What We Got Wrong
Probably the boldest prediction Digital Book World made about 2014's digital publishing landscape was that Amazon would fill the void left by the declining Barnes & Noble and open up brick and mortar stores of its own. We at From the Tech Desk were a bit skeptical about that prediction from the get-go, and guessed that Amazon would not be coming to retail quite so soon.
Well, we were both wrong…sort of.
On one hand, rumors were circulating hard and fast in October that Amazon was going to open up a physical store location in New York City in time for the holidays. But while Amazon did lease an apparent retail space, right next to the Empire State Building, they haven't yet turned it into a retail store. It's more of a mini distribution warehouse, meant to make deliveries go faster in Manhattan. And the kind of Apple Store-like retail space that the writers at Digital Book World had in mind…well, that probably isn't in the cards for Amazon—at least not for a few more years.
As for Independent Publisher, we were wrong that 2014 would see people reading eBooks on all sorts of new devices. Both the Google Glass headset and the Apple Watch were originally rumored for release in 2014, which is what spurred that prediction. Obviously, neither product made its way to market. Apple did announce their smart watch, which is slated for a spring 2015 release. Google, meanwhile, has waited so long to drop the Glass that it seems widely mocked smart headset may never see the light of a public release.
In any case, it looks like we were at least a year off in our "new devices" guess. But in addition to the Apple Watch, 2015 could certainly bring some other reading-enabled gadgets, so we'll just push this prediction into the New Year.
From the Tech Desk
Looking Backward and Forward: Reflecting on 2014 eBook Predictions and Making New Ones for 2015
A year ago, for the January 2014 issue of Independent Publisher, From the Tech Desk took a look at Digital Book World's self-described list of 10 bold eBook and digital publishing predictions for 2014. We unpacked a few of the bolder predictions on the list, commented on their feasibility, and even made a short list of our own predictions for the year.
Now, that year is over and 2015 is upon us, and what better time to look back on Digital Book World's big, bold predictions (and our own, of course) and talk about which of those predictions became reality.
Probably the most accurate prediction for 2014's digital publishing landscape was the one both Digital Book World andFrom the Tech Desk made: that the year would be a big one for subscription eBook services.
2013 was really the year that subscription-based music streaming services like Spotify started to take off. With that in mind, it was a pretty safe bet that the publishing world would get its own breakout batch of subscription platforms in 2014. That's precisely what happened: in the spring, From the Tech Desk took a look at services like Scribd, Entitle, and Oyster, all of which gained a ton of traction and expanded their book catalogs this year.
This fall, we also examined a different kind of subscription offering: SkyBrite, a digital publishing streaming service that offers audio books and eLearning courses. Call it a mix between Spotify's audio streaming model and Scribd's focus on literature.
Sure, none of these services are household names, a la Netflix, quite yet. However, within another year or two, they certainly could be. Meanwhile, more players are entering the fray, a sign that there's money to be made in the eBook subscriptions—and more importantly, that no one is really dominating the market right now. SkyBrite was one of several brand new players in 2014. Heck, even Amazon.com launched its own eBook subscription service.
Clearly, this subset of the digital publishing world is growing, and while the Big Five may be still be a bit hesitant to climb aboard, that doesn't mean the subscription model is dead in the water. On the contrary, one of the safest predictions for publishing in 2015 is that subscription services will continue to grow—and will continue to benefit independent authors and publishers. Just a few days ago, Scribd nabbed $22 million in funding to expand its service. So even if 2015 isn't the year that a couple of these services become ubiquitously known, the year when that does happen can't possibly be too far off.
The Barnes & Noble Downfall
Digital Book World was also right on the money in predicting that Barnes & Noble would jettison the failing Nook device in order to save its shrinking brick and mortar business. It's been common knowledge for a while now that the Nook was slowly killing the last major brick and mortar book superstore. Digital Book World guessed that the company would either go out of business entirely in 2014, or that they would cut off the leg to save the body and ditch Nook.
That prediction was validated in July, when B&N announced plans to split into two separate companies: one for the Nook division, and one for the physical bookstores. And while that split hasn't actually happened yet—Barnes & Noble had to buy back Microsoft's shares in Nook Media before moving forward—it is still happening.
With that in mind, one of the big publishing-related predictions to be made for 2015 is about the fate of the two separate pieces of the crumbling Barnes & Noble empire. Our guess is that B&N stores will stick around for a bit longer. Their days may be numbered, but with Nook no longer causing the brick and mortar part of the business to lose money as well, it's certainly possible that Barnes & Noble could survive for a few more years as the last of a dying breed.
As for Nook, it's pretty much a coin toss on whether or not the device will even be around for the holiday season in 2015. Not only have hardware sales declined, but content sales have dropped as well, suggesting that even the people who own Nook devices don't want to use them anymore. Our guess? Kiss the Nook goodbye in 2015, because pretty soon, it won't be one of the options available if you're buying a new e-reader.
From the looks of it, both Digital Book World and From the Tech Desk did pretty well making guesses about where digital publishing would go in 2014. As for 2015, we at Independent Publisher feel pretty good about predicting continued growth for subscription services and the ultimate death of the Nook. Got any guesses of your own? Let us know in the replies!
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.