Monday, June 23, 2008

Generational Chasm

Publishing used to be predictable across generations. Parents read the same books in the same manner as their children and grandchildren. Not so today. Today's publishers for the first time in their history have no confidence that their child's generation will be (or are) interested in their published output. It is not that publishers aren't making an effort; however, I have a disturbing belief that there is an preponderance of focus on forcing existing content into a format and delivery mechanism (e-books and e-readers) that is not ideal only to have that e-book content used by a market - my and my parents generation - that is in long term decline.

In other words, migrating content so that it is available on an e-book may provide a false sense of security for publishers who believe this is enough to 're-launch' their content to the newest generations. No publisher should not have an e-book strategy just like they shouldn't have an Ingram or POD strategy but today's one dimensional content is no longer enough. This is why experiments like the recently announced agreement between Harpercollins and 4thStory are so interesting. From the press release:
4th Story Media and HarperCollins Publishers today announced their partnership in The Amanda Project, the first multi-platform series to be written in part by its audience, girls ages 12-14. 4th Story Media, which owns all rights for the property, will produce the content for The Amanda Project with a creative team including web design agency Happy Cog, young adult authors, artists and graphic designers. HarperCollins Publishers, which is a strategic partner in the venture and an investor, has acquired the rights to publish an eight-book The Amanda Project series worldwide."It feels like the art and craft of publishing great stories for children is on the brink of revolutionary change," said Lisa Holton, founder and CEO, 4th Story Media. "We are exploring new ways of using the web to tell stories, while also leading kids back to the joys of reading. By combining talented authors with creative web designers we are fusing traditional storytelling with the interactive world of social networking, online games, and user-generated content. We are thrilled to introduce 4th Story Media with the launch of The Amanda Project and are delighted to be partnering with the exceptional team at HarperCollins to bring this series to life."

More of this 'web first' publishing will be seen as the normal way to launch a new product or title. Harpercollins is one example but the methodology is appearing across the publishing spectrum. For example, the publisher of Bass Fisherman (no I don't subscribe) creates targeted web sites that combine social networking, a minimum of editorial content and rely on users to power the content build with their own youtube videos and podcasts. Having built an interest group, the publisher is now planning a print product targeted at this group. Doing it the other (traditional) way would have been expensive and speculative; moreover, it wouldn't have engaged the market in the manner that the web-first approach does.

Tomorrows version of the monograph is unknown but it is not the e-book version of today's book. The hype around Bezos' appearance at BookExpo was troubling to me because of the manner in which we hang on his every utterance. Certainly Amazon is important, but we are the content providers and I hope we are all looking forward to the day when a panel of publishers gets up and serially announces game shifting developments in content and content delivery. Will it be next BookExpo?

1 comment:

PersonaNonData said...

Hope can always spring eternal...