Random House CEO on the E-Book Age 'The Printed Book Will Still Dominate for a Long Time to Come'

Part 3: 'The Book as a Medium Is Changing'


SPIEGEL: On the iPad, however, the book is getting all kinds of new, direct competition from games, videos and other forms of entertainment media. Can it even keep up?

Dohle: But the book as a medium is also changing. There are cookbooks that explain to you what to do in a video, or that dictate recipes out loud to you. You don't even have to touch the iPad in the process. Still, no one knows whether this is something people really want and if they are prepared to pay a premium for it.

SPIEGEL: Until now, however, most publishers have seen themselves mainly as providers of good quality books, and not as multimedia professionals.

Dohle: Certainly, the industry can only keep up if the publishers change. And that only works if they invest in digital competencies and don't have a technology department on one side doing the e-books and the staff that runs the traditional business on the other, with a long hallway in between.

SPIEGEL: You also face new competition in your core business. Amazon stopped being just an online bookseller a long time ago, and now it acts as a publisher itself. Stephen Covey, the American bestselling author of non-fiction books such as "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People," turned his back on his publisher, Simon & Schuster, and sold the digital rights to his next books to Amazon. Who even needs publishing companies anymore?

Dohle: There is, of course, the risk that publishers will go under, but we are very self-confident in that regard. We are convinced that the joint marketing of print and digital rights will be the most successful approach for our authors in the future. And publishing houses are the ones that are best equipped to make sure this happens.

SPIEGEL: It's also a question of how you can ensure that authors remain loyal to your company.

Dohle: Trust plays a very important role. And being patient is also part of it. I don't know whether booksellers have the patience and ability to develop a new talent and pay advances. After all, bestsellers aren't written on an assembly line. As a publisher, you have to know the cycles of the business and be supportive when there are creative gaps, and sometimes you simply have to be able to keep the pressure away from the creatives.

SPIEGEL: But Amazon sometimes pays authors a 70 percent share of sales, while classic publishing houses often pay only 10 percent. Do you have to up the ante to keep your authors from leaving?

Dohle: Of course, that's an issue we address in talks with authors and agents. But when you reach an exclusive deal with a vendor, you have to grant extensive rights without knowing how important they'll be in the coming years.

SPIEGEL: Do you believe that you'll survive digitization more effectively than the music industry?

Dohle: We're just at a point that the music industry has already passed and that newspapers and magazines will still face. It's where the cornerstones are laid for the future and business models are developed. It's our job to transfer the print business model into the digital world, with a fair share for authors, agents, publishers and retailers.

SPIEGEL: As far as the music industry goes, if consumers had had their way, they wouldn't have paid anything at all anymore.

Dohle: Piracy is a threat, but we are operating on a good basis, unlike the music industry a few years ago. Piracy was already a major factor in the market when they tried to introduce payment models. In our case, readers are accustomed and prepared to pay for content. We just have to be careful not to let piracy in. That's an important requirement for the future of the publishing industry.

SPIEGEL: Mr. Dohle, thank you for this interview.

Interview conducted by Markus Brauck and Isabell Hülsen

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