Saturday, March 4, 2017

Book Industry Needs Its Own Snap IPO

Book publishing must be super jealous of Silicon Valley.  Every year some new company with a cool-sounding online application goes public and overnight becomes worth more than almost any of the book publishers.  It seems so unfair, the way jocks always get the good-looking women while the brainiacs are rewarded with a certificate of merit.

Few book publishing companies are publicly traded and almost none that are on the market see dramatic gains in any given year, no matter how many best-sellers they produce.  Why is that?

Part of the reason publishing falls short of the Twitters and Snapchats of the world is that these tech companies appear to be the future,  all shiny and new.  They get rewarded on potential and speculation, but the truth is none of these companies ever turn in huge profits.  The last I checked, Uber, Twitter, and Yahoo were losing money.  Book publishers, meanwhile, weathered all kinds of storms, from the Internet, ebooks, Great Recession, self-publishing, and slowing literacy rates, and has found a way to remain relevant and profitable.

Snap Inc. went public this past week, and based on the IPO the company is worth 23.5 billion dollars. Yes, the company that created SnapChat, a message app that delivers disappearing messages, is worth more than a lot of media properties or established companies across scores of industries.  But the company, five years old, has never turned a profit and loses way more than it takes in.  Even if it had no expenses, and you look at revenue, it brought in $404 million in 2016.  It would take 60 years of collecting that amount of revenue - with zero expenses – to equal the company’s valuation.  Keep in mind it has few assets – and that expenses more than doubled revenue – 910 million bucks.

Maybe a solution is for book publishing to create some kind of cool social media platform that goes public and cashes in on its star power, big customer lists, and brand appeal.  Why can’t there be some kind of trendy book app that catches on like Facebook, Pinterest or SnapChat?

How about these programs:

·         Cool dating sites that revolve around what people read and share.
·         A Linked-In type site that only serves the book industry.
·         A social networking site where only books can be discussed.
·         An app that helps find the right book to read based on a survey or one’s online activities.
·         A book trivia app that connects readers and forms instant, localized fan clubs.

The book industry, on the one hand, is lovable in its simple ways – print a book, sell it at a store, read it in bed or on a beach or a train. It’s been going on for centuries that way. Maybe it doesn’t need a glorified tech component.

But writers struggle to make money and publishers are only a few bad acquisitions away from losing money if they guess wrong.  Bookstores are growing, but a greedy landlord or shift in public tastes can easily shutter a store.  The industry needs some giant digital app that gives company shares to all who serve the industry – and for it to do little but make lots of money simply by hyping how cool it can be.  Twitter, Snap, and others certainly have provided many such models.  If only the book publishers would stop thinking about substance, value, and facts and just dream and go along with promoting a delusional reality that allows companies to be worth tens of billions while being in the red.

Good luck to Snap.  Maybe one day when it’s worth a fraction of its current inflated value a publisher can buy it up.

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog 2017©. Born and raised in Brooklyn, now resides in Westchester. Named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby 

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