We’re going to start with a view of what digital technology could mean to the overall world of communication over the next decade or two. What the history of the Internet seems to be telling us so far is that we will see a growth in niche organization — what people like to call “community” on the web — and a corresponding decline in horizontal media, which is much more threatening to magazines, newspapers, and broadcast than it is to us in the book business. But it will change us too
Industry guru Mike Shatzkin foresees big gains in e-book sales, consolidation among literary agencies, a jump in customized book sales and much more…. You won’t catch me climbing out onto any billion-dollar limbs as I offer my forecast for book publishing in 2008, but some of the changes I envision do call for fundamental changes in how the business operates. There is an overarching theme to the changes already taking place. Consumer media in the 20th century tended to be horizontal and format-specific. The New York Times and Random House define “horizontal”: they publish across all interests and markets. The Internet will drive 21st-century publishing enterprises to be more like what professional publishing has always been: highly vertical and format-agnostic.
…even though we’ve seen our business get tougher in many ways, some of the predictions made at the turn of the century for big changes in this decade, such as disruptive ebook takeup, just haven’t come true. The book business has, arguably, been less affected than any of the other major media by digital change. Or maybe I shouldn’t say “arguably.” Maybe I should say “apparently.” And CERTAINLY I should say “so far.”
What I hope to make clear is that the world of information and entertainment which constitute the ecosystem in which trade books live is changing in already defined ways. Even though we can only see a hundred feet in front of us an the journey is bound to be many miles, we know that many of the business forms and commercial models that succeeded in the 20th century will not make it far into the 21st. No big news there; we’ve watched media models come and go so often that we’re actually getting used to it