Book Trends: Taking the Plunge

Picking my first trend is a little harder than I thought. Reminds me when I was a kid and we went to the Maine and New Hampshire beaches during the summer and the ocean water was always colder than you could possibly imagine.  It actually hurt to step into the water for the first time. So you stuck your toe in until it was numb and then up to your ankle . . . you get the picture.   But let me take the screaming plunge. I’ve decided not to go with the easy and obvious e-reader starting point but I’ll eventually get there.

Trend #1. Content or Book Publishing Business?  This is a version of the question facing all media businesses.  Are we in the same business we were yesterday or has the underlying model changed?  Sometimes the question is framed in the context of “content”, sometimes “community”. Presently probably a “yes and no” answer for book publishing depending upon key factors like niche and size, but with changing channels and emerging technology the trend is clearly in the direction of a content-centric business model away from the traditional book publishing model.

Trend #2.  XML and Production Process Changes.  So delving into the quasi-exotic with my second trend (pretty much the corollary to Trend #1) and recognizing that within the industry it’s not without controversy.  From my perspective this appears to be a no-brainer. With readers consuming more books online and with mobile devices, publishers have to be prepared to meet this demand. In addition, there’s an opportunity to promote books via emerging channels with multiple formats.  Finally, there’s the “what we haven’t thought of yet” factor potentially leading to new products, channels, and revenue sources created by the ability to search, share, and create product mutations not possible with a printed page.

Trend #3. e-Books.  Moving from the dangerous and cold water of XML where my understanding is severely limited to the warmer, shallower tidal pool of e-books. e-Book growth will continue at impressive rates setting records for as far as we can see into the future. With the Kindle leading the way in market share and pricing, there’s not yet a significant impact on publisher’s financials but a new financial foundation is being laid. Very clearly a major element of book publishing’s future although the magnitude of the changes and opportunities remains fuzzy in everyone’s crystal ball.

More trends to come.

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