Saturday, February 07, 2009

Like pulling a Car With a Horse

Mike Elgin in Computerworld offers six reasons why people will next year drive e-book reading to levels that will surprise just about everybody. They are interesting and logical and we have summarised these with our thinking. To read the full article; ‘Here Comes the eBook Revolution’

1. The economy. In the current economic climate people will turn to devices such as the Kindle which pays for itself after the purchase of 20 or 30 books and offers savings on books, magazines and newspapers.

This is not a sound argument as how many people today read 20 to 30 books? The kindle itself demands upfront investment which people will be reluctant to do. Finally the readers now have to compete with smart phones. We believe the economy will drive consumers to look at alternatives and bargains but question the Kindle logic. However we believe that ebook appeal will grow in this climate.


2. The environment. ‘Interest in protecting the environment just keeps growing and growing. The idea of getting a daily newspaper or a weekly or monthly magazine on paper seems incredibly wasteful to the point of decadence. Environmental consciousness will drive e-book acceptance.’

We fully support this logic as it is clearly visible today and the newsprint and magazine sectors are in deep pooh today. However books are not as environmentally unfriendly in themselves only in the sale or return practices, over production and poor inventory management. POD is starting to get the eyeballs as a solution but we must also beware the electronic equipment is not friendly when we strip it down.

3. A publishing revolution. ‘The book publishing industry is one of the most backward, musty, obsolete businesses in our economy. While every other kind of information moves at the speed of light, the process of publishing a book is like something from the Middle Ages.’

Does this drive ebooks or simply change the publishing value chain? It’s a chicken and egg debate. We agree that the old model is under serious pressure and new ones such as self publishing and digital production are challenging the old ways. Ebooks, digital content, digital marketing, pod, digital workflow are all parts of the solution but ebooks by themselves are not the major driver.

4. The rise in aggressive e-book marketing. ‘Like the move from silent pictures to "talkies," the transition to electronic publishing will prove fatal to laggards. Those aggressively pursuing and developing e-books will rise to take control of the publishing industry. Part of this revolution will happen in e-book marketing.’

Digital marketing is not about ebooks and here we seriously differ in our opinion from Mike. We believe that digital marketing offers a huge opportunity for all but also it offers this for both physical and digital content. The biggest potential change that publishing faces is moving from basic information to rich contextual information that unlocks that which today is often hidden or disjointed. The impact will be greater than at any time and everything you ever wanted to know will be simply a click away. Some will say that tying this to eBooks is naive.

5. A rise in books written for electronic reading. ‘The shift from print to electronic will change the nature of the book itself. Many books will be shorter. They'll be more timely and culturally relevant. They'll be more colourfully and engagingly written. And they'll go after young readers like nothing before’.

Here we must fully support Mike. The idea that books must be 75,000 words and 256 pages is no longer relevant. It was more out of an economic model that was based on paper. The challenge is to not merely migrate books written for paper, break the jacket and convert them to ebooks. This is like expecting the first cars to be pulled by horses!

6. The decline of the newspaper industry. ‘And, finally, the newspaper industry is dying. …Newspapers that embrace e-books will survive. Those that don't, won't.’

Newsprint and magazines are not ebooks and this where the logic falls apart. Newsprint will migrate online and still has to find a way to do that economically but it is not a book. The argument is like saying everything we digitally read will be an ebook- it won’t and the question it raises is , what is an ebook? But more on that later.


We believe that Mike may get the result but the game and issues will be different but clearly the game is getting serious and is in play.

1 comment:

Marilyn Barnicke Belleghem said...

There is also the cost of shipping to be considered. Digital books can avoid this expense. I also think the impatience of readers to get the content NOW has an effect.