If you do nothing else before Monday, you should watch Mike Shatzkin’s video on the digital shift in publishing. It is only available for free until Monday and you can view it here. It is deeply impressive, crystallizing as it does, the reasons why this shift MUST happen as well as cataloging the results of the shift and suggesting a remedy.
That remedy is the niche and the nugget. Niche being a vertical interest like knitting or US Civil War Uniforms. I love the section in the video where he suggests that publishers will discover that they all of a sudden not only don’t nearly have enough content within these specific niches but that on their own, in their current state they never will. Nuggets are the intriguing part, the small bits if content created by individuals within a community adding value as they accumulate.
I wholeheartedly agree with Mike that publishers need to get niche and embrace the communities that sustain those niches. It’s a fascinating time ahead and we are rushing towards it rapidly. Eoin
Hopes & Dreams
I went to Children’s Books Ireland’s talk on Thursday 11th June on the future: ‘Publishing but not as we know it | ebooks, digital publishing and children’. Aside from the very minor quibble, that the panel had no publisher (odd given the topic) it was nonetheless by far the most interesting group assembled to talk about the topic that I have seen for some time in Ireland.
I arrived late and so missed Samatha Holman of the Irish Copyright Licensing Agency who I have seen talk recently about Google and possess probably the best understanding of Copyright law (both national and international) in Ireland. This added greatly to the discussion because it enabled her to cut through the hopes, dreams and wishes right down to the what was allowed and what had yet to be agreed, always useful when discussing the future!
I also missed Peadar Ó Guilín which annoyed me, as I found his contributions to the discussion after the main talks, fascinating, even if he seemed an evangelist for no longer needing publishers*. If I have him wrong, I’ll apologize.
Two other panelists really fascinated me too. The first was speaking as I arrived, John McNamee, President European Booksellers Federation spoke about the challenges of bookselling in the future and spoke of a vision where he sold the customer the intellectual property for a fee and then asked what format he would prefer it in. Seems a nice idea, though my gut told me that it wouldn’t work at a decentralized level and would work at a much more central level. But then, being proved wrong on that one, would be a bonus.
By far the most revelatory though was the South County Dublin Librarian, Georgina Byrne. She revealed the extent of their download services something its seems that has floated beneath the radar of nearly everybody in Irish publishing (certainly non-one has ever mentioned it to me).
They have partnered with Overdrive and now deliver up to 3000 titles in ebook and audio book form to members via their download zone.
If you like paper and love paper books then the message Georgina had to share was a depressing one. Children love the libraries Tumblebooks service which offers children’s books online. And, if you listen, read an watch one, you can see why. I tried Dinotrain and it is fun!
As Samantha Holamn said during the discussion, the panel and teh subsequent discussion was by far the best she had attended because it looked forward and I think that was due in large part to Oisín McGann who chaired the event quick wonderfully offering his well considered contributions and links out to funny and informative videos throughout.
I’ve left numerous side issues out but needless to say there was much discussion on Agents, Publishers, Contracts, Google, a little about Amazon, Scribd and a little about revenue models and changing cultural norms. It was a shame I had to leave so quickly when it ended I’d have liked to discuss some of the issues more with the panelists. Still, a thoroughly thought provoking evening. Eoin
* It always amazes me that people would relish the disappearance of publishers wholesale. Yes some publishers might not be excellent and sometimes working relationship have become strained or just plain broken, but surely as an industry over the lifetime of their existence, publishers have been more than simply blood suckers?
now committed the company to going live with the project by the end of 2009. In a presentation at BookExpo, Tom Turvey, director of strategic partnerships at Google, added the phrase: “This time we mean it.”
The Bookseller has a brief piece on this story here. The Kindle 2 Review blog has some thoughts on this, basically saying that letting book publishers set prices (as Google seem to be proposing) is a bad call.
My thinking on this is that letting publishers set the price is a goo way to steal a march back from Kindle and Amazon. For one thing it will give them a greater sense of control and allow them to do the experimenting with price, a very valuable tool considering how tight Amazon is being with info and data about Kindle sales. Michael Cairns has a short but chilling post on this.
Secondly if one platform allows pricing and another doesn’t and the publishers can make sales through the Google platform anyway, then the Kindle might well wither and die as publishers pull their titles. last but not least, if Google look to retain a lower percentage of revenue (Say 30-40%) than Amazon currently do, the prices may well shift lower naturally as publishers seek to attract sales.
Right now I can only think of this as a positive move for the industry, the more competition to provide a solid e-book platform the better.
As a reader there are some really attractive features to Google as a platform that I don’t think have been considered. If as the NYT make clear the service will be cross device:
Mr. Turvey said Google’s program would allow consumers to read books on any device with Internet access, including mobile phones, rather than being limited to dedicated reading devices like the Amazon Kindle. “We don’t believe that having a silo or a proprietary system is the way that e-books will go,” he said.
Then the offering would seem to be going hand in hand with the rather useful discovery tools that Google offers for books through Google Books already.
I wonder is there room for a link to the Google Reader which I use for my RSS feeds? Perhaps a tab for purchased ebooks, allowing me to read them on screen on or offline at my leisure? Seems a sensible way forward.