We welcome 2008 and believe following 2007 it will be the year that makes significant strides forward on digitisation. We will definitely not all be reading ebooks by the end of the year but publishing will certainly be further impacted by digitisation and closer to that elusive tipping point.
The consumer needs the availability and ability to buy digital content and secondly the elusive reading device and ‘must buy’ pull. Until sufficient content is available we are trying to create an ereader market in a vacuum and although the device is less of an issue consumers want a ‘safe buy’ that has legs or a price that makes the purchase a ‘no brainer’. What they have today is format confusion, DRM madness and over engineering and a price ticket that says ‘special’ not ‘commodity’.
So what are our ten 2008 predictions?
1. Content – a significant rise in volume as more publishers realise that this is not a ‘wait and see’ game. PDF will be dominant over XML and we may well see the epub standard start to become a real consumer format standard and be fully adopted by ereaders. The publishers with established digital programmes will start to digitise their development process based on XML.
2. Context – widgets , widgets everywhere. The effect will be similar to when book jackets were first developed in mid 90s and the impact will be as great. Rich metadata will be the order of the day. Bowker and Nielson will have to respond but may find the world has moved on again.
4. Retailers – will come out of the background and start to take control of the channel again. The chains will expand their digital metadata repositories and do much scanning and collection of rich material. Following Amazon and Dymocks others are likely to endorse their own eroutes.
5. Publishers – more digital directors, more conversions and much activity. Some true small innovators are likely to rise to the occasion.
6. Audio – the death of DRM is inevitable and closely linked to music and in its wake what will happen to Audible and its monopoly? Consumers will vote with their clicks and the book club model is unlikely to succeed. The use of Watermarking technology will grow.
7. Standards – the only standards that matter now are the consumer ones. Adoption of simplified DRM, user interfaces and maybe a continued migration towards ‘508 compliance’. Digital drop ship communications standards are the exception and need to be developed and adopted.
8. Readers – an upgraded Sony, Kindle and the introduction of the Apple offer. The key is not the reader but the content but what is becoming crystal clear is that platform convergence onto the mobile and its network is certain.
9. Gorillas – Google, Microsoft, Apple, Sony, Amazon, Nokia etc. take your pick as they will all dictate how they see the world.
10. Waste – we envisage new opportunities from the digitisation process that will not only increase productivity and depth of by-product but will also start to change inefficiency within the supply chain that only is possible with digital content and context.
We may well get some things wrong and it’s often impossible to gauge the pace of change, but there are also bound to be some left field entries. What could happen that we don’t expect today? We always assume the opportunity or the threat is from within but these more often than not are from outside. For example; we have seen the power of Google to hover up content from publishers and libraries but as we migrate into a digital world other media groups may see more synergy with their content and some new acquisitions start to happen.