This coming week I'm in New York to moderate a panel at Digital Book World called, "Getting on Virtual Shelves - Untangling the eBook Supply Chain."
The panel explores the challenges publishers face as they navigate the complexities of digital book distribution.
For print books, the supply chain for large publishers is fairly straightforward. They ship books to distributors and wholesalers which then ship books to retailers and even direct to customers. The intricate, well-oiled machine of distributors, wholesalers, retailers and shippers ensure books are always in stock and available for customers.
The ebook supply chain isn't quite so mature. It's somewhere between diapers and gawky adolescence.
I think one of the biggest themes of the session will be trust. In the physical world of printed books, a publisher knows how many books they printed, and how many they shipped. Books are easily tracked and accounted for along every step of the supply chain.
With digital books, the publisher ships a single file to their distributor, digital warehouser or retailer, and then trusts the supply chain partners to make digital copies as needed. How do publishers know how many copies were sold? How do they know the retailer enforced the publisher's geographic sales restrictions? Who owns the customer data? How do you ensure accurate and timely sales reporting back to the publisher? How do you ensure that accurate and dynamic metadata attached to the book (pricing by geography, on-sale date, sampling rights, language, descriptions, and changes to all the above) is accurately conveyed downstream from one supply chain partner to the other?
Welcome to the brave new world of ebook supply chains.
My panel is packed with smart cookies representing three large book publishers and the largest book distributor. On the panel we've got Peter Balis of John Wiley & Sons, Neil De Young of Hachette Book Group, Leslie Hulse of HarperCollins and last but not least, Andrew Weinstein of Ingram Digital.
If you're attending the conference, stop by and say hi. The conference takes place January 26-27 (Tuesday and Wednesday) at the Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers. Our panel is Wednesday at 3:45pm.
Special thanks to Mike Shatzkin for inviting me to moderate this panel. Mike has organized an absolutely incredible program line-up featuring over 30 (!!) different sessions and dozens of speakers. I'm looking forward to attending the other sessions.