Monday, August 9, 2010

How to go green without going green - the move of Dorchester Publishing to eBook / POD model

Publishers Weekly reported last Friday that "Mass market romance publisher
Dorchester Publishing has dropped its traditional print publishing business in favor of an e-book/print-on-demand model ".

The reason? Sales fell 25% last year. According to
the Wall Street Journal, the decline is in part because of "declining orders from some of its key retail accounts, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc." This is a very interesting step that has not only business consequences , but also green ones.

By eliminating the traditional print model, it actually leaves the returns model, which is a wasteful system that generates incredibly high return rate (estimates are between 25%-40%) of books that are produced but not sold.

And of course e-books have their own potential to generate savings in carbon emissions - as I wrote here and in other places in the past, I don't think we're there yet, but we're getting closer and closer to the day where e-books will represent a greener option for the majority of readers.

So Dorchester Publishing are going green without actually announcing on going green. I think that it's good they focus on the business advantages of their move, but if they already do something that will decrease their footprint, they might want to think how to use it for their benefit, starting with acknowledging readers on the environmental consequences of their move all the way to branding themselves as a green publisher.

This move generates both opportunities and risks, and here we summed up couple of them:

1. Regaining profitability by stopping the decline in sales and significantly reducing costs.

2. Offering authors better royalties and attracting more authors who will be interested in working under the new model.

3. Working with Independent bookstores that the company wasn't able to work with in the past.

4. Positioning itself as a green publisher, with continuing steps to increase efficiency and reduce carbon footprint at the same time.

1. Authors might won't be satisfied with the offered new model and leave the publisher.
WSJ reported that Hard Case Crime, an imprint owned by closely held Winterfall LLC, said it may seek to move its mystery books from Dorchester to another publishing house.
2. Supply problems with the transfer to the new POD model.

3. The e-book segment the publisher is relying on will stop showing “remarkable growth”.

4. Margins might improve, but the move to a e-books/ POD might not be worthwhile from a benefit-cost standpoint, with sales continuing to sharply decline, especially given that the sales force was let go and that the number of titles released monthly will be reduced from over 30 to 25.

Dorchester Publishing's President John Prebich explained to Publishers Weekly that “these are like pioneer times in publishing. We felt like we needed to take some chances and make a bold move."

I'm sure he's not the last publisher we'll see taking such steps and I'm sure many publishers will follow up with Dorchester Publishing to see if it actually works for them. We'll do it as well and keep you posted not only on their business success, but also how they will approach the green impact of their move - will they embrace their new green advantages and use them for their own good or continue to go green without mentioning it?

Raz @ Eco-Libris

Eco-Libris: Promoting sustainable reading!