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Sourcebooks NEXT.

Sourcebooks Next Blog

We’re at a historic point in the transformation the book.

Ebooks, reading devices, retailers and e-tailers, software and apps, and all the cool things we haven’t even imagined yet are changing the face of reading, entertainment and learning. Sourcebooks Next is our blog looking not from the perspective of pundit or prognosticator, but from the perspective of a publisher deeply engaged in the workings of the transformation. Please feel free to join us.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Chris Bauerle, Director of Sales & Marketing at Sourcebooks, will be at the Frankfurt Book Fair Publishers Launch Conference on October 10 to speak about how Sourcebooks built an efficient, cross-company digital workflow.

In advance of his session, Chris was asked this question on the Frankfurt Book Fair blog:

Can a publisher change its whole way of doing things, continue to deliver high-quality printed books, and gain the flexibility necessary to capitalize on digital opportunities without losing its soul, and a good portion of its staff?

And here’s what he had to say:

“At first glance, my answer here was YES!, but I think there is much more to the answer than that. I would first take the opportunity to poke a little at the basis of the question. I don’t think a publisher needs to “change its whole way of doing things” at all. The basis of our business is artistic and creative. Publishers are not in the business of just printing manuscripts but of crafting an author’s work into a living expression of an idea—this through development, editing, packaging, positioning, sales, and marketing. These fundamentals stay the same, and the digital transformation allows the opportunity for us to apply our craft in order to reach new readers through a seemingly endless stream of possibilities..."


Thursday, August 11, 2011


Naperville community members, local authors, and loyal patrons were surprised to learn many things at the “Celeppreciation Party” that Sourcebooks sponsored for our beloved neighborhood bookstore, Anderson’s Bookshop. For example, we all learned that just between Anderson’s and Sourcebooks, Naperville has one of the highest per capita concentrations of book industry people in the country.

But one thing no one was surprised to learn was that Naperville has the best bookseller in the country. After receiving dozens of nominations from publishers, sales representatives, and patrons, Publishers Weekly named Anderson’s its 2011 Bookstore of the year. 

Anderson’s Bookshop, like Sourcebooks, is an independent business that has stood in the face of adversity and not only survived, but thrived. One of the major reasons we’ve grown together over the years is that we have similar mission statements. We profess not only a passion for books, but the desire to spread that passion and to enlighten the lives of others. In the words of Todd Stocke, V.P. and Editorial Director of Sourcebooks who officiated the event:

“…it’s about the people. The people of Anderson’s are the reason you come to the stores for recommendations, and it’s the people suggesting books for your book clubs, and it’s the people who are here when your home and school organization or your kid’s scout troop needs to put up a sign or needs support. It’s the people who bring in the big name authors, even celebrities.

And perhaps more importantly it’s the people who bring in the voices you haven’t heard of before, because that’s what makes for a vibrant community…”

Monday, July 18, 2011

For Sourcebooks, Borders was our dear friend over the pond (Lake Michigan, as it were), and they were an essential part of our growth and success over the past 24 years. 

The news this week is incredibly difficult, as hundreds of communities lose long-standing gathering places for readers. I really wanted today to say THANK YOU to Borders – to their community of booksellers and home office staff over the years – for being such an important part of our lives, and for their dedication to getting books into the hands of so many people for so many years.

If you'd like to add your thanks, please feel free to comment below and talk about what Borders' booksellers have meant to you. You can also feel free to post to Twitter, Facebook, Google+. [#ThankUBorders!]

To all our friends at Borders, THANK YOU for the enormous contribution that you've made to our lives at Sourcebooks specifically, to books and authors more generally, and most broadly to the book culture that nourishes us all.

You have made a world of difference.

With heartfelt good wishes,

Dominique Raccah and everyone at Sourcebooks


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

One of the ongoing conversations at Book Expo America this year was the growth of ebooks. How fast is the market transforming? Is it cannibalizing the print book market? If so, which part? Or is it expanding readership? And all of the potential ramifications and implications of these questions.

I heard people say things like, “yes, ebooks are only a small percent of total book sales now, but you can see how they’re going to be 60% or 70% of the market in a few years.” And I thought to myself, “Really?” The “book industry” is not just one industry; books are purchased by different types of users and for different reasons. So it stands to reason that different parts of the market will transform at different speeds.

What currently sells in physical books

When you break out broad categories of physical books sold in 1st quarter 2011 (data from Bookscan), here’s what you see:

1st Quater book Sales

So the single largest category of physical books sold is adult non-fiction which makes up 42% of that market.

What’s selling in ebooks

On the other hand, when you look at what’s selling in ebooks, it’s primarily narrative. The only real data I can cite here are our own figures and the ebook bestsellers lists from individual e-tailers, which are dominated by fiction (the NY Times e-bestsellers separate fiction and non-fiction, but you can’t infer comparative volumes). For example,

  • Looking at BN Nookbook top 100 bestsellers, there were 12 non-fiction ebooks on the list.
  • On the Kindle top 100 bestsellers (paid), there were 16 non-fiction titles.

These counts were taken at one point in time last week and these lists change hourly. I checked back 3 other times and the results were roughly the same (under 20% of the bestselling titles). This is pretty much in line with what’s being reported by publishers.

Here is a chart of Sourcebooks’ unit sales for physical books:

Sourcebooks Physical book sales chart

And the same breakout for ebooks:

Sourcebooks eBook sales chart

So while the majority of our physical book sales are in adult non-fiction, the majority of our ebook sales are in adult fiction.

So what’s missing in this picture?

Right now we’re seeing relatively weak conversion of adult non-fiction to ebooks. While this category of physical books has declined a bit in the last few years (down 1.1% in Q1 2011, per Bookscan), as noted above, it’s still 42% of the print book business.

 Again via Bookscan, here were the 5 largest categories of adult non-fiction for Q1 2011:



General Non-Fiction









Reference is the biggest category of non-fiction and our experience at Sourcebooks is that reference is also the hardest category to get right in ebooks. At Sourcebooks, reference is highly formatted: lots of subsections, sidebars, pictures, diagrams, pull-quotes, etc. It’s highly “browseable,” “dippable,” not necessarily a linear reading experience. All the things that we put in to make the book more experiential as a printed book are the very things that are harder to replicate as an experience in an ebook. And there are so many different kinds of reference books.

The other difficult transformation area right now is children’s books (as distinct from young adult books). E-tailers’ bestsellers lists, publisher-reported data, and our own data are not suggesting strong conversion to ebooks yet for juvenile books, outside of cross-over YA (e.g., The Hunger Games and Twilight).

The importance of narrative

Stories seem to be at the heart of ebooks right now. Even the successful non-fiction ebooks we’re seeing skew to narrative - memoirs and biography and history. They’re all stories – and they’re all linear reading experiences.

Are apps the future of adult non-fiction and/or children’s books?

One of the interesting questions being asked today is what can digital look like for illustrated children’s books and reference products? It’s one of the things we’ve been thinking about a lot at Sourcebooks. Although it is still early days, I am inclined to believe that we are likely to make real progress with apps and websites. For example, you can look at the Books bestsellers list on Apple’s App Store and see a lot of illustrated children’s books.

That thinking is also why we decided to turn the #1 bestselling Fiske Guide to Colleges into the iPad app Fiske Interactive College Guide. And it’s at the heart of the development work that we’re now doing with our authors and other partners.

What do you think? Feel free to jot your ideas in the comments.

As always, looking forward to the conversation.


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