For several years now, the fate of the book publishing industry has been a big question mark. And while there’s been plenty of excitement over products like the Kindle and other e-readers, the publishers themselves have remained somewhat absent.
Now, three major players in publishing — Simon & Schuster, Penguin Group USA and Hachette Book Group — are embracing the Internet with an innovative new approach: a “one-stop” shop for the literary minded that includes book reviews, excerpts, author news, book suggestions, and of course, an e-commerce section that sells books. Cheekily titled Bookish.com, the site is expected to launch in early fall.
The concept behind it is sort of a Pitchfork for book lovers — a staff of 20 people will select books from over 14 publishers to suggest/review, while a partnership with the AOL Huffington Post Media Group will provide traffic boosts and ad sales support.
As the New York Times reports, the venture is a clever way for publishers to answer the perennial question, “What should I read next?”
“There’s a frustration with book consumers that there’s no one-stop shopping when it comes to information about books and authors,” said Carolyn Reidy, the president and chief executive of Simon & Schuster. “We need to try to recreate the discovery of new books that currently happens in the physical environment, but which we don’t believe is currently happening online.”
As for social media, we assume it’s coming — readers will be able to write reviews like they do on Amazon, but the major opportunity for growth will be in recommending books on their Facebook or Twitter pages.
Everything about Bookish.com sounds appealing, in theory. Still, will it sell actual books? Those savvy enough to actively engage with a site like this are also likely to be making the switch to e-books — which sell for a fraction of the real thing. Embracing the Internet is a good start for publishers — but there’s still a wide open question of how they intend to combat plummeting sales in the next few years.