The Book Publishing Business: E-Commerce

Over the years, the book publishing business has changed since the Internet allowed people to access texts without the need to purchase a physical copy of a book. The modern publishing industry was first introduced in the early 19th century, and the central premise of book publishing companies was to find promising authors and produce physical copies of their work as well as distribute those to bookshops (“How technology is changing the publishing industry,” n.d.).

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Many publishers struggled to adjust their business models to the demands of the industry and customers’ expectations and failed to address online publishing as a new opportunity. This report aims to outline the critical aspects of online publishing that “The Book Emporium” should consider when launching its online platform, including the potential risks and the revenue model.

Business Environment Analysis for the Publishing Industry

Table 1 presents the SWOT analysis for “The Book Emporium.” Since the industry of book publishing has changed over the last decade, this company can leverage the changes that occur within it, such as the increasing popularity of reading and purchasing books online. Since this company has experience in book publishing and employees that worked on editing publications and designing book covers for physical copies, the experience can be a significant competitive advantage.

Moreover, because the trend of increasing popularity for online publications is going to continue, the industry and “The Book Emporium” will experience significant disruption, unless these issues are addressed with online content production. Some possible problems include the need to negotiate and attract authors since self-publishing of books has become popular as well. Additionally, if “The Book Emporium” decides to publish books on its website, it should consider the security and intellectual property issues, as well as the competition from major online book platforms.

Strengths
  • Experience in publishing
  • A number of publications in science fiction and fantasy genres
  • Experience of editing and improving the quality of books
Weaknesses
  • Commission from third-party platforms (Apple and Amazon)
  • Lack of online experience
  • Lack of in-house expertise for online marketing and cover design
Opportunities
  • Build an online platform for fiction and fantasy books
  • Leverage the increasing popularity of online books
  • Develop a niche service for book authors
Threats
  • The increasing popularity of independent publishing
  • Security issues associated with payment processing
  • Intellectual property protection against piracy

Table 1. SWOT (created by the author).

Next, the PESTLE analysis is applied to determine the critical opportunities that this publishing company can use. Technology is the main element that affected the publishing industry. The online book publishing industry is still developing, with major companies such as Amazon and Apple providing users with access to millions of publications and having the impact on setting prices and determining the specifics of book publishing models (Ruth, 2018). However, “The Book Emporium” has leverage, since unlike the mentioned platforms, this publishing company focuses specifically on science fiction and fantasy books, allowing it to distinguish its target audience. Figure 1 demonstrates the standard PESTLE elements that are analysed in this report.

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PESTLE analysis.
Figure 1. PESTLE analysis (“PESTLE analysis templates,” n.d.).

Political

From a political perspective, nothing appears to obstruct the freedom of speech and thus the ability to publish books online. There are no major international regulations that would hinder “The Book Emporium” from performing its tasks in helping book authors and selling books to consumers. Moreover, the publishing industry in the United Kingdom is not subjected to any specific tax or limitation. However, book authors will have to pay a tax on the royalties they earn (“Paying UK Income Tax on book royalties – UK authors,” 2020). In general, this suggests that “The Book Emporium” will not be affected by legislative or political changes in the nearest future, allowing the company to grow and develop.

One fact that may be an issue, however, is that the publishing industry will be affected by Brexit since it is unclear what regulations between the European Union and the United Kingdom will take place upon the implementation of Brexit. While the majority of impact will be associated with publishers of physical books, online platforms may experience issues as well, associated with demand from EU countries, money transfers, copyright issues, security and other problems (“Publishing and Brexit,” n.d.). It is likely that Brexit will not have a damaging impact on “The Book Emporium’s” digital strategy.

