Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Rack Jobbing The EBook

A change, equivalent to the launch of the mass market paperback just took place but did you notice? Months in advance of the expected release of the new iPhone thoughts ran wild on the potential for an Apple iBooks store as much for its potential impact on sales as for its counter point to With the launch of the 3G iPhone publishers have been found wanting, sadly waiting for the market to be gifted to us rather than proactively setting out to define it. This post from Kassia Krozer sums it up perfectly:
On a weekend when headlines were there for the grabbing and customers were searching for both toys and content, the publishing industry, perhaps practicing summer hours, was curiously silent. Not a single major initiative, announcement, horns-blaring call to check out these great offerings on iTunes.Call me crazy, but I’d expect an industry that salivates over moving 150,000 units to be all over the potential for reaching seven million “mobile is the future” customers. Are you not out there, listening to readers, gauging their interest? They want, you have, and you’re still hiding the goods. I get this isn’t the largest market you have, but is that an excuse to sit on the sidelines?

Publishers are again about to have a market dictated even as they continue to complain about the market power of the online retailers. Now $9.99 may become a defacto RRP for eBooks and as volume increases via the prodigious iPhone apps store publishers won't know whether to laugh or cry. When mass market paper backs gained market acceptance at Woolworths in the 1930s publishers gained access to a market they never would have developed on their own. Books were suddenly available for a dime and as publishers stood on the sidelines it wasn't until years later that they entered the market directly or bought up the main suppliers. Will history repeat itself with publishers buying ebook apps suppliers like Fictionwise or build their own applications? Hopefully, at least one or the other.

Traditionally, we think of distribution and content development as separate disciplines within publishing companies but in the e-Publishing world they co-mingle. Content optimization becomes the normative state where the end-user builds their own product out of a content repository created by the publisher without limitation on how the end product is rendered. The 'distance' between publisher and end-user (where distribution as a function currently sits) is wide but becomes virtually non-existent in the future state.

To bring us back to the iPhone circumstance, as long as publishers continue to think in terms of traditional functional silos and roles and responsibilities they limit themselves in their ability to leverage their assets. In contrast witness Amazon which has never considered any aspect of the publishing value chain to be off limits and more publishers need to think in this manner if they want to redress some of the advantages Amazon and others retain (or new competitors develop) in the marketplace.

Some other views on a similar theme:

Adam Hodgkin


Mike Shatzkin said...

I am surprised that none of the commentary about publishers and the iPhone mentions the role of DADs in this process. It is not for publishers to create the bridge from their content to each app; that's what they hired DADs for. Specifically. So the question is NOT: where is Macmillan? where is Random House? The question is: where is Ingram Digital? Where is codeMantra? Where is LibreDigital? THEY are the ones who should be making it easy for publishers to use each new platform that becomes available.

Mike Shatzkin said...

After conferring with my friends at Ingram Digital, I learn that some publishers are more prepared for iPhone than we all realized. Or than most publishers realize.

Ingram Digital is the exclusive fulfillment source for eReader eBooks. eReader software is a free download and works on iPhone today (this is the reader that began life as "Palm".) Shortly, all eReader formatted ebooks from all Ingram Digital powered retailers, will work with the iPhone.

So books in eReader format from all publishers distributed by Ingram Digital are purchasable for and readable on the iPhone.