June 6th, 2007
What is the future of the book and the book publishing industry? That was the question that was in my mind while attending the Book Expo America convention this past week end. In a business that is mature, flat to down in unit sales, and seems to dearly hold on to past business practices, what might be the road map for success over the next twenty years?
First, letâ€™s take a look at other content businesses, what has happened to them in this digital age, and what that might indicate for the book business.
Music is relevant in that the music business was disintermediated by the Internet. It is not relevant in that the listener still uses speakers, earphones and ear plugs and, except for convenience and portability doesnâ€™t really care whether the music comes from vinyl, tape, CD or audio file [except of course for dedicated audiophiles]. The physical listening experience is the same. Reading a book is a physical experience that would be fundamentally changed by moving to a screen.
Television/video has also been changed by the Internet. Viewing is now on a variety of screens, and is essentially becoming on demand. Even though the variety of screens has increased, viewing is still on a screen, as it has always been. Where video can give a glimpse into the future of books is that, at least on the Internet, the power of gatekeepers has lessened. â€œViewer generated contentâ€ might be analogous to self publishing via the …
June 5th, 2007
As mentioned in the last column I have had the opportunity to attend several conventions this year. In January I attended the Consumer Electronic Show and the NATPE television conference, both in Las Vegas and in February the Chicago Auto Show. This past weekend I was in New York attending the BEA book publishing convention. I have attended a number of NATPE conventions, having been in the television business, but the other three were new to me to attend as both a futurist and as a member of the press. Inevitably I spent a bit of time thinking comparatively on all four conventions.
The CES show is a reflection not only of what is going on in the world, but was also what will be going on. Given the speed and high level of innovation that technology and particularly the technology that people use for communication, entertainment and work, this convention has become a directional sign post on the future of the world. The media covers this convention excessively, telling its readers and viewers what they will be seeing, buying and using in the months and years ahead. [The comparison of the press rooms of these four conventions was startling. At any one time there were 50-75 people furiously typing on keyboards in the press rooms of the CES, NATPE and Auto Shows. I never saw more than 4 or 5 people doing so in the small press room at the BEA].
The NATPE convention is widely …
Book Expo America is the large annual convention of the book publishing industry. For the past few days, thousands of people descended on the Javits Center in New York for the annual ritualistic gathering of the tribes of this 500 year old business. As regular readers know, this year I have attended the Consumer Electronic Show, the NATPE television convention and the Chicago Auto Show. Once again I found myself navigating an annual convention of a business that targets the consumer [BEA is primarily for the â€˜tradeâ€™ or consumer part of the book publishing industry]. I look to see what the industry trends are, and how the business is reflecting and adapting to the radical changes going on in society today. Finally, as a futurist, I look at the business through my own filter of what I see the future to be to gauge whether the business is doing what might be necessary to expand and thrive in this new age we live in.
The book business is a mature business, which would be expected since Gutenberg initiated it more than 550 years ago. It is certainly not a growth business. I attended a Trends 2007 presentation which provided a detailed snapshot of the industry today. Year to year revenue growth, current and projected out to 2011, is in the 2-3.5% range, but year to year unit sales over all is less than 0.5%. In other words, any growth is due to increased prices. Factoring in population growth, …