Monday, April 12, 2010

Seeing Into the Future

Back in December, I think it was, I followed a series on year-by-year predictions of the future of publishing. Then, over the holidays, I totally lost track of it. Now, I’ve come across another site making predictions. Luckily this guy, Michael A. Stackpole, does it all in one post and his predictions are primarily for the year 2011.

Stackpole starts by mentioning the predictions of another book industry consultant, Michael Shatzkin, who sees a serious disruption in book distribution as early as November, 2012:
 …once ebook sales hit 20-25% of book sales, print run numbers will fall to a point where the current consignment system for sales will break down….Ebook sales will create smaller print runs, driving up the unit cost, forcing higher prices which, in turn, will kill sales. Game over.
Stackpole agrees with the analysis, but not the date.
I think it will be sooner: June 2012, and the most serious blow will be struck in December, 2011, when a second wave of tablets becomes the hottest holiday gift item….

The first and most critical point [Shatzkin] missed was Apple's announcement on 8 April about the iPhone OS 4.0. With this new revision, later generation iPhones and iPod Touches will all get a version of iBooks, Apple's book-reading software. This will add over fifty million ebook readers to the market, with readers being able to order books from anywhere at any time. This will be a serious blow to brick-and-mortar stores, eroding their sales more quickly than imagined.
Stackpole also foresees authors themselves contributing to the change because it is so easy for authors to create and market ebooks, plus they can make more on those books than the ones the publishers are offering. Like me, he doesn’t see this as an end to print books, but he does see a giant shift, unless publishers quickly change their business model.

As for me, I see this shift already occurring. I see it here in the comments on Straight From Hel. I see it in friends and clients who are bypassing traditional publishing and publishing ebooks themselves or going through niche publishers to do it for them. I see it in the popularity of ereaders and the hoopla over the iPad, students reading textbooks on ereaders, colleges giving students ereaders to use, parents buying ereaders for their young children, people downloading books to their cell phones.

Do you see such a change? Are you part of the change?
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  1. I'll be a bit miffed if they don't get the iBook app on current generation iPhones/iPod touch hardware. Would be odd because the current hardware already has the Kindle app and Stanza and eReader, which allow you to make "in app" purchases of e-books, so Apple would just be hurting themselves. OTOH they can be pretty cold blooded about drawing a line under old hardware.

    I think Stackpole et al are being a bit bleak. While having eleventy billion potential e-book readers sounds grand, it doesn't automatically mean people are going to stop reading paperbacks. Of course, once they've been exposed to the convenience of e-books they may be turned on to carrying their read around in their shirt pocket.

    And it's funny, no matter how much Mike Stackpole has done with his career, writing some classic genre fiction series along the way, I'll always remember him for the Tunnels and Trolls game books he did back when nobody had heard of him.

  2. Nope, I'm not motivated at all to jump on the e-reader bandwagon. I've seldom had a problem fitting my books on my person somehow and I can be almost as rough as I want with them (not that I am--you can usually hardly tell that I've opened a book when I've finished it).

    I'm a little interested in the iPad, but it seems like a crazy amount of money to spend when I can walk downtown and buy a hundred used books, or a dozen+ new, for the same cost. I have an iPhone, but no interest to read books on it. And like Anton Gully, I think (and hope) they're being a bit bleak in their predictions.

  3. I'm with you on this Helen. I think the shift is already happening and the print industry will have to make major changes in their business models fast if they want to keep up. (For example, I've just heard from a friend who has been waiting 14 months for a response on a requested query. I've been waiting 9 months).

    EBooks and self publishing are looking more and more attractive. (Bearing in mind teh excellent points you made about needing to set a very high standard for oneself, if one does choose this route).

    Thanks again fro helping me with my signature line (as you can see I'm having fun using it!).

    Judy Croome

  4. I'm accidentally part of the change, but only because my publishers do e-book versions of my books as well as print. :) It makes sense to me.

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  5. I'm part of the change as well, but it's change or die! And with the new iPad, I think we'll see a big shift in the next month or two.

  6. There's space in my life for e-books and books in print. I'm excited about the new hype over e-book readers and I think it's exciting for the literary community as a whole. But you know that old saying about putting your eggs in one basket.

  7. I think the change has begun too. I haven't purchased any e-books yet as I love holding a book in my hand to read. However, I have lots of friends who are buying more e-books than print.

