September 24th 2014
My vision for the future of the book takes the digital mode of direction, meaning I believe that eventually one day, more books in a variety of genres but not all books, will be available on your tablet or kindle then in a printed form. The digital form of publishing has the opportunity to outweigh then outlast the traditional, undoubtedly more expensive form of publishing, which for years has vaunted and held its position as the “gatekeeper”, meaning historically for people wanting to get published that they would have to go directly through these people. Nowadays, people are bypassing the gate with self-publishing, using outlets like Kindle Direct and Smash Words to make this happen.
I’m supporting my vision with two concepts in which I feel assist the digital mode of direction, which I’ve decided to jump on board with. These being: the digital distribution platform that has become one of the focal points of the digitization of books in the first place, so think the accessibility of titles through Amazon, Itunes etc. I’ve also included some sales data from the years 2012-2013 for contrast and compare with analysis purposes. My second vision deals with the technology we are accessing and using our digital titles with, think digital files (digital native format) on digital outlets like Amazon for a digital technology like a kindle, tablet or e reader.
The Digital Distribution Platform
The year 2012 was a fantastic year for ebook sales, helping solidify the idea of the digital distribution platform being more accessible and applicable then the traditional publishing >> distribution mode. electronic publishing went through what many fittingly described as a “boom year” due to high revenues that had been boosted from major best sellers like The Hunger Games and Fifty Shades of Grey. Jeremy Greenfield from Digital Book World noted that “the eBook format accounted for nearly 23% of publisher net revenues in 2012, up from 17% in 2011, they grew significantly in all the categories that the Association of American Publishers measures and the growth helped buoy all of trade publishing, reaching $7.1 billion on the year.” The boom was propelled by a surge in adult fiction and non-fiction, reaching up to $1.3 billion on the year as well.
Come 2013, and ebook sales began to stagnate and hardcover sales were outselling e books. In mid 2013, The Association of American Publishers reported that eBook sales were up to 4.8% through August to 647.7 million, while sales of hardcover books went up to 11.5% to 778.6 million across the same period. Milliot (2013) writes “EBooks in the three categories that the AAP measures, accounted for 800 million in revenue, down about 5% from last year”. Some cite the slowdown in growth in 2013 is attributable to an unfair comparison to 2012, highly regarded as a “boom year” in electronic publishing and eBook sales due to the wide success of trade paperbacks like Fifty Shades of Grey and Hunger Games, some believe declining dedicated e reader adoption and rising tablet sales to be a cause as well.
Though its sales took a dive in 2013, I strongly believe that ebooks can once again reach the level of commercial sales success that it had seen in 2012. For my vision of digital publishing and distribution to become a reality though, the ebook will need to reach higher sales over the course of a period of a few years then traditional hardcover to really make a lasting impact on peoples perceptions of the publishing world. Rather then just looking at one year of impactful sales and justifying opinion on that, electronic books will need to surpass traditional paperback/hardcover over an extended period of time before we can start completely assuming what is going to happen in the future. It would be brash otherwise, to take one years worth of sales data and make the assumption that “print sales must be doomed they had a bad year!”, or on the flipside, “wow, ebooks did great this year they’re going to stay at the top!”.
Digital distribution is a large benefactor when analyzing electronic publishing and how it has been able to situate itself in the overall publishing world. Behar (2011) believes that “digital distribution will have an economic impact on traditional publishers whose business models are based on economies of scale and will therefor suffer from a decrease in physical volumes.” Behar here is relating to the issue of digitization, something that is becoming more and more prevalent in publishing. If digital native publishers continue to grow, one can argue that this directly challenges the very nature of the current physical distribution network, which has continued to act as the hallmark of the gatekeeper esque notion of the traditional publishing platform.
The lower cost of eBook distribution has paved the way for online platforms like Kindle Direct, Smash Words and Lulu to circumvent the traditional publishing gatekeepers to make their products directly available to consumers (Li, 2013) an idea which promotes the notion of self publishing, one which is becoming more and more correlated within the realm of electronic publishing due to the lower costs associated with it. These digital only publishing ventures are creating a specific profile of eBook readers, being able to directly market to the consumer via an online web based platform, have the opportunity to make said consumers turn to this approach, especially given the easabilty of eBooks to E -reader/Kindle who offer direct access to acquiring a vast of titles through 3G networks and WIFI services.
