Jane Little’s 2014 predictions list is wide-ranging and fascinating throughout. One point that I believe warrants mention is below and relates to online communities. One curious feature of the list is that Amazon seems to have got there already with a few points. Perhaps there is a danger of us all-seeing the future of books the same way Amazon see it. That would be unhealthy. In any case, there’s so much in there you’d be best reading it yourself.
Penguin and Random will buy a large reading community. Right now other than streamlined distribution services, the merger hasn’t resulted in much of a change. Each publisher has its own sales, marketing, editing, and acquisition teams. But data about readers is more important than ever and so is the issue of discovery. Traditional publishers need a community of readers already built. They don’t have the time to create it from the bottom up and their efforts like Bookish and Book Country have been failures. Their best option is to buy Wattpad or Scribd and given that Wattpad is venture capitalist-backed, Wattpad is the more viable candidate.
If you read nothing else on Oyster and a Netflix for books, make it this by Chris Mceigh. The money quote:
So should publishers allow Amazon to go head to head with fledgling players for control of this new supplementary income stream or hold back from signing those licensing contracts with the Seattle giant till they see where the land lies?
It’s a choice that could define our industry in ways we can’t begin to imagine yet.
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?
Experiments with wiki-text, networked books and multi-authored texts have been going well. Penguin have had the most high profile effort with their Million Penguins wikinovel. Last week I highlightedFiclets which takes the idea of multi-authored texts to a news slick level allowing prequels and sequels to already written shorts [Speaking of which this one on Caesar caught my eye]
The future is Scribd Techcrunch carried an interesting piece today discussing the early success of one of the more interesting new arrivals to this space Scribd. You can upload, search for and read documents on Scribd and it also allows for an embed function but I cannot seem to make that work on wordpress.com. What it lacks is online editing of documents. I can see how this seems a retrograde step in some regards but will certainly encourage people to post their content. Techcrunch also has some interesting points re copyright. It is a fascinating site with very nice features. One I found on DIY Book Binding is worth a look as is so much more.