It’s always a bit disorienting sending our December/January issue off to press because it usually coincides with the clocks jumping back, the arrival of late-autumn foggy days that halt air traffic at European airports and more projects on the go than the year before. Officially this letter should be written some time around the final day of production (usually the last Sunday of the month) but thanks to my longstanding relationship with our production chief Jackie Deacon (or just Jax) I know I have till Tuesday morning to file it before she starts hunting me down.
As it happens this production period has come off the back of our Asia book tour, which saw us touching down in Singapore, Bangkok, Hong Kong and Tokyo; thank you to everyone who popped in to say hello. That was on top of book-signings at Daunt in London and The American Book Center in Amsterdam so it’s now Tuesday morning and I’m tapping away on the Deutsche Bahn ice train bound for Frankfurt Flughafen. I was hoping to file my letter over the weekend but with another two issues to produce before we break for Christmas, the weekend was spent plotting and planning with Richard (our creative director), Andrew (our editor and book chief) and Anders (our publisher).
First up was assigning writers and photographers for THE FORECAST (on newsstands from 10 December); that was followed by discussions about our next big book (out in late spring); and in between there was a bit of time to discuss the Tokyo Christmas party, Monocle 24’s seasonal playlist and whether we should look at doing some alpine broadcasts from somewhere in Tyrol. We didn’t even get round to discussing our February story plans and what the branding should look like for this year’s Christmas market (more on this in a moment).
As we look ahead to 2016 it’s set to be our biggest year yet for print. Along with our 10 regular issues, THE FORECAST, THE ESCAPIST and all the specials that go with them, there will be another nine or 10 travel guides to join the current line-up (Honolulu, Singapore and Paris are all on the go), two more large-format books, fresh formats devoted to essays and reportage and of course something special to mark our 10th anniversary. It might look like I’ve been out chopping down Christmas trees for our shop but it’s more likely that I’ve been in the forest ensuring that we have enough raw material to produce toothy papers for all the projects that lie ahead.
The upcoming Christmas trading season is likely to mark a dramatic shift in media consumption, particularly where books are concerned. While much has been made about the rise of e-books and associated “readers”, news from the Frankfurt Book Fair suggested that things are not going quite how analysts predicted: digital book sales have taken a tumble and the supporting devices have seen sales level off. At the same time there’s been a jump in the number of independent bookshops opening in the US; a complete reverse to what’s been a negative trend for the better part of a decade.
Of course all of this is great news for the sector but sadly it goes largely unreported. Business desks are still too dazzled by the absurd valuations associated with tech start-ups when they should be paying attention to a consumer trend that will likely have an impact on the very sector they seem so enamoured with. The Frankfurt fair also revealed what can happen when newspaper publishers focus their efforts on their core product and have an intimate understanding of their readership. All of the big quality German dailies showed a unique approach to not only extending their brands through books and special supplements but also via new formats and a dizzying array of special speakers’ series hosted by main editors and chief correspondents. If you’re even vaguely related to the media or creative industries and have never been to the fair it’s a must for your diary in October 2016.
Before that however, a couple of other dates to make a note of before the year is out. On 1 December we’re planning a book-signing down Australia way (we’ve yet to decide on Melbourne or Sydney); on 5 and 6 December, Santa will be back at Midori House for our annual Christmas market; and if you’re heading to the Dolomites or nearby on 22 December we’ll be having a little Christmas party at our pop-up shop in Merano. We’ll have plenty of programming to keep you entertained over the season on Monocle 24, of course. And, as ever, you can always get in touch with us, be it requests for last-minute gift ideas or story suggestions and ideas for the year ahead.
Thank you for another great year. Merry Christmas and cheers to a happy and healthy 2016.