I would be willing to bet that current traditional publishers do not have algorithm tools and methods used by Apple & Amazon that are used to extract a new form of consumer insight, by which they are stepping into the advisory role of an individual bookstore owner, or publisher (Behar, 2011). Sure they may be able to outsource these costs to another company, but the level at which this is being done by Amazon or Apple will not be countered. These more cost effective data mining techniques allow these companies to gain a better understanding of the needs and wants of their user/customer base, by being able to essentially track reading & spending habits, they can cater interests and niche markets, as a result creating a unique user experience.
The Digital Technology Experience
Further catering to this idea of digital development is the actual production of the electronic book in the digital native format, which is becoming a sought after mode of production in the publishing world. Maxim (2012) writes, “When using file types like MOBI and EPUB, the text can be reshaped and reformatted using different styles and sizes, and are able to include design features like illustrations, animated graphs, media overlays and videos.” Having a purely electronic format as opposed to a print format can enable the publishing house to nullify budget concerns and estimations over print volumes, in the process the concern over leftover stocks would also be of any concern. As discussed at length in lecture, the publisher is the one who is assuming all the financial and proprietorial risk when acquiring a manuscript.
A over estimation from your sales department can lead to the large concern of an over published book that isn’t selling, left to sit in a warehouse while paying storage fees. I’m thinking producing more in digital native could drastically reduce covering the return costs of leftover books as well as the exuberant printing fees associated with printing and publishing a title. Based on the rising costs associated with traditional print publishing, I believe we will eventually see an overtaking of some types of books being printed digitally more then printed. There will always be a need for printed publications and books. Examples of these being professional publications like medical journals, litigation titles etc., expensive yes but cater to a specific, niche market who are willing to pay for the titles.
I discussed data mining and giants like Apple & Amazon to directly market to specific consumer bases were utilizing algorithms in my first concept, and how I felt these two things to great success. The same concept I believe can be applied to when we are accessing titles through our e reading technology. The ability to access a plethora of best selling titles via a 3G network or WIFI connection at your fingertips offers up a level of digitized access says volumes about our reliance and infatuation with all things technology. As a result, The proliferation of E readers combined with the accessibility of variety and usability of a digital shopping network have hampered traditional bookstores, who were once the centers of their book shopping universes, having to come directly to them for the books they were wanting, or even to sit back and wait for something to be brought in from an outside location (Shatzkin, 2009).
I simply believe that going forward, the level of access you’re able to tap into with these devices and platforms will greatly surpass the regular print establishment and outlet. Why get in your car and drive to the bookstore when you can just go on your tablet, order a title off of Amazon and have it delivered to your door in 48 hours with an Amazon prime pass? I don’t think this will eradicate the print market, those numbers I provided earlier speak for themselves, but going forward simply it will be the amount of titles digitized that will transcend print, but not nullifying it completely.
BEA 2013: The E-book Boom Years. (n.d.). Retrieved July 20, 2014, from http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/bea/article/57390-bea-2013-the-e-book-boom-years.html
E-book Sales Growth Slows in 2013. (n.d.). Retrieved July 18, 2014, from http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/digital/retailing/article/59194-signs-of-stability.html
E-Reading Rises as Device Ownership Jumps. (n.d.). Retrieved July 20, 2014, from http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/01/16/e-reading-rises-as-device-ownership-jumps/
Oil in the bookstore ecosystem marshlands; danger ahead – The Shatzkin Files. (n.d.). Retrieved July 18, 2014, from http://www.idealog.com/blog/oil-in-the-bookstore-ecosystem-marshlands-danger-ahead/
George Packer: Is Amazon Bad for Books? (n.d.). Retrieved July 18, 2014, from http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2014/02/17/
The rise of e-reading. (n.d.). Retrieved July 19, 2014, from http://libraries.pewinternet.org/2012/04/04/the-rise-of-e-reading/