Noah Genner 2009 in Review: Breathe

As many have already stated 2009 was a year full of change and innovation in the book authoring, publishing and retailing world. Digital was/is the agent of change…eBooks, eReaders (of all kinds), digital workflows and networks (be they social or internet)…for the industry in 2009. It really seemed that many digital areas that had been bubbling under for the last while came to a head in 2009…all at once. I’m not sure there was outright panic in the publishing world in 2009, but there was definitely a lot of concern. I think that the apprehension felt in 2009 might have been the biggest story of the year. Change is afoot, but isn’t it always?

1. Google. Perhaps not just in the book industry? Have you looked at the mobile space lately? They either have, or will have, the books/content, the devices, the delivery and discoverability platforms. Does any of this seem familiar? The impact of this one player will continue to be huge (see Morgan’s post below).

2. Mobile in general. Not sure about other people’s co-workers, friends and family, but most of mine have a smart phone, laptop or some mobile computing device. This was the year that mobile computing went mainstream. Not everyone is reading on these devices, but they sure are using them to do a lot of other things that I bet they never thought they were going to use them for. Familiarity is here, reading is inevitable, and the change started this year.

I’ll lump this under mobile…and do a little prognosticating…2010 is likely going to be the year of the tablet. It would seem that everyone has, or is working on, a tablet based computer (again…wasn’t this a big thing 6-7 years ago?) and someone might actually get it right. How will it affect the book industry? I’m not sure, but the effect will be felt in newspapers and magazines very soon. I’m sure the eBook platforms will follow shortly. Is the allure of e-ink, and great battery life, enough to keep someone from a multi-use-reasonably-sized-good-battery-life-app-packing-tablet-computer?

3. Digital workflows. This has been something the industry has been talking about for a while, but I think it actually started to really happen, or at least be thought about widely in 2009. Unfortunately, there is no one perfect digital workflow for creating, editing and distributing books, be they in ‘p’ form or in ‘e’ form. However, one of the only responses to the rapid change and future unknowns in the industry are to make sure you; a) have your data/content/books in a format (xml, database, tagged, etc…) that can respond to rapid change; b) make it easy for non-techies; c) if you haven’t already started…start small, but do start.

I think that perhaps 2009 was the year that the industry started thinking more about ‘content’ and less about the ‘book’.

4. Twitter. Marketing, collaborating, sharing. There were other social networking platforms that had an impact on the book industry, but last year was definitely the year for Twitter.

5. eReaders, eBookRetailers, eFormats. An explosion of devices (Nook, KindleV2, Sony, many others) and reading applications throughout the year. New retailers (i.e. Shortcovers/Kobo), and new retail partnerships, seemed to be launching weekly. All these devices and players echo the rapid change in the industry right now, but things will settle down at some point…consolidation?

6.  Pricing. The difference in frontlist ‘e’ vs. ‘p’ and the difference in hardcover vs. all the other formats.

Bring on 2010!