Six e-Book Trends to Watch in 2011

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.”

A Woman Reading an e-Book

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/webphotographeer

I don’t know exactly how things will shake out long-term, but I believe we will see the following six trends in 2011:

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  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

Question: What do you see happening with e-Books this year? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • http://twitter.com/thecreativepenn Joanna Penn

    Hi Michael,
    Another ebook trend will be self-publishing or indie authors overtaking mainstream publishing in the ebook sales charts because they can sustain lower prices (which still make an author higher e-profits).
    As an international reader, I’d also like to see the disintegration of arbitrary country boundaries for ebooks when it should be language based or something more useful. Mainstream publishers are only releasing ebooks in the US market on Kindle etc, which leaves those of us in Australia/UK etc not able to buy the books. This encourages pirating for popular books – crazy when an ebook has no physical shipping.
    Thanks so much, Joanna

  • Adonyes

    Michael,
    Do you see publisher companies being hurt at all by the amount of free books they are now offering to bloggers? Do you think they will continue to do this?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      No, I see them being helped. We have a huge program ourselves, called BookSneeze.com. We wouldn’t do it didn’t sell books.

  • http://twitter.com/2020VisionBook Joshua Hood

    Thanks for the foresight, Mike. I think you are dead on. The publishing world is changing, but I believe we can utilize the new possibilities while minimizing the negative.

    Joshua Hood
    2020visiononline.org

  • http://www.christopherscottblog.typepad.com/ Christopher Scott

    I think we will see the continual growth of ebook sales. Especially since the iPad has become so popular and other book retails have their own ereaders they are promoting.

    Growth in ebook sales is for sure, but that doesn’t mean print books are out of style.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I agree. I think the two can co-exist together.

  • Clgordon

    After writing my book, getting it on Amazon as an ebook and printing it as a paper back, even with several radio shows and a TV interview, it is not easy to get sales. Claire P. Gordon. My book is “The Color of Music” about separated twins, one raised as white and one as black. A hot topic but…What do we do next? Suggestions gladly received.

  • http://www.gospellab.com Gospel lab

    I don’t know where all of this is going, but I still like to walk into a bookstore and see books.

    There is something about the atmosphere, the smells, and the sounds of the espresso machines. I like ebooks, but I hope the book stores do not go away.

  • Drew Haninger

    How about the passion of an enhanced eBook with interactive video, charts and sound. I guess when you go this direction the question is it an eBook or an interactive app. I expect author’s to eventually expect more than just an electronic copy of the print version. The author will want the book with social interactions, notes, and video interviews. This type of enhanced eBook needs development and needs to suite the author.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Actually, I don’t think these kinds of books will prove successful. Maybe a few enhancements at the end of the book. But I think if they interrupt the reading experience, they are intrusive and detrimental to the that experience.

  • http://blog.cyberquill.com Cyberquill

    Publishers ought to collaborate with neurologists and figure out a way to download the content of books into the readers’ brains directly, so the time-consuming chore of reading can be skipped altogether.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      That would be a joy lost in my opinion. I don’t just like having read, I like the reading process itself.

  • http://blog.cyberquill.com Cyberquill

    Publishers ought to collaborate with neurologists and figure out a way to download the content of books into the readers’ brains directly, so the time-consuming chore of reading can be skipped altogether.

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  • David M White

    My main problem with ebooks is that I cannot cut and paste the content I am studying.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Actually, with Kindle, everything you highlight in a book is copied to your account on the Web. You can grab it from there and copy and paste it into documents. I do it all the time.

      • David M White

        Thank you for your reply – I was told by Amazon and Sony I could not do this.

  • Paul Bruggink

    “printed on demand for those who want a souvenir” ??

    There’s at least a generation of us who are not going to make the switch to e-books, and we’re still going to be around for a while, so don’t hold your breath.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Oh, I definitely don’t think print is going away. I was speaking strictly to those who buy the e-books who ALSO want a copy of the print book as a souvenir.

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  • http://seobridges.com Erick Pettersen

    Personally, I’d like to see something like those “Choose your own adventure” books for kids. After all, when we watch a DVD, we get to watch cut scenes or alternative endings. Why not for e-books? for example, I thought Hannibal by Thomas Harris was well written, but I thought the ending was weak. Maybe he did write an alternative ending, but the publisher liked the one in the book better. I’d like to read the alternative ending if there is one–for that or any other book.

    Erick

  • http://seobridges.com Erick Pettersen

    Personally, I’d like to see something like those “Choose your own adventure” books for kids. After all, when we watch a DVD, we get to watch cut scenes or alternative endings. Why not for e-books? for example, I thought Hannibal by Thomas Harris was well written, but I thought the ending was weak. Maybe he did write an alternative ending, but the publisher liked the one in the book better. I’d like to read the alternative ending if there is one–for that or any other book.

