The instant this crossover occurs will be the instant text-based ebooks become undifferentiated commodities—simply pages of letters arranged in different order
Bellevue, WA (Vocus) June 22, 2010
Brett Clay, author of Selling Change, recently attended Book Expo America 2010 in New York City, which was buzzing about the uncertain future of the book-publishing industry. One speaker, Richard Nash, proclaimed “The copyright is dead!” He reasoned that with one million books now being published per year there is essentially an infinite supply of content among a finite demand, due to humans’ limited ability to consume content. Therefore, applying simple supply-and-demand theory, the price of books, and hence the value of copyrights, would go to zero. It would seem that printing and shipping one million different new titles onto store shelves every year only to be purchased at a price of zero, would be neither practical, nor economical. So, how will those free books get on the shelves and who will pay for them?
Enter the ebook. ‘Printing’ a book in electronic form is simply a matter of posting a download link on a website, so users can view it on one of many devices, including Amazon’s Kindle, Apple’s iPad, and Barnes and Noble’s Nook. Ebooks solve the printing and shipping-cost problems, but they don't solve the revenue problem of prices going from an average of, say, $15 down to $0. They also don’t solve the problem of readers being overwhelmed by content that couldn’t be consumed in thousands of lifetimes. Brett Clay, CEO of Change Leadership Group, anticipates the following emerging trends and changes in the book publishing industry.
Ninety-Nine Cent Title Tracks
Books will likely evolve like music albums. Albums used to contain a hit-single track and another dozen tracks to fill out the album. Albums sold for around $15. Then, iTunes enabled consumers to buy just the hit-single track for $0.99. Books are similar. Many people just want the condensed highlights and prefer not to wade through 200 pages of verbiage written simply to fill out the book. How soon will 20 to 50-page ebooks priced at $0.99 be the norm?
Another model will be subscriptions whereby readers gain access to entire collections of books for a monthly recurring cost. Home movie watchers are now accustomed to the model pioneered by Netflix. Consumers pay a fixed monthly fee, currently $8.99, to view as many movies as they like. Public libraries, according to a panel discussion at Book Expo America 2010, are starting to offer access to their collections of ebooks, as well. Library patrons need only their library card to log on to the library’s website and check-out all the ebooks they can read.
With one million books published every year, the question becomes, which ones to read? Enter the new occupation of the professional book reader. Book consumers will need to rely on recommendations from websites that not only aggregate reader book reviews, but, also employ professional readers who have well-informed perspectives and apply consistent criteria. In addition, publishing awards, such as the Independent Publisher Book Awards, which sort through thousands of books each year, will become valuable filters of high-quality content.
In several years, the number of ebooks sold is expected to exceed the number of printed books sold. “The instant this crossover occurs will be the instant text-based ebooks become undifferentiated commodities—simply pages of letters arranged in different order,” says Brett Clay. But, technology will also enable opportunities for premium-priced content. Electronic books with multimedia content and interactive content, collectively called ‘enhanced content’, will deliver amazing user experiences and value, blurring the lines between books, movies, music, games, and elearning. Imagine cookbooks that not only list recipes, but tell and show the reader how to cook them.
Eastman Kodak provides a case study of what could happen to publishers. In an upcoming segment of The Actuation Zone radio show, Brett Clay talked with Jeffrey Hayzlett, the former chief marketing officer of Kodak. Not only did Jeffrey Hayzlett participate in Kodak’s evolution, but he is also participating in the publishing evolution as an author. His recently published book, The Mirror Test, has become a Wall Street Journal best seller.
Jeffrey Hayzlett told Brett Clay, “Kodak used to deliver film. Now, we deliver bits. But film and bits are just the vehicles. What Kodak has always delivered is the experience—the Kodak Moment. The value is in the experience. Film is free. Bits are free. And books will be free. But, people will always pay for the experience. As the technology for delivering the Kodak Moment evolved, we evolved with it. But, we never forgot that our real product was the Kodak Moment. Similarly, today’s authors and publishers need to evolve with the technology—and never forget they are in the experience business.”
"The book is dead! Long live the experience!" says Brett Clay.
About the Author
Brett Clay is the author of the award-winning book, Selling Change, named the best business book of 2010 by the Independent Publisher Book Awards. A veteran of two decades in international sales and marketing management, he is the founder and CEO of the innovative Change Leadership Group, a sales training and marketing consulting and leadership development firm that helps companies harness the power of change to create high value and grow their businesses.
For more information about the book, Selling Change, or Brett Clay, visit http://www.SellingChange.com.