Thursday, February 25, 2010

Publishing For The New Generation

The fourth annual O'Reilly Tools of Change for Publishing conference was held in New York this week. It's well worth visiting the websites here (blog) and here (registration) to look around.

I just finished watching a four-minute video here of Chris Brogan who writes about community and social media.

What can I say? The man was singing my song. Chris was asked the question: "Do you see a point when authors won't need publishers?"

Chris answered in part (you need to watch the video): "I think that there's a lot of worry to be had in this because I think just like GM and all the car companies thought that they were in the business of selling autos, not moving people from space to space, I think publishers think they're in the business of getting things printed and putting them on shelves."

Let me repeat that: "publishers think they're in the business of getting things printed and putting them on shelves." Those fifteen words go right to the heart of the problem in publishing. Almost all the steps publishers are taking right now--like trying to lock in the price point of an e-book--are really just intended to protect their print business.

I read an article in Britain's The Bookseller this weekend that simply staggered me. Peter Roche, the chief executive of the Orion Publishing Group, made some comments here to his authors at their annual party:

"...we must not allow excitement over the digital revolution to distract us from the other 98% of our business which remains printed books".
Is this guy totally out of touch with his own business? With his own readership?

On Wednesday, the Pew Research Group released a report titled "Millennials: A Portrait of Generation Next." This is the first generation to come of age in the new millennium, and the report should scare the socks off Big Publishing. The subtitle of the report is "Confident. Connected. Open to Change."

Good God. Talk about irony. That is almost exactly the opposite of Big Publishing: Terrified. Proprietary. Resistant to Change.

Pew interviewed a group of young American adults from 18 to 29, and here are some of their findings:
  • They are more ethnically and racially diverse than older adults (61% White; 19% Hispanic, 14% Black; 5% Asian and 1% Other)
  • They are less religious
  • They are less likely to have served in the military
  • They are "on track to become the most educated generation in American history"
"Millennial are more highly educated when ranked with other generations at comparable ages." Many of them have had trouble finding jobs and, therefore, returned to school.

This paragraph really caught my attention:

They are history's first "always connected" generation. Steeped in digital technology and social media, they treat their multi-tasking hand-held gadgets almost like a body part . . . More than eight-in-ten say they sleep with a cell phone glowing by the bed, poised to disgorge texts, phone calls, emails, songs, news, video games and wake-up jingles.
Hello, Mr. Roche. This is your next generation of readers.

The report goes on to say: "Millennials have a distinctive reason for feeling distinctive . . . 24% says it's because of their use of technology . . . It's not just their gadgets--it's the way they've fused their social lives into them."

Yeah, Mr. Roche, this is a generation likely to opt for p-books rather than e-books.

I'll close with another quote from Chris Brogan:
"Honestly, at this point, Amazon could say to me, 'Chris, we'd love to publish your book and, instead of a 6% margin or 4% margin, we'll give you 40%. And we are the distribution and--you know--you don't get bricks-and-mortar, but--you know--you'll get this great online wealth and you'll get audible and you'll get the entire wealth behind Amazon'."
'Nuff said.


Colleen said...

That is the crux of it exactly. Thanks again, Maya. And good that you're out of the snow and misery of the past weeks. Take care.

Maya Reynolds said...

Thank you, Colleen!