Monday, October 11, 2010

Five Digital Publishing Considerations

We offer five insights into tomorrows world we believe should be considered in any digital publishing strategy.

The Future is Online

Many are still grappling with digital downloads and the various interpretations of epub standards, the myriad of ereader devices and how to price and sell digital titles. However when we look at other media markets we can already see a shift from download to streamed content or content on demand, from ownership to rental or subscription. Spotify and Pandora are changing music from buying tracks to renting music on demand. Video and TV is no different and here the shift is from schedules to viewing on demand.

Some think that books are different but why buy and download when the elibrary is effectively in the cloud? Why download when your GPS can already restrict what you can and can’t read? Why buy a file that is free from any armchair via your local library?

Online technology is now accessible 24x7 and as already proven, your latest read can be cached for continued enjoyment offline and can also be platform supported and not device dependant.

The Future is Agnostic

Today our views, interests and cultural awareness is restricted by what we can find and access, how we access it, what we can do with it and how we use it.

Interestingly, we are shaped more by what we don’t know, than by what we do know.Media is a classic example of where the technology and cultural restriction to information and content can narrow our perspective and thereby who we are.

Someone who grew up in the 50s did not have the access to the rich variety of music that existed then. Their taste was dictated by what and who they knew and could hear. Today, we all have access to just about every conceivable genre, taste and also every manifestation of any work every produced. This opportunity has been created by technology. However, the way in which we discover, access, experience and form opinions on music is varied and often haphazard. As a result everyone’s taste is more eclectic and the music industry now has to support a rich variety of taste. Genre and sub genre are still important but people expect access to a width and depth of range of music.

Merely expecting to sell front list titles forever maybe the quickest form of suicide we can think of.

The Future is Mobile

The most successful reading device to date, the book, is truly mobile.

The future may not be what we have in our pocket today but it will be what we have in our pockets tomorrow. User intuitive interfaces, micro technology and a different approach to mobile are going to shape the devices we will use. Th one thing that is certain is that we will not be tethered to anywhere or anytime. Digital reading will happen just as mobile email, wireless connectivity and digital music, games and video have all happened. The key is mobility. Today we take our phones everywhere and they are switched on 24X7. They go to the beach, in the car, on the underground and as they develop, must become our primary interface to everything. Books are not excluded merely waiting to happen.

The Future is Polar

We have ready seen the entry of the technology omnivores and they aren’t going away.

What is clearly happening is that the economies of digital scope and size are introducing new entrants who care less about books and more about selling devices, advertising, bandwidth and promoting their own brand. They only respect the existing channels if they support their brand and its they who own the transactions, the customer, the information and its their name on the tin.

This is actually creating a new opportunity for those who previously were forgotten and expected to die and small publishers and booksellers now have greater and different opportunities. The challenge is with those who once had the economies in their favour, the chains and larger publishers. Its fast becoming a case of ‘the king is dead long live the king.’

The Future is Vale Added

We have long argued that there is only two people that matter, the author who creates value and the consumer who pays for it. Everyone in between has to earn their place and add value.

This is changing the role of agents, publishers, service providers, distributors, wholesalers, bibliographic and secondary publishers, marketers, booksellers and librarians.


Geoff said...

About making and selling books in the future, I've been thinking about this recently because after being very skeptical for a long time I just got a Kindle (version 3, the latest one, which has much better black-white contrast) and I love it! Somehow reading text is easier and more pleasurable, perhaps because it suits aging eyes better but also I think because the Kindle is lighter than a book so you can physically focus more on the content rather than the vehicle for the content. The medium disappears and what is left are the raw words.

So my predication is that bookstores will stop selling books that are text only, such as novels, biographies etc. People will get those only digitally over the web as is becoming, as you point out, rapidly the norm for music. However, there is still a future for bookstores: they will shift to only selling large format books and those that are heavy on photos, graphics, diagrams etc. I think the physical book will continue to reign supreme there for the foreseeable future. An electronic version just cannot replace the visual and tactile feel of such books. But books that are just text can and will go 100% digital within the next 5 years.

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