The interesting thing and perhaps the most encouraging and inevitable thing about this past year in publishing is the emergence of new business models—real honest to goodness business models—that are going to challenge the old book world. Every time you turn around you hear about the e-book, e-readers, and giving stuff away for free. But what can you do with that knowledge? Hold on and let the wind blow. The wind will blow you right overboard and this is what has booksellers and bookmakers reeling.
We are going to get over this necessity of looking and talking about technological solutions. We are going to get over our dazed and confused attitude toward technology. We won’t even think about technolgy anymore. One of the biggest media stories from 2009 was the e-book. Listen to the Agenda or CBC and you are hearing about the revolution that is unlocking the keys to the kingdom. And this is what is exciting. Kobo to me seems like almost a mature business model with the idea of distribution and self-published authors meeting a global market. The barriers are falling. There is still hemming and hawing but the emergence of the young tech savvy publishers coming out of Ryerson, Humber, Centennial and SFU are not afraid of the future—they are the future. So this year has seen Google battling those publishers who are hanging on to every last cent of their revenue generating content—but Google has a vision that cannot be denied. The development of the Android OS for mobile is another signal that Google anticipates books and all content to be availble 24/7 wherever you are.
Perhaps one of the biggest things to happen for me is the fatigue that I feel when I hear people argue for p-books with the now ancient and deluded belief that they just can’t get over all the richness of ink on paper. That they love reading in the bathroom etc. These are non-arguments now and anyone who has read a book on their iphone or dedicated e-reader will tell them they are deluded.
It isn’t consumer behaviour that is going to change next year—it will be the distribution that will change. Consumers already want e-books but they haven’t been able to get what they want.
Immediacy is the currency. Our virtual selves are becoming the norm not the geeky exception. I write as one who is on the outside looking in. Everything for me is catch up all the time. This is the nature of technological advances. I am ahead of many people my age or slightly older than me in that I get to work and research this stuff all the time but when I look behind me I see a the digital natives rising and they will not be denied.
It is hard to think outside of the box, but certainly one of the concepts that took a firmer grip of our industry and most industries was that social capital is generated in real time on Twitter and other channels and that there is less a need for the expert than there once was. We are all the experts. Yes this tautology was around before this year but Twitter kept it growing and more meaningful. Lots of companies figured it out and are leveraging it better and faster than ever.
A watershed moment for me was the sudden accessibility of 1.8 million free books that are nicely formatted. This is for the creators out there. Suddenly an obscure copyright law becomes front and center. Public domain and orphan works are words that should bring freedom to mind for readers.
The real revolution of course is for readers and hopefully for creators. The org chart of publishers is changing rapidly with far fewer boxes and arrows—i.e less beuracracy and more agility. You learned agility is easy with digital. Yes the economics are obscure and ungrounded but you also discovered if you don’t do it then someone else will. This is the disruption that technology enabled collaboration and zero cost distribution taught you. So mistakes are made but mistakes have to be made and the faster you make them the better.
Creators—how often have you been able to conjure the rapt attention of a cocktail party by whipping out the terms public domain and orphan works? With mashups about zombies and heroines in the mainstream hopefully you have been thinking about how you can mashup