Economic

From an economic viewpoint, book publishing is not under any threat. Moreover, book purchasing accounts for approximately 0.2% of expenditures for an average household in the United Kingdom (“Percentage of weekly household expenditure,” 2018). This means that people have additional financial resources to spend on the media products they consume, such as digital books. Moreover, according to Flaxman, Goel, and Rao (2016), “online publishing, social networks, and web search have dramatically lowered the costs of producing, distributing, and discovering news articles” (p. 298). This is true for book publications as well, including science fiction and fantasy, which are the main focus of “The Book Emporium’s” work.

This, however, raises another important question regarding the price and revenue of the books sold. The economic viability of online publishing is under question since e-books are much cheaper when compared to physical books. Although their production does not require as many physical resources, according to Ruth (2018), major publishing platforms such as Apple were linked to conspiracies when trying to increase the prices of e-books artificially. This suggests that the current prices of digital books are very low. Another economic issue with e-books is similar to that with physical copies. There is a limited number of pages per month an individual can read, limiting the number of sales that can be made by “The Book Emporium.”

Sociological

The main element of the sociological environment that online publishers should consider is the change in the habits that people have regarding the way they read books and how many books they choose to read per month. Flaxman, Goel, and Rao’s (2016) research suggest that users who consume content online usually visit their favourite webpages and rarely explore new publishing platforms.

This habitually provides “The Book Emporium” with leverage, since they will already have a well-established platform, advertising to users who visit the website to read science fiction and fantasy. An essential element of consumer behaviour is the rise of popularity of audio content – audiobooks and podcasts. This aspect will be further discussed in the revenue model and value proposition of the “Book Emporium,” since the production of audiobooks, although costly, can result in higher revenue and more significant demand.

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Technological

The Internet has changed the way people choose, purchase, and read books, which is supported by research from PEW center demonstrated as Figure 2. Many individuals use digital libraries and books they can find online instead of print versions. A lot of content is available online, and many authors have used new opportunities for interacting with readers to self-publish their works. Several important changes affected the book publishing business and the business model that can be applied in the industry to generate revenue. Firstly, self-publishing has become increasingly popular over recent years since the availability of technology and publishing platforms allows authors to skip the traditional steps of partnering with a publishing company and offer their book directly to a consumer.

The use of digital library resources
Figure 2. The use of digital library resources (Horrigan, 2016).

“The Book Emporium” will be able to leverage this trend since the company offers editing and book cover design services, which self-publishing authors may want to use to improve the quality of their publication. Additionally, “when self-publishing, the cover, editing, copywriting, and release of the book all become the responsibility of the author,” however, this publishing company has the experience and expertise to address the production and marketing aspects of the book (“How technology is changing the publishing industry,” n.d., para. 10). Hence, the services that “The Book Emporium” offers align with the opportunities provided by the self-publishing trend.

Next, Smartphones, tablets, and e-book-book readers and broadband Internet access affect the popularity of books and the number of people purchasing digital content. This is an excellent opportunity for digital platforms to expand their impact. Additionally, according to Ruth (2018), “technological changes reduced the value of many of the major publishers’ services to the point in which the publishers and Amazon are two types of intermediaries in a market that might need only one” (para. 4). This suggests that unless publishers adjust their current strategies to fit the demands of the new digital operating environment, they will be unable to sustain their operations.

Legal

The central aspect of the legal environment is the protection of intellectual property that this publishing company will be working with. Arguably, in the online environment, it is challenging to protect a text from being stolen and published on different websites. In regards to the industry-specific regulations, as was mentioned in the Political analysis, Brexit may have a minor impact on the digital publishing industry.

Environmental

Sustainability and environmental awareness have been an increasingly important element of decision-making for customers in different industries, such as fashion, food and publishing (Bilgihan, Kandampully & Zhang, 2016). Online publishing and reading books using different devices is more ecologically friendly and help reduce the amount of wood used for book production. This consumer awareness regarding sustainability can become an important marketing factor for “The Book Emporium,” providing an opportunity to target environmentally cautious consumers.

