retailers. I’m praying that the flashes of sanity I’m seeing aren’t illusions, but are the makings of a trend toward a more stable, healthy book industry.


Celebrating Year One, and Counting…

On this first day of August 2012, Worthy joyfully celebrates its first full year in commerce.  We are thankful to God for the team He has assembled, the opportunities He has provided, and above all, the grace He has poured out on us.  And that’s not to mention our supportive board that has believed in us from the get-go, providing cherished counsel and resources.  Thank you!

Creative Talent Onboard.  Looking back over this first year, I am humbled by the confidence authors have expressed in Worthy.  It’s unimaginable the talent that has come our way.  Never would I have believed a couple of years ago, when we first conceived the idea of launching Worthy Publishing, that we would be honored to have signed such a list in only one year. A short list of bestsellers that have come our way includes…

Stephen Arterburn

Tim Clinton

Franklin Graham

John Hagee

Hank Hanegraaff

Neta & David Jackson

Jerry Jenkins

David Jeremiah

Stephen Mansfield

Nichole Nordeman

Les & Leslie Parrott

Chuck Swindoll

Michael Vick

 Vision for Authors!  In a day of mega-sized New York-based christian publishers with enormous book lists, it’s easy for authors to get lost in the bureaucratic shuffle. They often complain of getting little editorial input and even less marketing attention.  Worthy’s unique vision is to be a nimble, author-focused shop that is responsive to its authors and the marketplace.

                                     

Giant Media Exposure for Worthy.  Even as a new publisher, Worthy already has managed to get front-page, feature stories in USA Today, as well as appearances on NBC, Fox, CNN, ESPN and others, about two upcoming books:  BeBe Winans memoir of his 28-year friendship with Whitney Houston, The Whitney I Knew (July 31); and NFL star Michael Vick’s autobiography, Finally Free (September 4).  Stephen Mansfield’s just- released book, The Mormonizing of America, has been featured on CBS This Morning, CNN’s Piers Morgan, Fox News, The Sean Hannity Show and MSNBC Now.

This first year has been quite a ride – and from my vantage point 2013 doesn’t look any less exciting!  Holding on to my chair.


Why The Sky Is Not Falling On Print Part I

E-book sales may be growing, but ink-on-paper reading has a healthy future

With the changes book publishing faces, especially in light of what’s happened to the music industry, I am frequently asked, “Are physical books a thing of the past?” I am always quick to say that books are more current than ever. Still, publishers, retailers and consumers are unnerved about the future of books and bookstores.

As background for my optimistic outlook, we chose to launch Worthy, likely the newest publisher, right in the middle of one of the greatest economic and political crises of our lifetimes. That said, my experience in Christian publishing over the last twenty years gives me reason to believe the sky is not falling on the book industry and that opportunities are still alive.

Books have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. As a seventh grader I remember sitting in the aisles of a nearby college library during the summer break reading everything you could imagine. I passed that love of books along to my children, including “date days” with my daughter. She and I would often browse in a bookstore together—leisurely noting particular titles or passages for books we found interesting, using those moments as a basis for discussions we both remember years later.

As a young publisher, I was brought to Word Publishing in the late 1980s during some tough days. Then, in the mid-90s, Word was acquired by Thomas Nelson, which brought unsettling changes including a move for many of our staff from Dallas to Nashville. Yet from early on we were honored to sign and publish many best-selling authors, including Billy Graham, Max Lucado, Charles Swindoll, Barbara Johnson, John Maxwell, Frank Peretti, James Dobson, Chuck Colson, Frank Peretti, and so many others. Though turbulent at times, God still worked amazingly.

Leaving Nelson, we launched Integrity Publishers, ironically moving into our first office on 9/11/2001 as reports of terrorist firestorms rang out. Despite the ensuing market crash, we experienced great receptivity for Christian books and found wider distribution through new channels. God continued to work through books more mightily than ever.

Now, as Worthy Publishing enters its first full year of commerce in 2012, I see parallels with the past. Economic crisis, unpredictable retail patterns, and shifts in sales volume from traditional channels to new technology, keep us wide-eyed. When will I ever learn that each decade will undoubtedly bring its own new set of changes – and that in the long-run God will use change to expand the reach of the Gospel? I’m convinced that more people are reading books today than ever in history, though maybe in different ways than before.

I believe, contrary to some, that Christian books will remain relevant for the long haul and next week I will share with you three reasons why.


Should Guttenberg Be Afraid?

One of the first things I hear from almost anyone who finds out I am a publisher is a grave expression of empathy that conventional books are on their way out. The media’s focus on skyrocketing e-book growth – whether Kindle, iPad, Nook or others – amplified by music’s breathtaking drop in physical CD sales, drives many (even fellow publishers) to jump to the conclusion that the end is near for the paper-and-ink book. Not so fast!

Witness the May 19, 2011 report by the Association of American Publishers (AAP). Based on data gathered from 84 publishers, both print and digital formats of books saw revenue gains in March 2011 compared to the same period in 2010. In fact, religion books in March grew for the third month in a row, increasing 27.4%. Growth in book sales came despite a staggering 145.7% increase in e-book sales. That’s not to say general economic woes won’t periodically depress books sales, or all retail for that matter, as was the case in 2009. Yet, even with Borders liquidating, I’m generally encouraged.

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