Friday, March 05, 2010

e-Book Tipping Point

Publishers Lunch yesterday highlighted another of the videos from the Digital Book World Conference. This one was titled "The e-Book Tipping Point" and featured Mike Shatzkin as moderator with a panel made up of:

  • Ken Brooks--Senior VP for Global Products & Manufacturing for Cengage Learning
  • Michael Cader--Founder of Publishers Lunch
  • Larry Kirshbaum--Formerly headed Time Warner's Publishing Group and today is a literary agent
  • Evan Schnittman--VP for Business Development & Rights for the Oxford University Press

They began by estimating if the e-book and p-book of a best-seller were released simultaneously, what percentage of books sold would be e-books. Michael Cader estimated between 6% and 17%. Evan Schnittman specified 10% in the immediate present, but 35% over the lifetime of the book. Ken Brooks agreed with Michael, but narrowed the range from 6% to 15%. Larry Kirshbaum said 10% during the first six months of release.

As the group grappled with the question of how publishing will "morph" from print to digital, Cader clarified the issue by saying publishing is facing "two different evolutions": the upramp of e-reading and the downramp of physical bookstores--"with or without e-books."

I really liked Cader's distinction because it takes into account the Internet selling phenomenon. Amazon became a force to reckon with in the publishing industry by FIRST selling p-books online. e-Book retailing followed; Amazon was already a major player before they got into electronic book selling.

Schnittman picked up where Cader left off:

"...there's a blurring line between distribution and publishing on the e-side. Traditional retailers...are venturing towards what we would consider publishing."

The man is singing my song. On April 28, 2007, I said,

What I suspect is going to happen is that the lines between publisher, distributor, bookstore and author are going to start blurring. Unusual contracts among the different parties are likely to emerge.

Larry Kirshbaum talked for several minutes, saying: look at the question of really want to look at perhaps a broader issue...the future of proprietary systems...Digital publishing can be like your television set...When you want to watch a program, you turn it on...whatever goes on behind the curtain is not of significance...Let's look at this from the consumer's point-of-view rather than from our own parochial point-of-view...I think this idea that the consumer is being forced to adapt himself or herself to different formats is really a tremendous waste...Long term, I would like to see a non-proprietary world evolving where the content...competes across broad platforms.

Ken Brooks pointed out that Amazon has offered an "easy and painless" experience for consumers and that, by introducing the SDK, which permits people to program for the Kindle, Amazon is moving toward an open platform.

I need to stop here. I'll return to this again later.


Colleen said...

Maya: I don't know where you find the time to get all this information! It's very helpful. Thank you. You amaze me.

Maya Reynolds said...

Thanks, Colleen. I really appreciate your kind comments.