Analysis of Different Platforms

The analysis above suggests that currently, there are two major players in the digital publishing market – Amazon and Apple. Both allow authors to self-publish and provide them with 70% of the revenue. However, the organization does not offer any help with book design and other services (“Ebook royalty options,” n.d.). If “The Book Emporium” uses these platforms to publish the books of its authors, it will have to negotiate the pricing strategy with the authors, to ensure that the company is still able to obtain its 30%, since the authors will receive only 40% of the revenue.

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Business Canvas and Revenue Models

When developing a revenue model, it is necessary to compare the strategies of competitors. One example is the Kindle Publishing Platform, which allows authors to receive up to 70% of the revenue from each e-book (“Ebook royalty options,” n.d.). When compared to 30% flat rate for all services including standard book cover, marketing, and online publishing, the “The Book Emporium’s” publishing service is more beneficial for authors, because they receive more services and help with presenting a high-quality book to readers. The downside of this approach is that “The Book Emporium” will not have the audience that significant aggregator platforms have. Thus, it is necessary to determine if this revenue model is sustainable for the online environment.

Table 1.1 is the Business Canvas Model developed for the “Book Emporium.” The strategy for “The Book Emporium” was formulated using Venkatram’s 5 stage process (as cited in Prieto & de Carvalho, 2018). The strategic vision for this business is to create a platform for authors, where the latter will receive guidance and help for publishing their works as high-quality material, through book design, editing, marketing and publishing online.

To govern dot-com companies, “The Book Emporium” will create its online platform, where it will publish books for a subscription fee and will also assist authors in publishing their books on major platforms. The primary resources that “The Book Emporium” will need are human capital – designers, marketers and proofreaders. The operating infrastructure includes the cloud services necessary to host “The Book EMorium’s” platform. Finally, the management team of “The Book Emporium” is aligned for this task, since they understand the need to adjust the existing strategy and include digital book publishing as part of their services.

Key elements of the strategy include the measurement, risks, multichannel use and customer experience. For “The Book Emporium,” the main approach to managing risks will be the focus on security, including the security of content published on the website, data security, and payment system safety. Additionally, the organization will publish books on its platform and on other websites, to maximize revenue.

Hence, the business model that the “Book Emporium” will apply is to receive revenue from the services it provides to authors. The customers will access books on the company’s website for a monthly subscription or purchase the books they like to be able to access them anytime. Additionally, the books will be published on other platforms, such as Amazon or Apple. This model was chosen because “The Book Emporium” undertakes a lot of risks by having to invest in book covers, marketing and publishing, and the 30% charge for each sale is not going to provide enough revenue to cover the costs.

Key Partners Key Activities Value Propositions Customer relationships Customer Segments
Advertising platforms (Google Adwords, Facebook)
Freelance book cover designers
Freelance online marketing specialists
Editors
Finding books that can be interesting to the audience and publishing them on the platform
Developing books covers and other illustrations
High-quality science fiction and
Online access to books
New authors
Exclusive access to all publications for a subscription fee on the company’s website
Self-service People who are reading science fiction and fantasy books.
Book authors of science fiction and fantasy
Key Resources Channels
Cloud computing services “The Book Emporiums” own platform
Amazon and Apple publishing services
Cost Structure Revenue Streams
70% of sales go to the author
The company charges 30% for publishing and creating a book cover
Additional 5% is charged for editing
Flat fee for additional illustrations
Flat fee for additional marketing
Monthly subscription fee
Selling the books on partner-platforms
Subscription fees for “The Book Emporium’s” own platform
Providing additional services to authors
Recording audiobooks
Providing additional marketing and advertising for publications (beyond standard marketing for each publication)
Developing additional illustrations for books

Table 1.1. Business Model Canvas (created by the author).

“The Book Emporium” does not have any upfront charges for the authors. However, the company also does not offer any advances, which are typical for authors who sign contracts with traditional publishers (Clark & Phillips, 2016). On the one hand, it may be unprofitable to pay authors for their books before beginning the sales, since “The Book Emporium” will be working with many authors. On the other hand, the company should consider having exclusive contracts with promising authors, who can bring consumers to the “The Book Emporium’s” publishing platform.

