Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant
Location: Books & Such Main Office, Santa Rosa, Calif.
For the tiny remainder of 2009, we’ve looked over our blog offerings from throughout the year and have chosen those that received the most responses. Those posts will comprise our Best of the Blog. (Can’t believe we’ve been writing this blog for almost a year!)
Among those posts that garnered a boatload of comments were two reports I wrote based on my observations of the Book Expo America Convention (BEA), which took place in New York in May. It’s instructive to read them and see how current they still are and to remind ourselves just how much flux exists in the publishing realm. Here goes…
At BEA, I attended a workshop entitled, “Product Centric Publishing in a Community Centric World,” which was presented by Mike Shatzkin. His self-appointed task was to lay out for the audience what publishing would look like in twenty years. Fasten your seatbelt and pull it snug! I’ll start out with a straightforward idea from Shatzkin and pick up speed from there.
- Be nimble but in a framework of understanding. In other words, you need to know something about what you’re attempting. So find out how Facebook works and what the etiquette of that community is before you try a creative way to connect with others through it. When you begin to use Twitter, do so with an eye to watching how others are effective in conveying their messages with it–then figure how to express yourself.
- Hard drives won’t be used any more. Material will be accessed through screens, not computers.
- Everything will be organized by nuggets and niche organization. For example, if you’re interested in Civil War uniforms, you’ll connect with material and community through such diverse areas as fabric, uniforms, and the Civil War.
- Format-specific publishing will give way to format-agnostic publishing (material can easily include pictures, games, video, etc.).
- Subscription models will be common whereas per-item sales will be unusual.
- More titles will be created by readers than by publishers.
- “Ownership” of eyeballs will be more important than ownership of content. i.e., the person who has access to the most people will be more powerful than the person who has access to content.
- For today, production and delivery costs will rise, but revenue will fall.
- Lines will blur between newspapers, magazines, books, and games.
- e-books will have more timely info than we’re used to seeing in books because the material can be updated more easily.
- Publishing widely to reach as broad an audience as possible will go away. In its place will be publishing “vertically”–reaching more deeply into a narrower audience.
What are the pros for publishers and writers in this scenario?
- Books are the ultimate niche product. A book you like might be one that doesn’t interest me in the least.
- Publishers and writers are trained to be niche marketers and are skilled at content development.
What are the cons for publishers and writers?
- Both are product centric rather than community centric.
- A book isn’t continuous like a newspaper or a newsfeed is.
- The publishing industry lacks the resources and the culture of technology to experiment.
The two key words to keep in mind as you eye the future are: “vertical” and “community.” You must understand yourself vertically and present yourself vertically (develop a web site designed to reach your community; collect emails from your community; create partnerships vertically).
So now, loosen your seatbelt a bit and talk to me. What are your responses to this “vision” of the future? What parts of it do you buy into? What are you skeptical about?