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危言耸听的一边去:图书业现在好着呢

发布时间:2012-11-07    

 

【大西洋月刊】危言耸听的一边去:图书业现在好着呢

 

The fall publishing season is in full swing. There can hardly have been a year with more luminaries atop both the fiction and nonfiction bestseller lists; J. K. Rowling, Michael Chabon, Ken Follett, Junot Diaz, among others, represent literary acclaim and commercial appeal. Diaz (This Is How You Lose Her) is having an especially good run: He is both a National Book Award finalist and a recipient of a MacArthur "Genius" prize. Stephen Colbert, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Neil Young, Bob Woodward, and Salman Rushdie are just a sampling of the nonfiction bestsellers. (For the full array, check out the New York Times's copious five pages of print and e-book listings in the book review, which are supplemented online with "expanded rankings" featuring "more titles, more rankings and a full explanation of our methodology.") Whatever else may be happening in this tumultuous period of transition in how books are produced and distributed, the sheer range and quality of so many titles is indisputable proof that our marketplace has writers and readers in impressive numbers.

没落的出版业正有回春之势。不到一年,越来越多杰出作家跻身小说类和非小说类畅销书排行榜;J.K.罗林、迈克尔·沙邦、肯·福莱特、朱诺·迪亚斯等等,都获得了文学界的赞扬和商业界的青睐。迪亚斯(《你就这样失去了她》作者)表现尤佳:他入围了美国国家图书奖,并荣获麦克阿瑟天才奖。史蒂芬·科拜尔、阿诺德·施瓦辛格、尼尔·杨、鲍勃·伍德沃德以及萨曼·拉什迪仅仅是非小说类畅销书作家的几个代表。(想知道完整名单,看看《纽约时报》书评周刊中满满五页的纸质书和电纸书榜单,网络版榜单增加了“更多排名”,其中包含“更多图书,更多排行,更完整的排行方法解释”。)书籍的生产印刷正处于纷乱的转变时期,在此期间无论发生什么,这些书的种类之多、质量之高,都无可争辩地证明着我们的市场还拥有数量可观的作家和读者。

For all the complexities that publishing faces, the notion that books are somehow less of a factor in the cultural or information ecosystem of our time doesn't hold up to the evidence.

有人认为书籍不再是当今时代文化生态系统或者信息生态系统的要素,这种说法在证据面前不攻自破,虽然出版业的情况很复杂。

Recently, Colin Robinson, a respected founder of a New York-based independent publisher, OR Books, wrote an essay for The Guardian entitled "Ten Ways to Save the Publishing Industry." The summary paragraph was grim: "Book sales are stagnating, profit margins are being squeezed by higher discounts and falling prices and the distribution of book buyers is being ever more polarized between record-shattering bestsellers and an ocean of titles with tiny readerships." For the most part, Robinson's recommendations are common sense: an emphasis on selection, pricing, effective use of the Internet, and a focus on readers by devoting more effort to reaching them directly through social media. Jeremy Greenfield, editorial director of Digital Book World, in a response to Robinson's manifesto makes a strong case with observations that I generally share: "The publishing industry isn't a monolithic thing: some publishers are doing well and others are not. ... I don't see an industry that's flailing—I see one that's managing a complicated transition much better than would be expected."

近日,德高望重的纽约独立出版社OR Books创建者科林·罗宾孙在《卫报》上发表题为“拯救出版业的十个方法”的文章。文章结语令人郁闷:“书籍销售不景气,高折低价压缩利润空间,畅销书读者群日渐庞大,其他的大多数图书则无人问津。罗宾孙的多数建议都是常识:重视可选类别,价格,有效利用互联网,通过社交媒体直接与读者接触、关注读者。《数字图书世界》编辑部主任杰瑞米·格林菲尔德在回应罗宾孙的宣言时给出了强有力的评论,我基本赞同他的观点:“出版业不是一个统一的整体:有些出版商在盈利,有些在亏本……我不觉得这个产业正在衰退——我认为出版业正积极应对复杂的转型过程,做得比人们预料的好多了。”

The available numbers seem to support this view. In the first six months of 2012, according toPublishers Weekly, drawing on data from 1,186 companies, the Association of American Publishersreported that trade sales increased 13.1 percent, to $2.33 billion. The most important indicator is the continuing boost in e-book sales, up 34.4 percent, to $621.3 million, which makes it competitive with the totals for hardcover print sales. When you consider that it was only with the appearance of Amazon's first Kindle reader in 2007 that e-book sales took off, the pace of change is stunning. I still own an original Kindle, and picked up an iPad when it was released (these early models serve my simple purposes), but there are so many more advanced versions of these readers that consumers now have choices galore that are far more extensive, for example, than are provided by televisions, which most people judge simply by the size of their screens or the quality of the picture.

