Frontline Futures and the rebirth of Vinyl

November 23, 2009

A couple of weeks ago I took part in a panel at the Frontline Club on the future of publishing. It was an interesting evening, and I spoke alongside Tom Tivnan of the Bookseller and Chris Finnamore, test editor at WIRED. The whole thing’s now online if you’re so inclined:

During the talk, one particularly vocal member of the audience took issue with ebooks in general (standard trigger question: “will they smell like real books?”) and stated that vinyl was on the way back. I countered that, well, no it wasn’t – it has a growing status among collectors, but I wouldn’t stake my house on it. I stand by that, but I’m as pleased as anyone to see that David Sedaris (yes, I’m a fan) is releasing an abridged audiobook on vinyl:


“Albums are enjoying something of a renaissance, posting $57 million in sales in 2008, more than double the previous year and the best for the format since 1990, according to the Recording Industry Association of America. The format is so rare for audiobooks, however, that the Audiobook Publishers Association has never even tracked its sales. But Maja Thomas, senior vice president for digital and audio publishing at the Hachette Book Group, said she was drawn to the idea precisely because it was quirky. Mr. Sedaris’s ‘audience is very attuned to irony and is going to find this funny,’ Ms. Thomas said. The 31-minute album, which will be released on Jan. 5 and cost $24.98, will include only two of the five essays on the CD version of the audiobook, but will feature a code enabling purchasers to digitally download the entire program.” [Source: NYTimes]

Ms. Thomas is not wrong about Sedaris’ demographic, but I’m particularly intrigued by the addition of a code allowing purchasers to download the entire audiobook in digital format. This is a brilliant idea (assuming it’s for no extra cost, and not a mere discount), and one I’ve been suggesting to publishers for some time.

If we really want to grow the market for electronic books – as well as audiobooks – in order that, in future, this market is controlled by publishers and not by a third party (in the way that Apple has effectively taken control of the music market from record labels), the bundling of digital versions with physical copies is a very smart way to go. Imagine if every book you bought came with that sort of code to download the ebook. Sceptical consumers could try out the new technologies at no risk – and no extra cost to the publishers – and, who knows, perhaps they might actually like them.

1 Comment

  1. I’m so glad you like the idea, James! I work on the Hachette Audio team, and we’re all very excited about this project. I can’t wait to get my hands on one straight off the press. And yes – the digital download of the full 75-minute audiobook comes complimentary with each purchase of the collector’s vinyl.

    Comment by Megan — November 24, 2009 @ 6:29 pm

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