  8. I didn't rush out and buy an ereader when they first hit it big because I love print books and didn't want to read on a machine. I'm changing though and the only reason I don't have one now is because I'm a miser.

  9. I've been trying to ignore the change, but it's no longer possible. I will, at some point, get an e-reader thingamajiggy and learn how to use it. And as a writer, I will begin to think about publishing my book as an e-book.

  10. I understand, Karen. I resist change, even though I know I can't stop it and can't avoid it.

  11. I don't own a Nook or and iPad (though I saw two iPads just this morning at Starbucks) or even a Kindle, but I see it as the future and I am coming around. As for marketing, it is incredibly nice and easy to get the word out via digital media. With streaming video, blogs, Twitter, etc., PR can be done from an author's home, or favorite coffee shop! We should embrace this aspect.

    I feel a Helen-inspired post coming on...


  12. I can see the change coming, but I always go kicking and screaming to new technology. Fortunately, my publisher is a better adapter offering ebook and Kindle versions of his publications.

  13. I concede and will have all my books in electronic form moving forward. I'll continue with book signings for promotional reasons, but I' don't expect to make much money. More and more the $$$ will come from e-books.

    Stephen Tremp

  14. Predictions about the future typically tend to be wrong. A classical example is a report published in in the 1940's, where the experts concluded that the market for computers, world wide, on a long term, was about 6 ... today, that's about the number of computers in an average family >:)

  15. It might happen faster. Guess I'm contributing since I just purchased an iPad. And yes, I've already downloaded some eBooks.

  16. I jumped in long ago. For almost a decade now, I've been reading books on my computer, my Palm Pilot, my phone, and, now, my iPad. The iPad is a huge breakthrough, in my opinion.

    I agree with Shatzkin about the 20-25% break point. I've been running course evaluations at our university on paper for twenty years. A few years ago we introduced an online evaluation option. Adoption hasn't been rapid, but has now reached the 28% mark and I can see the disruption it's causing the print surveys. Trying to run a mix of the two is driving the cost of both systems skyward. There are fixed costs associated with each. For awhile, when online was used in just a few courses, the revenue from the paper evaluations supported the cost of the online evaluations. But, at 25/75, more staff are shifted onto the online system, making it very expensive. Meanwhile, so much use of the paper system has been lost to the online that the profit margin, which was based on the economy of scale, has disappeared.

    I think we'll see the cost of both ebooks and paper books continuing to rise until the paper books are relegated to niche publishing.

  17. I guess I am part of the change. While I don't long for the dismissal of books in print, I do enjoy my e-reader.

    Can't I have the best of both worlds?!

  18. I'm envious, Michele. I haven't seen an iPad except on TV.

    ColdAsHeaven, technology sure rules in today's world. I can't even imagine not having computers.

    Mark, "until the paper books are relegated to niche publishing" made my heart skip a beat!

    Tamika, I hope you can have the best of both worlds!

  19. I'm not on the eReader bandwagon for two reasons: I already have lots of print books, so purchasing electronically will really only aid future clutter problems; the second problem is related to the first and that's purely due to my inability to control myself in a book store. I truly can't even fathom how dangerous it would be for me to have a new shiny device on which I can purchase and read IMMEDIATELY.

    As for the rest... the model needs to change. There's really no two ways about it. New services are going to be offered that would enable authors to keep 100% of their royalties as well as all rights to the work and even potentially set their own pricing [There's a music service for this as well - Trent Reznor of NIN fame uses it]. I don't think this shift will happen right away, but it seems to me there is a great need for some shift to happen that would bring greater benefit to the consumers in order to insure sales.

  20. Makes you wonder if this will reach a tipping point some day and there will indeed be a radical change.

  21. Time changes, so do the people and even the the ways we live in.

  22. With his level of enthusiasm, Stackpole must be a hit at parties. He strikes me as a real Debbie Downer, even if he might be right...

  23. Change is inevitable. I follow J Konrath's blog and it's obvious that ebooks give unknown writers a chance to make a living. It doesn't make sense to sell your ebook rights if all you're making is 6%. I think we will see more writers self publishing into this market.

    The market will tilt when our teenage children become buyers. They communicate in a digital world. They will read the same way.

    I'll buy an e-reader when I can afford one, and I will publish an e-book.


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