Tools of Change – Lessons Learned from the Failure of Ebooks in 2000, and What They Mean to the Future of Electronic Publishing – Feb. 23
Michael Mace, Rubicon Consulting – firstname.lastname@example.org
Don’t fall in love with the way you do business today because that will change.
- Barriers to eBook adoption
- Printed books may be the last things to get converted
- Economic structure of traditional publishing is unstable
- Be prepared
Lessons from last time – circa 2000
- more readers then than there are now
- Mike shared quotes from 2000/01 which predicted a huge adoption of ebooks and readers
Issue 1 Not enough books
- core customers are reading enthusiasts, they want everything and not enough was available
- books were slow to become available, expensive to convert and publishers treated this like an experiment
Issue 2 Prices were too high
- customer perception – an ebook is disposable, they value the hardcover and don’t want to pay
- pricing was high b/c publishers wanted to protect their bookstore channel, hardcover pricing, and they were scared
- high prices plus limited availability equals reluctance
Issue 3 Usage patterns
- since they won’t buy a device we will put books on the thing they carry
- problems – PC’s not comfortable, mobile devices too small and unique use pattern
Issue 4 Not enough periodicals
- magazines and newspapers were viewed as disposable and a better fit than books for ereading
- immediate delivery- before others was important
- consumed in small chunks
- but the electronic version has to be considered as good as the print version, advertising isn’t the same and there is competition with free websites
Issue 5 Marketing
- right way is to find out who is the customer and what compelling problem can you solve for them
- the challenge is, for most consumers books aren’t broken
- marketing isn’t doing a good job of making the pitch
- Mike feels B and N is doing the best pitch right now
Summary of the past
- not enough content to justify buying readers
- not enough readers
- weren’t solving a problem
4 issues in the past that effect us today:
- marketing is lousy
- pricing and devices are close to lousy
- critical mass of content is better, but not great
What does this mean for the future?
- These things need to be solved – short stories for the electronic marketplace and the backlist
- rethink the periodical – we have made a ton of assumptions that are driven on print and we need to move beyond that, how can magazines survive on just the editorial staff in an online environment?
- disaggregated value chains – cut out the middleman, sell direct to customers
- How much reader-visible value does our editing add?
- How much demand generation do we really do?
- Could an author get the same value through contract services? Will someone you just laid off go out there and do it themselves for a cheaper price?
- Do the readers value your brand?
- Do printed books go away and when?
- When does it pay an author to go electronic only? (established author selling via electronic outlets) when 20-30% of the public have ebook readers, that is the tipping point (were still under 5%)
- follow the money, when 25% of the population has devices, book publishing will change dramatically, the iPad brings the tipping point closer, when the price of an ebook raises the tipping point gets closer, competition b/t Amazon and Apple brings it closer