Mike’s speech to a packed house at Hachette, as part of a lunchtime lecture series known as The Publishing Point. Delivering what proved to be a thought-provoking and farsighted view of the future of the book industry, Mike had some clear advice for those planning a long career in publishing: the companies that will succeed will be those that focus on building compelling content for well-defined “vertical communities.”
Speech given at BEA 2009. Focusing on the changes that will take place in publishing in the next 20 years. With a look back to the last 20 years, we are able to look forward and predict not only how publishing will be in the future, but also how information will be shared.
The basic premise under which we’re operating here, I’ll summarize for those of you have never heard or read my work before, is that horizontal, format-specific media entities are oh, so 20th century, and won’t work very deep into the 21st. The reason for that is the web, which almost forces vertical organization. Horizontal presentations across subject matter — like CBS, Random House, or The New York Times — were the products of a capital-intensive, limited-distribution universe
I am not predicting that everybody will read on screens. You probably know that I’m a fan of the Kindle and perhaps you know that I’ve been an avid ebook reader on a Palm for almost 10 years. But I’ve learned that other people’s attachment to paper is greater than mine. And anyway, it would be a good thing for general trade publishers if there were more screen takeup; it would mean keeping the readers for their content and not necessarily any loss in margin
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