Invisible Stock

February 28, 2008


Kate Pullinger’s column in today’s Guardian – Writers deserve a better deal from digital publishing – is very good on why authors should get a better, not worse, deal from digital publishing, and on the role of publishers in the new digital world.

But it’s particularly priceless for this anecdote:

At the moment the entire infrastructure of the publishing industry is geared toward shifting retail units; the head of digital publishing at a large publishing house told me that because their accounting system is entirely warehouse-based, for a time they had to find a way to represent the units shifted through digital downloads. Their solution was to have empty pallets in the warehouse, with invisible digital content, thus enabling the system to count the units that had sold.

I think this stands as an exemplar of the industry’s problems adapting. Although it was a temporary solution, publishers need to recognise that the game has fundamentally changed – in supply, distribution, and in rights and royalties – and the old ways are just not applicable any more.


  1. I’m laughing at that but I’m also secretly wondering how we would track the same!

    Comment by Eoin Purcell — February 28, 2008 @ 3:01 pm

  2. You mean other than throwing lots of money (bankrolled by keeping an affordable royalty rate) at the problem, Eoin? ;)

    Comment by webgoddess — February 29, 2008 @ 7:15 am

  3. Ha,

    As a small publisher with little to no money to throw that would be a disastrous policy!


    Comment by Eoin Purcell — February 29, 2008 @ 12:25 pm

  4. As a big publisher, I’m not sure where the money is ACTUALLY coming from, either… Certainly not from the ebook market as it currently exists! Maybe from Kindle if it ever leaves the States (here is hoping that reports of Kindle sales are actually that good — and I’m thinking of Teleread’s post specifically, about the only one I’ve seen with a number you can extrapolate from:…

    Comment by webgoddess — March 1, 2008 @ 8:51 am

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