There's a rumor going around today that, if true, would mean that Barnes & Noble has decided that digital is the future. The WSJ is reporting that their sources say that Sterling Publishing is up for sale.
Barnes & Noble bought the house in 2003 as part of their push into book publishing. The estimated cost was around $115 million.
Sterling Publishing had around 4500 titles in print when it changed hands in 2003, and it looks to have grown since then. It now has over a dozen imprints covering fiction, children's books, crafts, and a line of books published under the imprint of various Hearst magazines (Cosmopolitan, Country Living, Popular Mechanics, Seventeen, Town & Country, and more). Assuming B&N worked to keep this publisher healthy, someone is going to snap it up pretty quickly.
So, is this sale a sign that B&N wants to invest the capital elsewhere is is it s sign that digital is the future? I think it's a little bit of both. Digital has the potential of growing into a major revenue stream, and book publishing as a whole does not. Look at publishing industry stats over the past few years. What category has been growing in leaps and bounds? Ebooks.
But what is the rest of the market doing? At best, it's holding steady. Some market segments look to already be in decline.
So investing that capital in digital today means that B&N might be able to catch the rising tide. There's no guarantee, but there's a good chance that ebooks will succeed.
Of course, B&N isn't getting out of publishing entirely. They still have PubIt, the self-pub service they launched last year. And they continue to publish B&N Classics, a line of public domain books that have been enhanced with additional content.
BTW, one comment I came across when reading about the purchase of Sterling was that some publishers were upset that one of their main distribution channels was moving into direct competition. Curiously enough, I don't recall that comment being made about PubIt, and that says that publishers didn't understand the threat of self-publishing at the time. I wonder if they do now?
via The WSJ
image by avinashkunnath