Will eBooks kill the publishing industry?

There’s no doubt in my mind that eBooks etc are the way forward and that eReaders will be the preferred reading devices, but it comes back to what you’re reading. Mobiles & devices like the iPhone are great for snippets of news or for catching up on something while you’re hanging around in a departure lounge, but for extended periods or for reading literature, while usable, they’re pretty poor, plus the batteries don’t last long enough. eReaders on the other hand are much better at this, but you wouldn’t want to rely on them for picking up your emails, plus they don’t exactly fit in your back pocket!? Also a major problem with eReaders, is that they’re too small… yes you did read that correctly.

You see, all but one of the eReader manufacturers are aiming at one specific market, they’re all trying to capture the paperback & published books market, but that’s not where the real uptake will be, I’ll explain later, but first let me ask you, would you take an expensive eReader instead of a paperback with you when you decide to chill out on the beach, (think of all that sand getting in your new shiny Kindle!) let alone leave it unattended tucked under your towel when you take a dip? no you wouldn’t. So that’s going to be a hard market to crack, not impossible, but more needs to be done, plus the average cost savings of buying an eBook compared to a paper book is marginal, so the benefits of an eReader aren’t worthwhile for most people. As to costs, publishers argue that the cost of an eBook is almost the same as a printed book, due to copyright & royalties etc, while the printing & distribution costs are minimal!?!? Personally I don’t believe this, nor do the majority of purchasers (although I’d happily post any data substantiating the publishers claims here, if they come forward with them). The record industry said the same for years about CD’s, but we all knew it was a crock (look how little they cost now!). Music sales had been declining for years before the CD came about, but they were a stroke of genius that kept the music industry going for years, a new crystal clear format that everyone bought into replacing the vinyl they’d already purchased! But the genie was out of the bottle, once they released a digital version it didn’t take long for wise consumers to realiee they could replicate the files themselves.

Publishing houses need to embrace the sea change, the potential eBook market is enormous, plus they should stop trying to make an outdated, centuries old business model work in a modern environment that is quickly leaving them behind, they should be jumping all over this opportunity not running from it!

So getting back to my other point, a much larger market is unpublished documents, white papers etc. The average business person reads 10 times as much unpublished material as they do published material, plus, of the published material they read, 75% is business related. So using those statistics, fiction or non-business related paperbacks read for enjoyment account for 2.5% of what the average business person reads! The majority of publishers and eBook manufacturers are all ignoring 97.5% of the market!! and I’m not even including news & newspapers, which is a major selling point of the Kindle. But the newspaper industry is another story which I won’t rant about here, you can read my thoughts on that here & here if you’re interested

Plastic Logic understands about this bigger market, which is why they’ve developed an eReader that is twice the size of most eReaders, as thin as the new Kindle 2 and is aimed squarely at the business & academic users, with an open file structure allowing the user to copy their own files so they can view powerpoint, word, excel, blogs, newsfeeds, lecture notes / slides, basic email etc unfortunately it won’t be launched until 2010. This is when the eBook & eReader market will become interesting, when business users, remote technicians & students can access all their documentation whenever & wherever they want.

eBooks won’t put publishers out of business, plus it won’t kill off authors revenues either. Some complain that it will be harder to get new authors published, but again the opposite is likely to be true, in the future “anyone can become and author” why would you need a traditional publishing house if you’re only going to distribute an eBook. Note I say traditional publishing house, there will undoubtedly be new types of publishing houses coming to the forefront, experts in adapting to the changes in new media & social networks and leveraging these platforms to promote new authors. We plan to build a platform ourselves as part of our nopaper group of companies & allow anyone to promote themselves or the authors they represent freely across our networks.

Plus there’s an entire untapped updates & addendum market out there, who hasn’t got an outdated lonely planet guidebook collecting dust on their shelves? next time you’re off, will you buy the whole book again, probably not, you’ll get by with the old book and more than likely buy a competitors as it has different info, but what if you could pay $1 for the complete updated version, who wouldn’t! or if you don’t want to pay for a whole guide book, you could just pay for the chapters that you want, ala iTunes and single tracks vs the entire album!

