Thursday, February 07, 2008

Digital Climate Change is Coming

We warmly welcome the BML market research 'Books and bookshops at the dawning of the digital age'. We strongly advocated such research in the Brave New World report and were dismayed when some in the industry felt that it wasn’t needed or that they knew best.

What the report gives us all is a stake in the ground and something from which we can measure the future. Does it tell us about consumer demand? Does it tell us what consumers want?

The reality is that we are all grappling with predicting and discussing consumer demand in a vacuum and the vacuum is a lack of digital content and consumer offer. The issue today is not ebook readers or formats, it’s that there is little if no digital content and publishing is still in the main an analogue process that produces bound books. What is the use of an ereader if there is little content and few places to buy it. The format has always dictated the content. Digitisation now creates the opportunity to explode the spine of what we have know for the last few centuries and present content differently. Will it replace the book – no. Will it help redefine it and how we develop and sell it – most definitely.

Today we looked at a super widget for real estate agents and had to ask the question – so what? If merely packaging the content in a new wrapper or spine is what we think is the answer we will fail to create new sales and merely create substitution sales. What has to change is the value proposition and benefit to the consumer. There are a few exciting publishing experiments taking place today and we support them all.

Today the digitisation of books is like climate change. We all know its happening. We all know the impact is going to be significant. However, no one knows when, by how much and what the result will be.

BML has asked the questions that needed to be asked and in doing so started the process of understanding. We are just amazed why it took so long to do something so obvious.