Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Our 2009 Predictions

2009 beckons and as we celebrate the end of what for many was truly an unpredictable year we look forward to what we may expect in the next 12 months. We will all be heavily influenced by the economy and its impact on consumer confidence and spending no more so than new initiatives within digital publishing. The unthinkable question is not what will happen, but who will survive 2009? The physical market is still the dominate one for all and is unlikely to be a smooth ride for anyone, with authors being placed on hold, agents having to battle to get to the front of what will be a big queue, publisher reining in the bets and looking for the safest route and retailers watching the credit and cash flow.

At times of austerity some will spend their way out, hoping that by being brave they will be rewarded, others will batten down the hatches and hibernate, waiting and hoping for Spring. What is obvious, to all but the die hard, is that there likely to be fewer ‘passengers’ at the Book Fairs this year and conferences will become a luxury?

We still find ourselves trying to create an ebook 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’. Today the price is not right, the format not clear, the model is lost trying to live off the printed one and the content itself is just a carbon copy of the printed book and not special or a must buy.

So against this bleak winter what do we predict for 2009?

1. Content
The volume of digital titles will continue to grow but in tens of thousands not hundreds of thousands and the dominant format will remain PDF and Adobe eBook. The industry ePub format will grow in popularity for those who choose the detailed XML route but for many it will remain a cost too much.

2. Context
In a tight market, marketing is going to have to be on top form. That little extra effort could make the difference between an also ran and a hit. We must remember digital context sells both digital and more importantly physical books.
We envisage widgets will become smarter and offer a lot more that just the plain look inside the book. Digital renditions will be increasingly given away to promote physical sales. Authors should come to the front with podcasts, videos, blogs and web sites to promote them and their titles and the interesting question is whether they will do it themselves, be aided by their agents, leave it to the publisher, or look to others?

Finally the academic market will see the emergence of the digital inspection copy being used to sell adoptions and maybe create an academic social network environment. The trade on the other hand will miss the opportunity to digitise their review copies, or at best do it as an afterthought and believe that physical review copies are still a cheap run on option.

3. Rights
The introduction of the ‘Google’ Rights registry in the US is certainly going to focus the thinking. We believe that it will raise many of the challenges that have long been bubbling under the surface and many question are likely to be raised on the specification and scope of the work. Why the bibliographic agencies or the authors bodies stand up and do this is another question.
The whole spectrum of rights will continue to be questioned as POD is used to grab more orphans and retain rights in perpetuity. Permission rights will start to become more visible and an issue as ‘chunking’ will become more common together with the sale of digital fragments.

4. Digital Platforms
We stand by our vision of the mobile and the notebook still being the real platforms. There will be more ereader devices based on eink and expect a price battle but we still can’t see them becoming a must have device. We also see a shift towards online and rentals and away from download purchases. We believe that if Flash 10 makes it successfully put onto the mobile chip then mobiles devices will move forward and start to dominate the market.

5. Market Sectors
The educational, professional and academic sectors will continue to lead the way in digital both in publisher commitment and sales. One to watch in 2009 – religion. Trade will be more hype than substance but with a clear emphasis on digital marketing. The other sector we expect to raise its digital head is the public library market where the interesting question of its conflicting business model with trade (free to rent versus pay to buy) will remain unsolved.

6. Omnivores and New Entrants
The three main players will continue to steal the show, Amazon with its comprehensive covering of all bases, Google with the help it got buying the trade for ‘chump change’ and Adobe quietly plugging away on many fronts in the background.

7. Editorial / Production Content Development
We envisage that more and more publishers will review their antiquated development process and realise the opportunity benefits to be taken from digitising this. The key to success will be down to the implementation approach and managing the change programme. The old adage, ‘if a customer service clerk doesn’t like the system, you sack the clerk, but if and editor doesn’t like the system you sack the system,’ will still apply. Another important opportunity will be to pull the publishing business (content, context and rights) under one single digital process.

No comments: