Thursday, June 05, 2008

Penguin CEO David Shanks on State of the Industry

Fritz Lanham of the Houston Chronicle caught up with Penguin CEO David Shanks at L.A.'s Book Expo where they had an interesting conversation (some highlights are shown below).

Q: And you still see a demand for books? Do you worry about the trend lines there?

A: I don't worry about it as long as the baby boomers are still here. They are, without any question, the biggest population of readers.

When somebody has a really good book, it can still sell 6, 8, 10 million copies. If you look at Harry Potter — that was 12 million copies of each book. Now they're few and far between. But the great news publishing should take out of this is you can still find 12 million people who will buy a book.
Q: You said earlier you're not concerned about readership as long as baby boomers are still reading. That suggests you are concerned about reading habits of younger readers.

A: I am concerned about it. We're going to have to find a way to bring them in. If you think about it, they're reading — they're reading text messages, they're reading blogs, they're reading stuff on the social networks. So they are reading. They're just not turning pages as we know them. So there has to be a way to market to that. There are already books coming out — we're doing some — from the bigger bloggers who have a built-in base. I think that's where it's going to come from.
Keep turning those pages, Boomers...but you need to get those grandkids as enthusiastic about books as you are. We won't be here forever, guys.


  1. I'm a child of Boomers and I'm turnin' and turnin'! My three year old nephew and seven year old niece are also bibliophiles! Our whole family has made reading stories a special time that we share together with them, and so they love breaks my heart to hear people say they hate it....

  2. My 23 year old son loves books, but much to a bookseller's dismay, he is passionately committed to interlibrary loan. Of course, all that will come to a screeching halt if he does as he is threatening -- follow in old Mom's footsteps and get a job teaching English in Korea. He'll probably have withdrawal symptoms.

  3. I am doing my part Sam. I have 3 teens and they are all huge readers. Like Bybee's son, they like the library but they(or I) still buy their favorites.

  4. Interesting. I never thought of which segments of the population are the big book buyers. I'm not a boomer, I came later, so maybe there's still hope? :)

  5. That's fantastic, guys are doing a wonderful thing and each generation will be better for it. Nice...

  6. I'm a firm believer in free libraries, too, bybee...but some books just have to be owned and my shelves are full to bursting while I acquire at least 10-12 new books a month. I suspect, as an avid reader, that he will get there, too...

  7. Cool, Amy...three for three is something to be proud two daughters both read but their teaching jobs don't seem to allow them much time to read, really.

    My granddaughter is a real bookaholic, though...we brought her to a wedding reception yesterday and she was happy to get all dressed up but brought a book with her into the room.

  8. Danielle, there's lots of many book blogs and book bloggers tells me so. :-)