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November 01, 2005



Chris, the significance of the revenue is also relative. A small percentage of the pie might not mean much to a big publisher, retailer or entertainment company. But for someone putting out their own music or publishing their own book, that added income could mean the difference between keeping or dumping a day job. The fact that Amazon can carry a title at little-to-no cost has a huge impact on the ability of niche producers to get (and keep) their products out on the market.


There's a question I wanted to ask the Big Champagne folk but never got round to it. How much of P2P sharing is around music that is unavailable anywhere else? Because it's deleted, back catalogue, never released, bootleg concert recordings or whatever. This is the tip of the tail but it's significant for a record business that wanted to exploit the long tail of demand. There's gold in them thar vaults of recorded music that's currently simply unavailable.

Michael Cader

Careful here, Chris--you've made another statistical leap. In the BISG used book survey you link at, over 70 percent of those sales are for used textbooks, which is probably a very non-Long Tail market. (It's more likely a relatively small set of standard works.)

In many respects, the consumer used book volume that the study found is actually smaller than a lot of observers were expecting. And the study didn't even look at distribution of sales over number of titles. Amazon itself is of course a big piece of the used consumer book market now, and it's quite likely that this market is only as Long Tail as the general book market at Amazon.

Also, Richard's accounting is fun--but the key is the "mental writeoff" more than anything. I also don't see allowances for the cost of warehousing and fulfilling those 5,000 books, and the author's share.

The better point he raises is that Amazon's overall percentage of the business doesn't matter--for many books Amazon sales comprise a much larger, and sometimes even the largest, source of sales.

Sam Ramji

There should be a number of technology/infrastructure opportunities to enable economically efficient long tail markets - JIT infrastructure for real goods (and no, I'm not going all "Diamond Age" on you).

You pointed out Richard Nash's mention of short-run digital printing - sourced through Kinko's as a local distribution network, what are the opportunities if a full-sized book could be printed for $3? What technology would have to be invented to make that happen?

Where are other similar "real-world" (i.e. physical fulfillment) markets that would benefit from Long Tail JIT?

Francis Hamit

The real reason that books are remaindered is not because there is no Long Tail value. If you have a warehouse, you can find storage space for the rest of the print run that hasn't been sold. It has to do (in the USA anyway) with a tax law decision called "Thor Power Tool". In that case it was decided that old inventory could not be depreciated, but had to be carried at full asset value until sold. The only way to get a write down was to sell older books to a dealer in "remainders". These sales cancelled the remaining royalties to the authors and created a secondary market which devalued new books as well. Why buy a new hardbound when you could wait a year and get it for the cost of the paperback? Because a publisher would always order more than they expected to sell of a new book, there would always be remainders. The more heavily promoted a book was, the more likely there was to be remainders and several mail order dealers and one major chain, Crown Books, made most of their money from these remaineders, which they acquired at scrap prices and sold for 20 to 30 times their cost. The existance of this new channel (which also meant that books would not be pulped because they had some salvage value) also impacted the sale of trade paperback and mass paperback editions that were released later. Authors were competing with themselves because the old books from the better editions were priced the same or lower than the new editions that paid royalties. Some savvy authors bought their remainders and resold them themselves to libraires and collectors. Another example of the Long Tail being used to advantage.

So the backlist has virtually diappeared, except where it has been replaced by books produced in "Print on Demand" formats -- which never go "out of print"-- and authors' royalties have been diminished, even for "best sellers".
That, in turn, creates a treadmill effect, where they must simultanously rpomte the current book to maximize short term income and work to complete the next
book for publication. Given the time and trouble involved in most non-fiction, it is not surprising that the Midlist has pretty much gone away. (See the Authors Guild report from their web site.)

ps3 spiele

It is the great mark achieved by the Long Tail books and it goes on increasing. Anyways i really appreciate the success of long tail and wish to continue the same winning streak....

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The Long Tail by Chris Anderson

Notes and sources for the book

FREE was available in all digital forms--ebook, web book, and audiobook--for free shortly after the hardcover was published on July 7th. The ebook and web book were free for a limited time and limited to certain geographic regions as determined by each national publisher; the unabridged MP3 audiobook (get zip file here) will remain free forever, available in all regions.

Order the hardcover now!