目前拥有的数据似乎支持这个观点。美国出版商协会整合了1186家公司的数据在《出版人周刊》中报道,2012年头6个月图书销售额达到23.3亿美元,升高13.1%。最重要的信号是,电子书销售额持续走高,涨幅高达34.4%,达到6.213亿美元,与精装书销售额不相上下。想想2007年亚马逊的第一部Kindle阅读器才上市,彼时电子书销售刚刚起步,这变化速度真是惊人。我还有最初的Kindle,iPad发布的时候我也下手了(这些早期的产品符合我的从简原则)。但是这些阅读器有很多高级版本,给消费者提供了众多选择,比电视节目还多样化。就电视而言,很多人只看屏幕大小或者画面质量。

For those of us who remember a relatively genteel era, as recently as the 1980s and early 1990s, when books were shipped for sale mainly to classy "carriage trade" independents, several national chains (that have since gone under), and the enduring but embattled Barnes & Noble enterprises, there is a frenetic feeling about the push for visibility in the digital age.

在那些相对文雅的时代,最近的比如20世纪80年代和90年代,书籍靠船舶运输,主要销售给上层社会“有钱人士”、几家全国连锁店(从那以后就倒了)、以及深陷困境的老字号邦诺书店。对于还记得这些年代的人们来说,数字时代可视化的推动令人抓狂。

Now, Amazon, Apple, Google, and Microsoft are in a contest of behemoths, vying for dominance in the sale of hardware, software, and content. During a BBC interview the other day, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, in an uncharacteristic moment of revelation, disclosed that the company makes no profit on its various Kindle devices. "We sell the hardware at our cost, so it is break even on the hardware." Why then is Amazon is so aggressive in its development of ever-more refined e-readers and tablets? "What we find," Bezos explained, "is that when people buy a Kindle they read four times as much as they did before they bought the Kindle. But they don't stop buying paper books. Kindle owners read four times as much, but they continue to buy both types of books." The Bezos strategy is clearly aimed at driving profit margins through hard bargaining with publishers, whose dependence on Amazon as a principal retailer has been growing significantly each year.

如今,亚马逊、苹果、谷歌和微软几个巨兽正相互搏斗,都想争得硬件、软件和在线内容销售的主导地位。亚马逊CEO杰夫·贝佐斯近日在接受BBC采访时承认Kindle零利润,而这一点并不令人意外。“Kindle是按成本价出售,所以无利可图。”既然如此,亚马逊为何还急于开发更好的电子书阅读器和平板电脑呢?“我们发现,”贝佐斯解释道,“人们买了Kindle后阅读量是之前的四倍之多。但是他们没有停止购买纸质书。Kindle用户阅读量增加了三倍,但他们仍继续购买这两种类型的书籍。”贝佐斯的策略定位清晰,即与出版商讨价还价挣点零头,而出版商对于亚马逊这一主要零售商的依赖程度逐年大增。

Instead of the competition among traditional booksellers for the attention of readers that was for so long the way books were sold, publishers now must confront the immense power and reach of tech giants and adapt to their influence. These companies are so much larger than even the biggest of publishers that accommodating their demands on price and promotion is a formidable task and is the reason why it looks (and often feels) that publishers are on the defensive.

相比过去书商争相吸引读者眼球的传统卖书方式,现今的出版商们必须面对并且适应科技巨头们强大而深广的影响力。这些企业甚至比最大的出版社还要大得多,因此适应他们的价格要求和推销要求是一项艰巨的任务,这也解释了为什么出版商好像(也总给人感觉)处于劣势。

We are in a whirlwind of change. A writer with the ambition to reach a maximum audience needs at least some understanding of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, blogs, Tumblr, LinkedIn, GoodReads and Google+ (a hat tip to my colleagues at the Perseus Books Group who are making significant headway in providing guidance to our authors in all these marketing tools). But even in the midst of so much change, the main challenge of publishing remains the same: finding and supporting good books and then working closely with authors to identify and reach their readers through every way possible. With all the hubbub of today's technology and media landscape, that still is the best route to success.

我们正处于风云变幻的时代。作家们想要大受欢迎就得了解Twitter,Facebook,YouTube,Pinterest,博客,Tumblr,LinkedIn,GoodReads和Google+(在此向珀尔修斯图书集团的同事们致敬,他们正努力指导作家们使用这些营销工具)。但即便身处如此巨变之中,出版业面临的主要挑战仍旧是:寻找并支持好书,然后与作者紧密合作,通过种种方式寻求读者的认同、与读者交流。尽管当代科技领域和媒体环境芜杂喧闹,这还是通向成功的最佳路径。

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