Hence, the e-business improvements that “The Book Emporium” will have to undertake to include a focus on digital publishing, development of a website, which will be used to attract new authors and as an aggregator for customers who want to read “The Book Emporium’s” books. Additionally, the company will have to make changes within its marketing department, to ensure that they have specialists qualified for developing advertisement for Good Ads, Facebook and other popular services. Moreover, for better profitability and increased efficiency, the company should hire an in-house book cover designer, to avoid overpaying for freelancers’ services and ensuring that they always have a specialist ready to fulfil the task.

Pricing and Revenue Models

The “Book Emporium” can choose from two primary revenue models for customers – pay per view or subscription. Arguably, a traditional approach to book publishing and selling is obtaining revenue from customers purchasing physical copies of these books. Hence a pay per view approach appears to be the best. The company will earn money from the book authors and book sales. The main expenditures will be associated with paying freelance designers, editors, and marketing specialists. However, the average cost of a digital book is from $2.99 to $9.99, which is approximately 2.34 and 7.82 pounds, respectively (“How to price an e-book,” n.d.).

Moreover, according to Piechota’s observations, major media platforms have aggregated a large number of users, and publishers can only fight for the 30% of the audience that does not use these resources (as cited in Heyl, 2017). Notably, “The Book Emporium” will have to work with a large number of authors to sustain its operations when selling only the services of book covers, editing, and publishing.

The evidence above suggests that “The Book Emporium’s” strategy will not bring enough revenue to cover the costs, mainly because significant publishing platforms pay royalties of 30% to 70%, which the company will have to split with the book’s authors as well. As such, this proposal offers to invest in a subscription book service for science fiction and fantasy books, where the revenue will be received from monthly payments.

On average, subscription services cost approximately £12 per month per user and can generate a valuable stream of profit for the company (Krug, 2018). “The Book Emporium” can also consider offering services of audiobook production. Audiobooks are popular among the online audience, and when compared to the number of books read or listened to, the latter category is more popular with consumers (Tattershell Wallin & Nolin, 2019). This means that selling audiobooks can be more profitable for the company.

Discussion of Concerns

This report offers some significant changes to the strategy that “The Book Emporium” currently has for its offline business and some alterations for the digital strategy of the publisher. The advantages of the offered approach include the ability to leverage the opportunity of developing technology and ensure that the business does not suffer from a significant downturn. Additionally, if the company chooses to establish its book aggregator platform as a subscription service, it will receive a new revenue stream, providing an additional source of revenue each month.

Finally, the publisher will use the statistics and data from its website to determine books that are popular with consumers and further market them. The main downsides are the need to invest in creating a viable platform and particular attention dedicated to security risks of the digital environment. Thus, Advantages and risks of changing the business model include the ability to leverage the new market opportunities.

Security and Payment

Payments for products sold through the website can be accessed via a third party company that provides banking services for online transactions, which will result in an additional fee for the publisher. To ensure that all consumers willing to purchase “The Book Emporium’s” books, it is necessary to have a payment system that accepts credit cards, debit cards, both Visa and Mastercard, and PayPal Payments and uses an SSL protocol for safety.

The security risk is connected to the website’s protection protocols and intellectual property. Cybercrimes are other security risks, which can manifest through hacking or stealing vital information such as book texts or consumer data (Shah, Jones, P. & Choudrie, 2019). Safety and protection of intellectual property are the main concerns of the online publishing business. Table 2 is the analysis of different payment systems that “The Book Emporium” can use.

