Monday, May 4, 2009

eBooks, Digital Publications and Publishers

If you wonder why bookstores keep going out of business and why publishers are losing money, here is a clue:

I don't think I've ever heard a reader say: "I want more fancy digital stuff in my eBooks! I want videos and audio and animations!" . . . The publishing business ought to concentrate first on their core value: getting books people love to readers who love them. --- Anonymous "Publishing Professional"

First let me give the guy (I assume it is a guy) credit for the statement that he hasn't heard a reader say they want more "digital stuff" in their books.  This is a depressingly accurate statement.  Readers, the dying breed that still exist probably don't say that.

closed bookstore 

The problem is that there are several generations (GenX,Gen Y, the Millennials and whatever comes next) that have been raised to EXPECT digital stuff (videos and audio and animations and links) as a part of any media they consume.  What would FaceBook, MySpace or even Twitter be without digital stuff?

Sure, they read.  Text will always be with us.  But it is mostly a big stretch to call them readers.  They are in fact consumers and creators of digital stuff

They are not patronizing Borders or Barnes and Nobles.  They are increasing relying on information they download from the Internet.  Much of it free.  Who needs bookstores?

When it comes to publishing the problem is slightly different.  The Internet has enabled almost anyone with something to show, say or sing to publish their work.  This is incredibly artistically liberating.  It is, however, rarely lucrative.  Most of the owners of the intellectual property do not make any money at all. 

As people come to expect more interactive publications there is an unfortunate downside.  Many works of genius may never be commercially viable because the author lacks the skills or the ability to assemble a team. 

This is where Publishers become incredibly important.  Their role in this new world is to find those geniuses, help assemble teams and promote the finished publications.  If  the current batch of publishers want to remain in business they will have to substantially change their outlook and attitude.  I'm rooting for them!

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