Shift Happens, Are You Ready?

The following is an edited version of a post from my personal blog

I recently found my notes from a presentation I gave 13 years ago, at the time upon seeing it, everyone I knew thought I was nuts, as the basis of the presentation was simple All music will be available online for free, or so cheap that it might as well be” as the distributors and artist will make their money in other ways, concerts, t-shirts sales, merchandise etc in essence giving the customers what they want.

Look at the music industry in the past 10 years then think about what I said back then, just how crazy was I? The labels tried DRM, it didn’t work (DRM free did), they tried to keep prices high, that didn’t work either, they were too slow to move with the tide. You only have to look at the likes of Jamendo to see the predictions coming to fruition, entirely free, good quality, legal music downloads.

The movie industry is doing the same, they think they’re safe due to movie file sizes, but they’re not, data speeds are going up, compression improving, portable players increasing… DVD’s have a 2-3 year life expectancy, HD-DVD & Blu-Ray was undoubtedly the last physical format war, everything will be online & instantly available very very soon!

As they say, “Shift Happens”, the newspaper & journal industry in it’s current form is on it’s last legs, they appear to have forgotten what they’re really about, which is delivering “News” not newspapers, paper is merely the delivery mechanism, but it’s days are numbered, newspapers & books are a dying format, there will be those that will cling on to the printed page as long as they can, but sooner or later you have to face up to the tide of change.

So there’s a mindset shift that needs to happen with those that like to read paper now, but the next generation won’t have the same limitations, they’ll simply want whatever is most convenient and most up to date, as we say, no paper is the future. Although a limiting factor currently is the hardware, reading on a computer screen or an iPhone isn’t great, eReaders that use e-Ink like the Kindle are so like reading paper, you hardly notice you’re not, and their costs are tumbling. It’s time for the publishing houses worldwide to wake up, accept the sea of change, and prepare for it, otherwise they better be ready to move over when the flood happens & those ready to embrace the advantages of the new formats and market space out pace them. If the old guard don’t step up to the plate, new ePublishing houses will appear on the scene giving the audience what they want (now where have I heard that before?)

Will eBooks, replace paper books & newspapers? absolutely… but at the end of the day, does it really matter which format prevails, as long as more people are reading & writing, who cares how it’s delivered, we’ll all be winners!

UPDATE 5th Feb 2009:
I just noticed the video below on Jaculynn Peterson’s old blog (she now has a new one!). It’s a video clip of Michael Rosenblum at The Society of Editors conference 2008, it would appear that we are kindred spirits!

3 thoughts on “Shift Happens, Are You Ready?

  1. Pingback: Q: What will you miss when newspapers are gone? « no paper

  2. I recently sent a an email to a book industry newsletter on a similar topic (excerpts below). The publishers and booksellers who are the primary readers of the newsletter were raging against the Amazon ebook machine for “undercharging” on ebooks. They insisted that there is no savings in production costs, rights, advances, etc.

    Well, to Joe and Jane Consumer there is no printing, shipping, or material goods involved in producing an e-book, and it “should” cost less.

    Print books have become a commodity because a print copy of “Team of Rivals” bought from Amazon is exactly the same as a print copy purchased at your local bookstore.

    What publishers (and booksellers) can do is make the hardcover book an experience and add value.

    I have a friend who is a Nancy Drew fanatic. She goes to conventions and pays large sums for particular editions with specific covers or errors. She collects dolls, videos, all things Nancy Drew. Why? Because those things make her happy.

    For print and bookstores to survive, they have to add value. Bring authors in, host book groups, have authors blog on their sites (or connect to the authors’ blogs).

    Don’t just sell the book, sell the souvenirs, and the experience. Nobody wants to pay for music, but they will pay for unreleased tracks, behind-the-scenes special interviews with the band, and the special edition poster with the band’s signatures on it.

    Approach it that way instead; build an experience around connecting with the author’s “tribe.”

    P.S. I haven’t gotten a response.

  3. Pingback: Will eBooks kill the publishing industry? « no paper