So I don’t see Amazon or eBooks killing publishing (Amazon needs publishers, without them they have nothing to sell), although I certainly see it killing off the way it does business now, but that’s great news for us all & especially aspiring authors, the opportunities, potential markets & revenues are enormous, anyone thinking of jumping ship away from publishing is mad, or blind to the opportunities, as those currently entering the market, will happily take their place & show them what they missed out on!

No more newspapers, it’s the law!

OK not exactly, but hey we’re talking newspapers here, and they’re not exactly know for their restraint with sensationalised headlines! Anyway, here’s an interesting link I just picked up on Jeff Jarvis’s blog.

In essence using newspapers to post “Legal Notices” should now be a last resort not the default, as the circulation is deemed too small, or not covering enough of the population to be effective!

In a unanimous decision published Tuesday on the court’s Web site, Associate Justice William Clifford wrote that the practice of putting lawsuit notification in a newspaper began “when newspapers were the only means of print mass communication, and when newspapers were more widely and intensely read than is now the case … Because service by publication has become less likely to achieve actual notice of a lawsuit, it is also less likely to meet the requirements of due process.”

“We are forced to conclude that service by publication was not reasonably calculated to notify the defendant of the action and, although technically compliant with the rules, did not meet the requirements of due process.”

You get what you pay for, or at least you should

I could download music for “free” online, I could use peer to peer networks etc, but it takes time & quite a lot of effort to find what I want and the results aren’t always that good. So while I could get all my music for free, I instead pay for it all. Why? well for a start it’s legal (but let’s ignore that aspect for now), but mainly because “free” isn’t actually “free”, it takes a lot of my time to get what I want via peer to peer, so while I’m not handing over my hard earned reddies for the files, I am spending my time and that’s a far more valuable commodity, as I can’t get that back once I’ve spent it!

So using a service such as iTunes, in real terms actually costs me less! as I get what I want, when I want it, in a format that I want, that is convenient for me! and that last bit is the key, “convenient for me!”

Free news content spread out all across the internet is fine, but I have to invest my time & effort to get at it, so it’s not actually free! But that’s how I choose to get my news! why? because unlike iTunes that makes it convenient for me to get the music I want, news organisations make it difficult, they don’t want to play together, they insist on my coming to their individual uncoordinated websites, delivering content in formats that are no good to me, I want my news my way, I want it on my eBook reader, my mobile, my laptop, my TV, my handheld device, whatever I want, whenever I want it and in whatever format that’s good for me! Rather than embracing this approach, they’re afraid & running away from an iTunes equivalent for news, they don’t want to make it convenient for me the user, they want to make it convenient for themselves. If they continue with this insular view & down this route they will choke themselves, just like the music industry did.

This is exactly what we’re trying to do with no paper. As we say, the future isn’t newspapers! it’s news with no paper™, but they don’t want to change, they want to find ways to carry on producing tonnes on paper based content paid for with a shrinking advertising revenue, then when they see that isn’t working, they then bizarrely think that online advertising will support their online efforts, but it won’t! It’s all about delivering content with value worth paying for, it’s about being customer centric, it’s about good user experiences, it’s about ease of use, and most of all in this time constrained world, it’s about convenience for me! it has to be simple, a no brainer to use and all about me!

As I said, I pay for my music using iTunes because it’s convenient, I’d happily pay for my news content in the same way, so will millions of others!

Watch this space!

Q: What will you miss when newspapers are gone?

Answer: Nothing!

All that’s really gone is the “paper”, the “news” will still be there, and that’s all that matters… how you get it shouldn’t matter (of course we have plans for that!).

Finally, someone else gets it, and thankfully that someone is Seth Godin (so hopefully a lot of people will listen & take note).

As I mentioned in my Shift Happens post last month, “the newspaper industry appears to have forgotten what they’re really about, which is delivering “News” not newspapers, “paper” is merely the delivery mechanism. The next generation will simply want whatever is most convenient and most up to date, as we say, no paper is the future™. It’s time for publishing houses worldwide to wake up, accept the sea of change, and prepare for it, otherwise those ready to embrace the advantages of the new formats and market space will 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.

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!”

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!