Posted on January 6, 2014 in Archive

Some 2014 predictions

06Jan

A new year means that new predictions for the year ahead are currently popping up all over the Internet. Justin Bieber will retire approximately 3 times, some currency will fluctuate in value, and soon you might be driving a car that actually drives itself. Aside from all that though, let’s look a little closer – what are some of the most popular predictions for the digital publishing industry for this year?

The Digital Book World published a list of 10 predictions that I found to be a fairly comprehensive list of what most publishing related websites were predicting. I actually agree with most of these predictions, which is also an important factor.

1. Barnes & Noble will close or sell Nook and go private.
Nook has been consistently losing Barnes & Noble money since 2012, despite receiving investments from bigwigs like Microsoft and Pearson to help combat rivals Apple and Amazon. If Nook is sold then Barnes & Noble might have a few golden years ahead of them. Brick-and-mortar isn’t dead, and won’t be for a good while, but it isn’t really attracting investors at this point in time.

2. Amazon will go the way of Barnes & Nobles… and open its own physical stores in 2014.
I think that this has been coming for a long time. They’ve been experimenting over the last few years, trialling a popup store in a shopping centre in San Fransisco and also renting out locations that would allow customers to ship items to storage lockers to be picked up. Obviously, if a physical store would open anywhere it won’t be in Australia, but a bricks-and-mortar store in America could be a very real possibility in the next 12 months. Such a store would probably act as a shining beacon to sell Kindles out of, and possibly even some paper books, too – easily the most popular of Amazon’s products. The option of having showrooms for future innovations by Amazon can’t hurt, either.

3. Trade publishers will sell and acquire assets to “verticalise” their businesses.
To “verticalise” a business is to refine down what you sell into a much more focussed package, e.g. only selling DIY and homeware books instead of books in multiple genres. Specialising focus is a clever move that more publishers should be latching onto. You can tailor your marketing options to suit the crowd you want to market to, and often the consumer will come to you.

4. The illustrated book business will become severely challenged.
It’s a fact that these days you don’t need a cookbook in front of you to be a good cook – you really only need the Internet. There are millions of pages containing recipes, gardening advice and DIY instructions that will eventually cause illustrated, non-immersive books such as these to have a hard time cracking onto the ebook market.

5. Publishers will go after new revenue streams as ebook revenue growth continues to taper.
Skipping ahead to number nine on this list will help your understanding of this prediction. As ebook prices continue to stay low and sales figures apparently ‘taper off’ (though I don’t believe that for a second), different avenues will have to be explored if the big publishers want to keep making profits. Selling ebooks at ridiculously cheap prices is most likely not going to make up for any loss from print book sales. According to Book Digital World, bigger clients and institutions are the way to go – like major corporations.

Liquid State - 2014 Predictions

Ebook subscription services like Oyster are set to become an even bigger, better thing in 2014.

6. More publishers will endorse the subscription ebook model by doing business with Oyster and other similar services.
After the launch of KOLL (Kindle Owners’ Lending Library) in 2011, lots of publishers were angry that their books were being lent out for free each month – and so it seemed that the ebook subscription service idea would never take off. However, now that we are seeing brands like Oyster and Scribd take off, the prospect seems more viable. Maybe big publishers will even start offering their catalogs to stop Amazon in it’s tracks.

7. More publishers will launch magazines and websites catering to reader interests and start selling ebooks directly to customers.
This seems to be on-message with a few of the other predictions – publishers are going to have work harder to present specialised content if they want to keep consumers. Additionally, a few publishers have opened their own portals like Simon & Schuster’s romance-driven Tumblr page Hot Bed. Who’s to say that they won’t have a go at selling through these portals?

8. Publishers will move towards data-drive decision making.
Today publishers have more information than ever about readers and their books – what, where, how, when, why they are reading, as well as data about what patterns these readers fall into. Publishers should be using this information to make business decisions – to not do so would be like trying to drive a car blind – you don’t have all the information you need.

9. More price experimentation.
After 2013, I would have thought that price experimentation would phase out and hopefully become more stable or reliable, but apparently not. It seems that the lowest price will always win when it comes to selling ebooks. According to Richard Nash, a publishing entrepreneur, “Prices are going down because it’s a good way to get people to discover something new. So everyone will be doing it because it works.”

10. The “big five” publishers will make their full ebook catalogs available to libraries for purchase.
If you’ve read my blogs before you will know that I love libraries, so this prediction is particularly exciting for me. The big publishers and libraries have really only just started getting along after several years of refusing to co-operate or making life difficult for the other. Now, publishers are realising that having newly published titles in libraries doesn’t have that much of an effect on sales.
If ebooks become a regular fixture in libraries then they might lose some of their supposed redundancy in the new ‘get everything through a computer’ regime.

So there you have it. As you can see, there were no predictions that mortar-and-brick bookstores the world over are doomed to shut, nor are ebook sales going to slump completely. Hopefully the publishers who decide to create a more vertical business will bring about an industry that can present more detailed information than the Internet.