Payment system Advantages Risks
Credit or debit cards Easy-to-use for a consumer does not require registration in an additional system. Interest rates, security, and merchant fees. Additionally, these systems collect information about users.
Paypal No additional fees and customer information remains protected. Transaction fees for merchants and legal issues, since PayPal is not recognized as a bank.
Amazon Pay High level of security and easy implementation. Transaction fees from 2.9%.
Electronic Fund Transfer Convenient for small businesses and sends funds directly to a merchant. Delays with transaction confirmations and availability in different countries is limited.

Table 2. Analysis of payment methods (created by the author).

Another security risk is associated with the safety of online payments, which is why it is critical for “The Book Emporium” to choose a payment system that will allow for safe transactions. Additionally, having an online payment system on the website results in additional expenditures. For instance, setting up an account can be completed for a fee, monthly maintenance fees and per-transaction costs, all of which affect the revenue that the company will receive.

Finally, the best platform for this business is WordPress because it is a well-developed tool for creating online websites, with a variety of themes and plugins, allowing for customization. This platform can be integrated with online shopping tools, such as OpenCart, which will also address concerns such as collecting payments from customers (“Welcome to OpenCart extension store,” n.d.). A lot of the features offered by WordPress are free and because of its popularity, it is also easy to customize, which is demonstrated in Figure 3.

Example of a WordPress theme for a printing business
Figure 3. Example of a WordPress theme for a printing business (Livingston, 2020).

Conclusion

Overall, the online publishing business is challenging, mainly due to low prices for products and the fact that a large number of market share belongs to major players such as Amazon or Apple. The PESTLE analysis suggests that there are no significant threats for “The Book EMporium’s” online business, although Brexit can affect some regulations associated with digital companies. However, there are many opportunities related to lower production costs of digital books and changing consumer habits.

The revenue model offered in this report is a combination of business-to-consumer strategy, intending to build a relationship with customers and offer them a subscription service on “The Book Emporium’s” own website. Additionally, the company’s pricing strategy of 30% on each book sold can be used for other publishing platforms.

References

Bilgihan, A., Kandampully, J., & Zhang, T. (2016). Towards a unified customer experience in online shopping environments: Antecedents and outcomes. International Journal of Quality and Service Sciences, 8(1), 102-119. Web.

Clark, G., & Phillips, A. (2019). Inside book publishing. London, United Kingdom: Routledge.

Ebook royalty options. (n.d.). Web.

Flaxman, S., Goel, S., Rao, J. (2016). Filter bubbles, echo chambers, and online news consumption. Public Opinion Quarterly, 80(1), 298–320. Web.

Hayl, C. (2017). Publisher business models in the age of platforms. Web.

Horrigan, J. (2016). 2. Library usage and engagement. Web.

How technology is changing the publishing industry. (n.d.). Web.

How to price an ebook. (n.d.). Web.

Livingston, C. (2020). 10 best bookstore WordPress themes for selling books 2020. Web.

Krug, N. (2018). Looking for the perfect book? Here are nine subscription boxes that can help. The Washington Post. Web.

Paying UK Income Tax on book royalties – UK authors. (2020). Web.

Percentage of weekly household expenditure going on books in the United Kingdom (UK) in 2018, by disposable income decile group. (2018). Web.

PESTLE analysis templates. (n.d.). Web.

Prieto, V. & de Carvalho, M. (2018). Can internal strategic alignment influence performance? An empirical research applying structural equation modelling. Academia Revista Latinoamericana de Administración, 31(3), 585-604.

Publishing and Brexit. (n.d.). Web.

Rub, G. (2018). Amazon and the new world of publishing. I/S: A Journal of Law and Policy for the Information Society, 14(2), 367-388.

Shah, M., Jones, P. & Choudrie, J. (2019). Cybercrimes prevention: Promising organisational practices. Information Technology & People, 32(5), 1125-1129.

Tattersall Wallin, E., & Nolin, J. (2020). Time to read: Exploring the timespaces of subscription-based audiobooks. New Media & Society, 22(3), 470–488.

Welcome to OpenCart extension store. (n.d.). Web.

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