Friday, January 01, 2010

2020 Vision: Digital Predictions for 2010 Part 2

Yesterday we looked at the first four predictions for publishing in 2010 and into the next decade. Today we continue and offer a further three. Again we can’t predict the next decade but we are confident of what we see in the year ahead.

5. Digital Platforms, Channels and Consumers

This year will start to redefine ownership and see the entry of the streamed ‘read on demand’ model similar to what we have been raving about with the likes of Spotify. It will take the music model to open up consumers its potential and the challenge will be the publishers and their obsession in supporting existing models that they understand and their reluctance to think outside the box on rights and royalties.

Bookstores need to be included into the digital channel. It is over 3 years since we wrote the watershed white paper ‘Brave New World’ and yet publishers still want to bypass digitally retail and retail are is still not being enabled at the speed needed. Without this movement we are liable to see increasing friction and channel wars. Some will write off the physical channel but for many this will continue to dominate sales and be important. If we want to avoid the commoditisation of books like music we need to engage booksellers and Libraries and enable not disable them. This year will offer a significant opportunity and risk.

The Mobile technology will free the ereader from its tethered PC. ebook readers as we know them are highly unlikely survive past 2012 and the download model is highly suspect in a world where unlike games, music and films, a book is often only read once.

Price will continue to be a major issue. In a price war there is only one winner – the consumer. There is a need to separate digital from physical pricing and until some sanity is achieved the market will be unstable.

6. Authors In Control

Big name authors are already starting to realise the opportunities that digital offers. Some say that they must have a publisher in order to achieve reach and promotion, others realise that maybe this model is not as strong as it was in the physical world. On one hand publishers will demand comprehensive rights on the other authors will want to hold back and retain digital rights or separate them. Some will say it is impossible to work under a split model others will simple act and say nothing is impossible. Meanwhile others will slowly pick up digital publishing as the print on demand services picked up the long tail in the noughties.

The aspiring authors will increasingly look to digital and see potential that even print on demand didn’t offer. The Scribd, Amazon and Wattpad services will grow and we still have others such as Google to enter the market.

Back list and out of print has only one way to go – digital. The question is who will take them there; authors, agents, publishers, retailers or the consumer?


The Chains once had and enjoyed the economics of scale and size and the noughties has seen the erosion of this and them competing not with independents but bigger new entrants who have deeper pockets and models. This last year has seen chains go and the remaining ones are the most venerable players in the market today. They find themselves torn between being too inefficient and small to compete at one end and inefficient and too big to compete at the other. Digital will not save them but will increase the pressure on them

Amazon is no longer a bookseller. It is becoming a publisher, channel and bookseller and has learnt from history and other sectors. It is hard to see others offering the same empathy with the two people who count in the book market – authors and consumers. This position will strengthen in this next decade and will be little understood by those craving the status quo.

Independents have great opportunities but must learn that sale or return and merchandising their shelves with front list is not the answer. Bookselling is about selection, promotion, knowing customers and this can apply equally to physical and digital. Independents must specialise to survive.

Next we will finish our review and look at the final three areas of publishers, content and rights

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