As I think about the future of publishing, there are three aspects of the business that I’m concerned about:
1 – the readers
2 – the writers
3 – the publishers
I tried to condense these into one post, but I couldn’t. So I’ll start with the readers and work toward the publishers.
With all of the new technologies coming to the people, I’m often struck with how they impact the way the readers get the information and stories that they want to read about. Basically this breaks down into two distinct sections: paper and other.
Paper books are going to see a dramatic shift in the production over the next few years. Readers would normally have to rely on only the books that were printed in the “traditional” way, off-set, huge runs to get the price down, and physically going to the store to see the book. Now with Amazon’s distribution and POD technologies, it’s easier than ever to get a book into printed form. To further compete in these uncertain times, the bigger booksellers (Barnes and Noble in particular) will more than likely be able to offer POD services as well. Imagine going into Barnes and Noble and looking on the shelves, picking up books and looking through the contents, and deciding on a particular title, going up to the checkout and paying. Then in the back of the store, in a big printer, the file is downloaded and printed while you wait. This creates more stock on the shelves (just one of every book, not one of some, 30 of others), and lets more availability of titles be selectable by the reader.
Good for the reader.
Secondly, the accessibility of Ebooks is only going to increase throughout the upcoming years. Netbooks and Ereaders (stand-alone units and programs integrated into smart devices he readers already own) will do wonders for people always wanting new content. As the digital ink technology becomes cheaper and easier to use, the Kindle will also get more competition (but in the end, I do believe that there won’t be only one device, but the Kindle will probably be the most popular after it drops its price a little bit to compete better). Newspapers will be on a level playing field with bloggers and websites, as both will be readily accessible on the different devices. Additionally, the increased functionality of these new readers will also change the creation of books and texts, integrating hyperlinks as citations and narrative devices (want to know more about the history of the ONE ring? Hit the hyperlink and be carried to the story of how the rings were forged. Narratives will get shorter, but wider, allowing lateral reading through maneuvering behind and through the hyperlinks.
In the end, I do believe that having more choices of how to read stories and nonfiction will be good for the readers and end-user.
And traditionally printed books? Well, even people with tons of gadgets and broadband internet can have a record player to listen to how music is “supposed” to sound like.