Sunday, December 27, 2009

Review of 2009 and Our Predictions

At the end of 2008 we made 7 predictions for 2009. Many predictions made have now been conveniently forgotten but we stand by our thinking at the time and believe it appropriate we openly review these individually and see what we think happened and assess them appropriately.

Today we review 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.

It’s fair to say that this prediction was spot on with epub being the tip of most tongues.

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.

Again it was relatively easy call and marketing clearly started to use digital copy to promote new titles with even the emergence of the Vook. Digital inspection copies and reviews are clearly wanted by many publishers but are still slow in the uptake.

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.

Those who didn’t understand the Google Settlement probably still don’t but it clearly got the attention over the year and two rights issues dominated the debate; the orphans and also the international rights that were at least omitted from the revised settlement deal.

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.

Again we believe that the year was much as predicted. There were probably even more ‘lookie likie’ eink ereaders than we would have predicted. Mobile is definitely gaining acceptance and the purchase of Stanza showed that even the likes of Amazon recognised this trend. Flash continues to be frustrated by Apple but is now likely to make an impact in 2010.

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.

Apart from religion the predictions were accurate. The trade sector became under pricing pressure and decided to ‘pick up the bat and ball’ and stomp off and delay ebooks. The library sector issues remain and today we even have government ministers advocating libraries compete with Amazon.

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.

Amazon has covered all digital bases and also gone international. Google continues to hood wink the good and mighty and even when their settlement was rejected they came back with what some would argue is even a better one now dragging in UK, Canada, Australia into the deal. Google also revealed its Google Editions as their build their digital family. Adobe were out of the limelight but continued to build their grip with Indesign in the editorial and production space, their ACS4 remains the only viable epub DRM and quietly also protects Adobe ebooks (PDF) and also still has a hold over the open PDF.

Apple started to get traction with the iPhone dominating the smartphone market and applications but everyone waiting for the tablet and thri book offer.

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.

This major area of productivity still remains elusive to technology. Academic and Educational publishers start to use XML workflow but others are still happy to produce the physical book and then ‘convert’ it.

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