Thursday, April 12, 2007

The NACS Looks To The Future

Anyone who reads this blog knows that I'm not shy about expressing my opinions.

As near as I can tell, the first time I made a prediction about electronic books was last year in a post dated April 6, 2006 here:

I've been exchanging emails with another writer. She questioned me on the future of e-books. I said that, while e-books have been gradually gaining in acceptance, I thought the tipping point would occur when a viable e-book reading device came on the market.

In the year since I wrote that comment, I have repeated it multiple times. I've taken flack for it from members of EPIC (Electronically Published Internet Connection) who claim there are already many decent e-reading devices on the market. I've pointed out that I'd said I was waiting for a "viable" e-reader. By viable, I mean easy to read, easy to use AND affordable.

Last month, on March 7, 2007, here, I said:

While I have not yet e-published, it's not because I don't believe or respect the industry. I think e-publishing and a form of self-publishing (not the vanity press industry that exists at present) will be the wave of the future. I continue to believe that, once an e-reader seizes the reading public's fascination the way the iPod did for music lovers, e-publishing will explode.

A digitized industry doesn't really rely on the publisher any more, does it? It would be very easy for a group of writers and artists to band together to produce their own works (United Artists, anyone?). In the future, there is the very real possibility that publishers will find themselves being edged out of the equation, once writers figure a way to insure a consistency of quality that readers can trust.

While this blog is mostly concerned with commercial fiction and non-fiction, I've occasionally posted on another very important segment of the publishing industry: textbooks.

Last month, from March 23rd to 27th, booksellers from over a thousand college stores and more than 700 exhibitors met in Orlando for the collegiate retailing industry's largest trade show. The event is sponsored by the National Association of College Stores (NACS), the trade association for the industry.

Dr. Mark Nelson, PhD and MBA, works for the NACS (pronounced "knacks") as their "digital content strategist."

Tuesday's Shelf Awareness reported on comments Nelson made in Orlando during an overview of digital content issues. Here is an excerpt:

Once an effective e-reader is invented and interface problems are solved, "e-readers will take off as fast as iPods did," . . . the iPod model is "very relevant. In three years, iPod penetration of college freshmen has gone from 0% to 50%". [Incidentally Apple announced yesterday that it has sold 100 million iPods since the product's introduction in November 2001.]

Another excerpt from Shelf Awareness:

Although many college booksellers fear being bypassed by publishers selling digital texts to students, in some ways "publishers are the group most at risk," Nelson said. In the digital world, there is no certainty about who will own content or who will handle distribution, he continued. For example, faculty may self-publish, he said.

Oh, the sweet taste of vindication.

I listened to comments that Nelson made in a podcast. He talked about the way technology is changing education. More and more states, 80% of them now, are investing in online learning environments--often based on the model of video gaming. Michigan is the first state to require all students be exposed to virtual learning prior to graduation. Substitutes to traditional textbooks and printed course material are emerging.

Tomorrow we'll talk about some of these forward-looking initiatives.


Marie Tuhart said...


Great blog. I believe as you do that once an affordable and better e-reading device, the e-book market will take off. I too like e-books, but I hate having to sit at my computer to read them, and my PDA screen is just to small to really enjoy the book.

Peter L. Winkler said...

SF writer Charlie Stross wrote an in depth analysis of ebooks recently and there were plenty of interesting comments as well. I linked it recently on my blog.

Maya Reynolds said...

Marie and Peter: Thanks for stopping by. I agree it's an interesting subject. College bookstores seem to be under no illusions of the risks they are facing.