Sunday, May 31, 2009

Brave New World's 1,000th Article!

When we started this blog at the end of 2006 we had just finished the Brave New World report and set out to continue to inform the publishing community of digital media events, trends, opinion, insights and whatever we thought may be of interest. We never expected to write 1,000 articles and never anticipated to be still enjoying it today as much as the very first day.

It’s interesting that much of what we wrote in the report has happened, is happening, or is still likely to happen. Many of the threats risks and issues we envisaged have materialised. The omnivores we described have lived up to their billing and today we are faced with Google, Adobe, Sony, Amazon, Apple. These new entrants clearly talk about the legacy, the book, but do not share the same business drivers and models. Will they reshape the book as we know it today, almost certainly, but will it be once again driven and shaped by the format, or become format neutral and no long jacket bound?

It isn’t a surprise that Google followed by Apple and Amazon dominate the Brave New World index, with the Google Book Settlement being the most blogged about subject and the iPhone the most indexed device.

The report was written in the spirit of collaboration and promoted a vision of players working together to make it happen and support each other. However we have seen the increasing use of ‘exclusive’ digital deals. These can often have a marginalising effect and be counter productive in growing the market. Collaboration is a word much used and like interoperability is often little practiced. Many follow the new entrants and look to go direct to the consumer and in doing so adopt an ‘I am alright jack’ approach. The resultant duplication of effort may sort the real opportunities from the also rans, but it can also lead to much consumer confusion, duplication of industry effort and of course, waste. It is hardly surprising but understandable that today, as an industry, we still lack a point of digital reference, terms, table of comparisons and somewhere independent of ‘agendas’ for all to share and use. It is not surprising that many have exploited the lack of consensus, built their digital fortresses and land-grabbed orphan works.

There is still a lack of real digital leadership from within publishing and the big issues remain; DRM and its restrictive nature, territorial rights within a global economy, pricing and the $9.99 price point, the royalty model and author reward and the fact that digital is often an afterthought and produced on the back of analogue and linear production processes.

However, we see the digital shift starting to gain momentum and many opportunities ahead for authors and consumers. The big question is who will remain between these two in years to come? Who will be seen by both parties to add value and who will be disintermediated in the digital Brave New World?

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