As the reality of the shrinking marketing opportunities for general trade books and the continuing verticalization of audiences through the Internet takes hold, we can expect to see some unusual changes (by historical standards) in trade publishing over the next few years. It seems inevitable that retail shelf space for books is going to be […]
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.
There is a big picture and a long arc within which our day-to-day activities are taking place. The 20th century consumer media were horizontal in their subject matter — that is, very broad — and format-specific. In the States, that means entities like CBS or NBC in television, The New York Times, or Random House. All of these companies provide content across the full range of human subject interests, but they pretty much stick to their formats: broadcast, newspapers, and books, respectively
…in the 21st century, the net is flipping this on us. The net tends to self-organize us by subject niche, so the eyeballs and human bandwidth are linked to the niches, which are vertical, not horizontal. And because web interaction is about file exchanges, format specificity is meaningless. The file can hold text, art or photographs or other graphics, animation, moving images, sound, games, or code that helps us combine, sort, or tag things
…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.”