Friday, May 13, 2016

Books vs eBooks - Jim Norris of Canadian Musician speaks out!

Don’t tell my partner hard cover books are dying off like Ontario ash trees. She seems to frequent Indigo/Chapters twice a week and returns with a thick volume of something that takes three or four days to consume and then shivers with delight as she flips the pages inside. It’s more than a ritual, it’s an obsession – a grand obsession.

I love reading but these days I spend more time app traveling on the iPad. I have my favourites and they rarely let me down. I also have a dozen books stored just in case I’m in for the long read.

Much like the LP, I love the shape and size of a good book. I get a buzz looking at words on pages, a classic font, and knowing within those well-groomed paragraphs much thought and time has been invested into bringing those pages to life. This is why the premature declaration – print is dead - is absurd.

Ride the subway. Rarely do I see people engrossed in a Kindle or iPad these days. The victor – the book! I still get overwhelmed walking into the big box book stores. I think I know why I’m there but most times I leave with a copy of Mojo, Wax Poetics, Oxford Musician or something related to my passions. Not much in the way of fiction going down with the dude at the moment!

This from The Guardian:
The Bookseller magazine says that each of the five biggest general trade publishers in the UK – Penguin Random House, Hachette, HarperCollins, Pan Macmillan and Simon & Schuster – saw their ebook sales fall in 2015. At Penguin Random House, the UK’s largest trade publisher, ebook totals slipped by 0.4% in 2015, down from 16.17m to 16.1m. At Hachette, they were down 1.1% to 14.5m, while at HarperCollins, when sales from Harlequin Mills & Boon are excluded (the company was acquired halfway through 2014), ebook sales were down 4.7%. The slip at Pan Macmillan was 7.7%, and at Simon & Schuster it was 0.3%.

The recent downturn in eBook sales is partially blamed on the decline of the Kindle, also digital sales of fiction and non-fiction have been slowing as people revert back to traditional ways to consume books. If a book is good, like great music you want to own it – not lease from a tablet.

Recently, I caught up to Canada’s most successful contemporary music book publisher Jim Norris and cornered him for a brief chat:

Bill King: There was speculation that  Kobos, Kindles, eBooks would usher in the decline of print. It hasn’t happened has it?

Jim Norris: No. It’s interesting that with all the new media, digital seems to get more publicity than anything else. You hear there’s no more print, no more newspapers, no more radio, no more television, no more anything – none of it is true. Around 2008 and 2009 there was a little bit of a shift with book sales – even advertising. But most of those people have gone back to some sensible position where you introduce all the new digital products and services and everyone has to move over a bit. It doesn’t mean they are going away any bit. Newspapers have had to change because they are not the fast source of information anymore. They have to cover things more in depth than they did. Even CNN isn’t fast anymore. When they killed Osama Bin Laden the first reportage came via a Tweet. The fastest news is Twitter now. The downside – it isn’t vetted and a lot of things aren’t necessarily true. Even CNN jumps the gun a bit.

There are lots of options now to get information. There are the traditional sources, lots of news sources – combinations. I’m reading a book now and there are QR codes that take you to a page on a web site with further information on that chapter. That’s a great use of technology. If you can’t get it all in a book you can sure get it all on a website.  So tying them together makes a lot of sense.

B.K: What are the most popular selling books from Norris-Whitney Communications?

J.N: From Music Books Plus, songwriting is the number one category. Business books – a lot of guitar books. All the instruments – drums – but songwriting is number one.

B.K: People are looking for answers.

J.N: Yes, there’s so much to know and so many good books that come out. We have maybe 300 titles at CMW but on the website we have 16,000. We sell in 90 countries and ship out of Niagara Falls, New York. We do a lot of school business, a ton with colleges and universities, professional schools. There is so much knowledge available. An author who is smart is going to have a blog, do podcasts and is going to have a book, write for magazines and try and use every medium that they can. We certainly do all of that.

B.K: Did you hire an outside source to expand social media?

J.N: No, I have a person who came on board and she’s kind of insatiable. The read rate on Facebook is very low. If you have 1,000 likes only 3 – 6% of those show up on a feed. Facebook says that 3 – 6% are reading your posts, no they aren’t, they are just showing up on your feed. A lot of people get all excited about Facebook and are there posting like crazy but don’t realize almost nobody is seeing those.

B.K: They limit the amount of reads.

J.N: Absolutely. What they are pushing towards is paid advertising and boosted post. My prediction – in a year or two nothing will be free on Facebook. That’s OK – people get all crazy about that like they own it. No, Mark Zuckerberg owns it and can do what he wants with it. That’s how I feel about media. They can do what they want. If they can get more people to pay for it – more power to them.

B.K: You have online sessions too.

J.N: Yes, we have webinars and those have been going very well. So far they have been business subjects but we are going to be doing a lot of technical ones with our clients as well - product demonstrations, product introductions. It’s a great medium for that. We have the technical part of it together well now. There are lot out there that aren’t well done.

B.K: You’ve always had musician features and products that complement in Canadian Musician.

J.N: For companies which go across the country – tour and show their products you are talking tens of thousands of dollars whereas for a couple grand we can do a webinar for them and attract probably more people than their tour and they can participate from anywhere in the world. A company like Sennheiser for instance can have their marketing guy in the states and a product development guy in Germany and get on with Andrew our editor who does the interviews. You can show anything on there – video, audio, text files, pdfs, or whatever it is. It’s a pretty cool medium. Technically you got to make sure you are on a platform that works. Some of them don’t and I’ve been on enough of those.

B.K: All of this started with Canadian Musician.

J.N: That’s right – 1979. Still doing very well. We have a good online presence. We have all of our magazines there and we do an electronic newsletter every month. We still have good advertisers, in fact the issue we just closed was really good. A lot of last minute stuff, but that’s OK.

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