Because I am the CEO of a book publishing company, I am regularly asked how I see the future of digital publishing. As Yogi Berra said, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”
I don’t know exactly how things will shake out long-term, but I believe we will see the following six trends in 2011:
- Bundled Books. Some publishers have experimented with this, including my company. However, I believe it will happen in earnest this year. The major e-tailers will make it possible for you to buy different kinds of e-bundles at a discount—a bundle of the same book in both print and e-formats; a bundle of of one author’s complete library or most popular titles; or a bundle of several titles on a particular topic.
- Social Reading. I have seen several concept demos of this already. (Here’s one.) But this is the year it will be widely implemented. Imagine hosting a digital discussion group, inviting a dozen friends or co-workers and being able to see one another’s highlights, comments, and questions—and reply to them. This interaction could happen in preparation for the group meeting or in place of it.
- e-Book Clubs. With over a million new books published in 2009 (the last stats we have), we are awash in content. We need curators more than ever. A single editor or a panel of them will pick the best of the best. Since it is all done electronically, readers will choose the frequency in which they receive new titles. Just like the book clubs of yesteryear, etailers will give them an e-book bundle in exchange for a commitment to purchase a specific number of titles at a special membership discount.
- e-First Publishing. We are already seeing this, of course. But again, I think the trend will accelerate—especially since 19 of the top 50 books in the week following Christmas sold more e-copies than print. Publishers will see this as a way of reducing risk and testing the market. The print copy will be manufactured for those who prefer them (still the majority of readers) or printed on demand for those who want a souvenir.
- Free e-Readers. E-tailers will do this as a premium for readers who buy bundles or join e-book clubs. Or they might provide a dramatic discount to induce the next segment of holdouts to try digital reading. More and more the dedicated reader will be seen as a commodity, just like razors are to razor blades. In the near-term, expect to see the major e-Readers drop below $100.
- Monetization Experiments. We will begin to see publishers try new ways of monetizing content. This will include in-book advertising (or commercial-free for a premium), sponsored links, subscription delivery, and even all-you-can-read options for one price. Most of the infrastructure for this already exists. It’s just a matter of someone capitalizing on it.
Regardless of how it plays out, I am more optimistic than ever about the future of reading. I can’t imagine a time in history when I would rather be in the publishing business.