From the Tech Desk Shares Its Own “Bold” e-book Predictions
Why should Digital Book World get to have all the fun with making predictions about 2014 e-book trends? “From the Tech Desk” wanted to get in on the action as well, and with that in mind we’ve put together our own list of trends and events that could become reality in the coming 12 months. Enjoy. And as always, let us know what you think!
More Mobile Device Platforms: Since digital publishing really took off, people have gone from simply accessing e-books on e-readers to reading books on all manner of mobile devices. With 2014 set to see the release of numerous mobile technologies—the “Google Glass” and Apple’s iWatch, among others—the options for where, when, and how readers will be able to access digital titles are only expanding further. Could we see people reading books on watches and high-tech goggles at this time next year? Stranger things have happened.
Subscription e-book Access: For readers, e-books are a great model because they allow for spur-of-the-moment purchases and instantaneous ownership. The same appeal was the driving force behind iTunes when it rose to prominence in the recorded music market over a decade ago. However, just as music has shifted to an “accessibility over ownership” model—thanks largely to subscription services like Spotify and Rdio—readers will eventually want a model where they can pay a flat monthly fee and then be granted access an infinite library of titles. The publishers might not be ready to spring for a subscription model just yet—though services like Scribd have already gotten the ball rolling—but it seems that soon, the market will demand a looser and more affordable way to access digital titles. 2014 could be the year that book subscription services start becoming a mainstream concern rather than a fringe trend.
From the Tech Desk
Unpacking Digital Book World’s “Ten Bold Predictions for eBooks in 2014”
Late last month, with the holiday season creeping in and “end of the year” lists flying from every corner of the entertainment industry, it was easy to feel saturated with the sheer volume of year-end coverage to be found online and in print media. Suffice to say that, if you haven’t yet read a “best of 2013” list for books, movies, albums, or TV shows, you may have been living under a rock for the months of November and December. During this period of list-making furor, however, Digital Book World unleashed a somewhat unique twist on the form. Rather than looking back, the Internet publication opted to glance forward, coming up with a list of “Ten Bold Predictions for Ebooks and Digital Publishing in 2014.”
It’s common knowledge that the publishing industry has been in somewhat of an upheaval over the past few years, as digital books have more and more begun to supplant print options. Big box bookstores are struggling and independent bookshops aren’t doing much better. Everyone seems to be folding in the face of Amazon.com and the unstoppable e-book revolution. In composing its list of so-called “bold” predictions, Digital Book World has latched upon this moment and given us cause to think about 2014 and what it might bring for book publishing.
Could this be the year where e-books from all the big publishers make their way to public libraries? Will Barnes & Noble’s Nook finally go the way of the dinosaur? Will any new devices or tech advancements further change the way we read, publish, market, and share books? Digital Book World (henceforth referred to as DBW) pondered most of these questions on their 2014 prediction list, and in honor of the New Year, Independent Publisher and the “From Tech Desk” column have decided to take a look at a few of the items on the “bold predictions” list to try and determine just how accurate they may (or may not) be.
Prediction: Barnes & Noble will close/sell Nook, go private - It’s no secret that Barnes & Noble has been struggling with financial problems for a while now, and Nook is the cancer that is slowly killing the company. While it seems as if opting to not participate in the e-book business would be a fatal move for any bookseller to make at this point, clearly drastic measures are needed to keep Barnes & Noble afloat. Nook is posting astronomical losses every quarter, and it’s turned into the sort of dead weight that can’t be redeemed in house. Barnes & Noble either needs to cut it loose or sink.
As DBW notes, the Barnes & Noble brick and mortar stores are still somewhat profitable, and a sale of Nook to a company with more resources could at least help the company recover some of the funds it has sunk into the eReader device over the years. If Barnes & Noble finally ditches Nook, the company will be able to better manage its expenses and set a course for the future. Unfortunately, there aren’t many growth opportunities waiting in the book industry outside of the digital marketplace, and with or without Nook, Barnes & Noble will eventually go out of business. However, by calling Nook the failure it is and going private—since investors won’t care much for a business with no growth potential—Barnes & Noble should be able to maximize whatever time it has left.
In other words, this prediction isn’t actually that bold: it’s just good sense!
Prediction: Amazon will open physical stores in 2014 - Now here’s a bold prediction, especially since it comes on the same list that talks about Barnes & Noble’s inevitable decline. Indeed, considering the growth of digital marketplaces and the increasing irrelevance of brick and mortar bookstores, it would seem folly for Amazon to expend much money trying to build a presence in physical stores. However, as DBW reasons, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has always liked the thought of having that “physical presence,” but has just never figured out a viable way to do it for his behemoth online marketplace.
Were an Amazon store to become a reality, it would probably be something along the lines of the extremely successful Apple Store, blending an easy retail experience with a hands-on product showroom. The stores could allow shoppers to play around with Kindle devices, browse bestselling books, pick up orders, make returns, or test out any technological innovations that Amazon might try to develop in the coming years (delivery drones, 3D screens, etc.). When described in those terms, an Amazon retail store doesn’t seem like such a crazy concept, but we’d still guess that DBW’s prediction will end up being a bit too bold: if Amazon does go to retail, it won’t be in 2014.
Prediction: The “big five” publishers will make their full e-book catalogs available to libraries: Despite the fact that e-books have been growing into the dominant publishing model for several years now, most of us still don’t think of public libraries and digital titles as concepts that go hand in hand. That’s mostly because the big five publishers have remained stubborn about how their e-books should be made available for library patrons. As DBW notes, HarperCollins in 2012 tried to limit the number of times an e-book could be rented out in any given library. Once the library exceeded that given number, the e-book would essentially “expire,” and the library would have to purchase the title again. The Random House strategy, that of simply jacking up prices, wasn’t much better.
However, most of the big publishers are starting to see that punishing libraries for the popularity of e-readers and tablets is, to put it lightly, a bad idea. (Let’s note here that most independent publishers saw the light from the beginning.) Macmillan and Simon & Schuster are the two publishers with the largest distance still to travel in their interactions with libraries. The former still refuses to make its frontlist titles available to libraries, while the latter only deals with libraries in New York. DBW hopes that those two publishers will choose 2014 as the year to bury the hatchet and make peace with public libraries. If that happens, virtually any e-book, new or old, from a major publishing company or from an independent publisher, will be able to be borrowed at a public library.
That, we think, is a bold prediction worth making.
Craig Manning is currently studying English and Music at Western Michigan University. In addition to writing for IndependentPublisher.com, he maintains a pair of entertainment blogs, interns at the Traverse City Business News, and writes for Rockfreaks.net and his college newspaper. He welcomes comments or questions concerning his articles via email, at firstname.lastname@example.org.