Go Read This | 5 E-Book Trends That Will Change the Future of Publishing

So many things wrong here. I’ll deal with them one by one.

1) Enhanced EBooks

Imagine video that shows how to fix a leaky faucet or solve complex math problems in statistics; audio that pronounces foreign language words as you read them, and assessment that lets you check what you remember and comprehend what you just read. These interactive features and more are being developed now and will be on the market in a matter of weeks, not months.

Websites that do this pretty much already exist. Howcast has had a version up since 2008, EHow since even earlier. Why would ANYONE buy an ebook version of the web, unless it was truly valuable and niche orientated? I’ve more sympathy with the testing features, but suspect that such a set of tools would be better delivered over a subscription website rather than an ebook.

2) Devices

Because most developers are developing e-reader software that will work on multiple other devices (Kindle also works on the iPad, iPhone, and computers, for example), consumers will care less about the device and more about the user experience of the e-reader software, portability of titles from one device to another, and access to a full catalog of titles.

My fear about this is that as devices go multi-media, reading faces great competition from other media, something I’m fairly sure is detrimental to the medium.

3) Price

This has caused confusion among many consumers who simply think every e-book should be $9.99 or less. But the majority of titles offered on Amazon are priced above $9.99, especially those with unique interactive features. For professional and technical publishers like McGraw-Hill, our e-books cannot stand the low, mass market pricing some consumers think should be applied to every e-book. Our costs are invested in extensive product and editorial development of sophisticated and technical content; the cost of paper, printing, and binding are a fraction of the real expense. And for some very specific and technical subject areas, our markets are much smaller. We simply couldn’t afford to publish the work if it must be priced at the everyday low, low price of $9.99.

This confuses a publishers business model with the market. The Market has changed radically and many people can now publish cheaply. This will impact on existing business models. Believing that because your costs are high the market should pay you more is a recipe for disaster.

4) Contextual Upsell

E-books allow publishers to interact with their customers in new ways. Imagine customers who are trying to learn statistics and get stuck on a particular formula. They ask friends but no one can explain it well. They’re stuck.

They click a help button, which points them to the publisher site where they can download relevant tutorials about specific formulas for $2.99.

I’ve some respect for this kind of thinking, especially if it is deployed properly. I fear many publishers will not get to grips with it though!

5) Publishers Importance

Despite the hype around self-publishing via the web, publishing houses will play an even greater role in an e-book world. Commodity content is everywhere (and largely free), so high-quality vetted, edited content — which takes a staff of experts — will be worth a premium.

The problem with this is that it DOESN’T require a staff of experts. It requires AN EXPERT with access to the web and MAYBE an editor. No publisher need interfere. And increasingly, they probably won’t.

via 5 E-Book Trends That Will Change the Future of Publishing.

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5 comments

  1. Very interesting – there is a lot of eBook dross out there and it can be difficult to differentiate the reputable publishers from the kitchen sink ones – all of which could give eBooks a bad name as amateurish and poor quality works.

    1. There’s certainly a lot of independent ebook publishing and some of it is bad quality for sure.
      I wonder though if that will give EBOOKS a bad name. After all there are thousands of self published print books and not a few mainstream published print books that are awful too. That doesn’t give print a bad name!

      Eoin

  2. My observation is that books as an entertainment medium compete with other media such as TV, Youtube, Facebook, going out and specifically reading oriented activities like Twitter, blogs, etc. whether books go digital or not.

    The transition to digital simply makes books more accessible to some consumers. The competition for the each individual’s time exists even if books are/remain physical.

    More interesting is what the digital transition does to the act of reading itself.

    The multi-device ebook format discourages pictures and graphics because these do not easily “reflow” across different platforms, screen sizes and operating systems.

    The sense of “completeness” of reading a book, magazine or newspaper “cover to cover” is diminished. We are more willing to abandon reading a book, if we become bored or distracted (a trend also supported by ebooks being “cheaper” and more “disposable” or ephemeral than paperbacks.

    On the other hand we are more willing to pay for highly condensed content. In the past, the thickness of a physical book influenced our willingness to pay. Very thin books were simply not seen as being of value (or even worth spending money on). Now, where we have ebooks, pagecount is less important and often cannot even be accurately measured for ebooks (a side effect of ebooks being “reflowable”). Quality – including the author being brief and succinct – might matter more now than quantity. Some publishers are already focusing on “condensed” versions. Maybe the end of management books with one good, central idea being inflated to a minimum pagecount of 200 is over?

    1. Andrew,

      All valid positions for sure.

      I’d tackle the nature of the competition digital (and its friend mobile internet connection) enables. Gaming for instance has been revolutionized and made radically more accessible by this twin trend. Casual gaming is now probably the biggest ongoing competitor to reading especially for non-readers, light readers and maybe even medium readers. On top of which while reading on the go was always an easy task, accessing facebook/twitter etc was not and now increasingly is. Those who didn’t read when reading has always BEEN easy are unlikely to suddenly decide to because is is mobile in digital form rather than print form. I could be wrong there, but time will tell.

      I think you place too much emphasis on the current technology re: images etc. That will be resolved relatively quickly given what mobile devices can now do (and the ability to do much of that via simple websites too) and as mobile broadband grows.

      In terms of “completeness” I wonder how little completeness matters to readers behind the doors of their houses? I suspect many books fall by the wayside, all that’s happening now is that we can see them dropping off in ereader stats and where too.

      On the last point, I totally agree. Shortness is back in fashion!
      Eoin

  3. I found the original McGraw-Hill statement not a little arrogant.

    The perception is that personally-published ebooks are not of value, and perhaps deserve the $0.99 or $2.99 price tag we often see. But to try and justify the $9.99 price tag in terms of the massive organisation behind the big publishers is nonsense. Indie, self-publishers are hiring editors, hiring cover artists, hiring formatters – in fact, hiring people much as bigger publishers do. There is no doubt that a lot of self-pubbers match, and sometimes exceed, the performance of their ‘professional’ counterparts in big publishing.
    If the publishing industry had concentrated on exploring and embracing new technology, instead of hysterically trying to stop people pirating content, maybe they would now be at the vanguard of the new technology movement, instead of waving their arms about, trying to tell people how good they are and how bad we are.
    Oh the times, they are a’ changin’

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