Friday, January 11, 2008

More Publishing Predictions for the New Year

On Wednesday here, I started a discussion of Mike Shatzkin's predictions (made in Monday's Publishers Weekly).

Four of the Shatzin's predictions directly relate to e-publishing. Here's #1:

The popularity of e-books will increase, with titles formatted for Amazon’s Kindle leading the way. Content for the Sony Reader will sell faster than ever, but by this time next year, Kindle-compatible books will be outselling them by more than 2 to 1. And Palm, which has historically been the bestselling format, will have had its best year-on-year increase as well. By year end, nearly every straight-text title published with commercial intent will be available for Kindle; the trick for the other formats will be to make sure they’re included, too. And Kindle pricing will drive the market. But despite the fast growth, e-books will still make up a tiny share of the market—no more than 2% of sales for most titles—and will contribute only a minimal amount to publishers’ bottom lines.

I agree with Shatzkin. Three things will encourage the growth of e-publishing: (1) Technology that makes the e-reading experience more comfortable for consumers. The Kindle represents a technological break-through. While critics decry the unattractive utilitarian look of the Kindle, the one-click purchases, wireless downloads and lengthy retail product list mark it as a major innovation in e-reading devices. (2) The continued movement toward a greener environment. We cannot continue to decimate forests to create books. (3) Corporate greed. E-publishing eliminates printing, shipping, warehousing and the onerous "return for credit" system. Publishing is a business, and electronic publishing saves dollars.

Shatzkin's next prediction on e-publishing was #2:

Sales of books in electronic form to public libraries will continue to grow: Ingram’s MyiLibrary, Follett, NetLibrary and Overdrive are already deep into this business. This opportunity will present a challenge as publishers discover that some older contracts don’t give them the right to make that kind of sale.

I talked about Overdrive's Digital Library Reserve (DLR) platform here on 11/28/05. Through the platform Overdrive offers libraries 24/7 access to the books the library has purchased. I quoted a librarian as saying that patrons are "able to borrow, read and return a book without having to leave their home, and the automatic return feature means no fine."

Prediction #7 said:

Apple, seeing the growth in use of Kindle and Sony Reader, will move to turn the iPhone and iPod into e-book readers. But they will recognize that the problems of loading in content and merchandising books are far more complicated and challenging than doing the same for music. They will solve the problem by teaming up with Ingram’s Lightning Source (for content) and (for merchandising and to reach the book-buying audience). This combination will enable Apple to challenge the Sony/Borders combination and the Kindle, though Amazon’s device still promises to take significant market share away from print and other e-book formats over time.

Apple has already proved that they can create a sexy, exciting product. Amazon met its technological goals, but the Kindle has not as yet captured the reading public's imagination the way the iPod did for music. If Apple does partner with Lightning Source and B&N, at the same time introducing a modern-looking product with multi-functions, it will be interesting to see what happens to Kindle's market share.

And, finally, prediction #10:

Although overall sales will remain paltry, increased activity by publishers selling direct to consumers from their Web sites, particularly digital downloads, will lead to “read and listen” bundles of e-books and digital audio and other pricing experiments (it is worth noting that the Sony Reader and the Kindle can deliver both text and sound). Other combinations, including book-and-audio and book-and-digital file (the latter tried by Amazon), and even combos of multiple titles, will be offered.

An interesting prediction. I would have thought the movement would be toward chopping the content up into its component parts and then to selling those components. I think fast and easy reads are going to be more popular than bundles of reads.

There are numerous e-publishers popping up online offering original content written specifically for e-reading devices. In addition to the immediacy these e-books offer, the shorter lengths make them attractive to a reader with only a spare hour or two in which to relax.

I think book lengths are shrinking and will continue to shrink. But I do think the sale of books in multiple formats is an attractive idea.


Jamie said...

Most of these predictions for the epublishing industry have been around for more than a decade. With the Kindle, maybe some will actually come to fruition, but I doubt all of these will come to fruition in a year. Maybe three years.


Peter L. Winkler said...

The manufacture of electronic gadgets like the Kindle consumes more resources and energy and results in the production of highly toxic chemical waste than the production of a book. And when the gadgets end up in landfills, they release toxic compounds and heavy metals into the soil and water table.

Books can be made using already recycled paper, bound with biodegradable glues, and can be shredded and the materials recycled when the book is no longer wanted.

Maya Reynolds said...

Peter: You may be right, but it's those forests that will get the public's attention {grin}.

Colleen said...

E-books are already huge in Japan. Commuters travel paying wrapt attention to whatever little screens they hold before them to read.

I can't see doing that myself. I like to get away from a screen from time-to-time, if only to experience normal light. :-)