    Erick

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  • Sjohnston

    It seems that it will only gain popularity. I was surprised to see all the areas you commented on. I still like a printed book though…

  • http://www.nataliejepotts.com Natalie

    With e-book publishing being so easy I wonder if well known authors (with large fan bases) will start to publish their own books online and bypass the publishers altogether. They may sell less e-books, but they will get a much bigger cut of those that they do sell.

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  • http://www.awdac.com Frank

    I think the future of reading is in E-Books and “electronic” reading. Today´s Generation is “electronic crazy” and in my opinion the number of peolple who like to read real books will decrease over the years. So I think there are great chances of being successful as an entrepreneur in the niche you are already successful in.

  • James J. Pond

    Looking beyond 2011 I see the potential for takeovers. I see a world where literature will be farmed out to the new less costly publisher and the author will be required to be licensed. The author will basically surrender his or her copyright to the terms and conditions of the license. The corporation who buys out all the publishers will ensure that profitability is maximized by limiting percentage the authors income and the consumers rights (e.g. no lending books to friends). Some people will loose their jobs, censorship will be incorporated, and everything will look allot like mainstream media.

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  • Jenifxvls

    great share, great article, very usefull for me…thank you

  • Anonymous

    I have a great time reading it. Thank you for sharing.

    freebooksddl.info

  • http://twitter.com/NewEnglandHiker Roy Wallen

    Coindicent with your tweet from Digital Book World today (January 26th) was a blog post, with data, from Goodreads. The data are based on the reviews that are posted to the web site. The reference is here: http://www.goodreads.com/blog/show/264.Will_2011_Be_the_Year_of_the_Ebook_

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  • Anonymous

    I would love to see “adio/text” bundles. For the past six months I’ve been listening to audiobooks while driving and it would be great if they were bundled with the a hardcopy version that I could later review and outline.

    The scrooge in me just hates the idea of paying twice for one book in different formats. :-)

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  • http://twitter.com/kristinaAholmes Kristina Holmes

    Re: #4 about e-publication first: “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.”

    Yes! This is so obvious.

    I’m shopping a really great project right now to publishers – it’s a health/environmental prescriptive book written by authors with combined sales of over 500K. I’m finding a lot of rejections from publishers who admit that the concept is brilliant and that it would make a terrific e-book and/or app, or other electronic translation, but they don’t feel readers will want to access the information in a physical book quite as much. In other words, the fact that it would make a better electronic product than a physical book (which I’m not convinced is necessarily true) is the clincher for them turning us down, even though they love the idea and the platforms!

    I realize that we’re in relatively early days in the e-revolution, but the responses from publishers has me scratching my head. I look forward to the old formulas used in publishing today breaking up a bit and hopefully seeing publishers willing and able to be a bit more dynamic in how they approach each project. There are a lot of brilliant folks in publishing… I’m sure it will happen. Can’t wait.

  • Judith Marshall

    Great article! I see all of these trends as viable options. Several of my fellow authors are now test-marketing their books on sites such as Smashwords before querying an agent, publisher, or publishing independently. It makes perfect sense that a traditional publisher would want to do the same. It’s an exciting time for us authors.

    Judith Marshall
    http://www.judithmarshall.net
    Author of “Husbands May Come and Go but Friends are Forever” recently optioned for the big screen.

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  • Julia

    I think e-reading will hit a peak and then begin to decline.  I jumped onto the e-reader bandwagon before the trend spiked, and I am already sick of it and yearning for “real” books.  I am not much different than the average person, so I expect this will happen to many others as well.  Even those “born digital” will probably follow the “movie-theater” model and return to tangible reading just as those who returned to movie theaters despite the existence of netflix.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I’m not holding my breath. I haven’t seen any great “return to vinyl” in the recorded music world.

  • Anonymous

    These are all great insights. Do you know if any of them have become true so far? I know that Salesforce.com’s CEO, Marc Benioff, has called social networks the next big disruption and a great source of innovation. When you mentioned “Social Reading” and “e-Book Clubs” that’s the first thing I thought of, but with new features like Skype in Facebook or ‘Hangouts’ on Google+, an entirely new social network may not be needed.

  • Mark C. Grove

    More reference books will be offered as eBooks because professionals of every stripe will begin requesting, later demanding that the common (and uncommon) professional books that they reference for their work will go digital. Once this concept takes hold, every professional will convert their professional library so that it may be carried with them on-the-job. I expect medical, law enforcement, geologists, botanists, and other professionals like personal property appraisers (that’s me) to carry their kindle with them for easy access to hundreds of books, journals, and even slides, snapshots, mug-pics, and identification books. As the car, phone, internet has become a professional requirement for fulfilling diligence, so too will be a professional’s kindle library. http://www.mgrove.com

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