Future of Book Publishing? Verticality and Communities, Says Shatzkin
Mike Shatzkin, founder and CEO of Idea Logical Co. and a noted publishing futurist, engaged a crowded room of BookExpo attendees with his predictions and prognostications in a session he called, "Stay Ahead of the Shift: What Product-centric Publishers Can Do to Evolve in a Community-centric Web World."
He spent the better part of an hour with his crystal ball dialed in to 20 years from now, in a world that exists "all in the cloud," he said, referring to data and content storage on networks rather than hard drives and without need for digital rights management. Almost all content will be found via tethered access, available on multiple devices at any time, and publishers will exist as both licensers and licensees.
Format-specific publishing will soon give way to format-agnostic publishing, Shatzkin said, as value moves away from the content itself in favor of context. Distribution of that content will no longer be the "problem," he cautions—marketing will be. And the ownership of eyeballs will trump the importance of intellectual property.
Much of his talked centered around the idea that publishers must and will experiment more in the years ahead, but that they must "do so within a framework of understanding," he said, cautioning that there will be more opportunities than resources to pursue them, and that publishers must choose their pursuits judiciously.
"The old [publishing business] model still works," he insisted, adding that it just works for fewer and fewer titles and publishers every year, however. Shatzkin admitted he's unsure what the next winning revenue model will be, but he's certain publishers will need to reorganize vertically and around communities.
Shatzkin's action plan for publishers starts with understanding your business vertically, perhaps with the help of Book Industry Standards and Communications (BISAC) codes. Next, he stressed that publishers need to "research your vertical Web world" to identify and understand potential competitors and collaborators. He adds that a "sensible Web strategy" is necessary, including one corporate, business-to-business Web site for the company and then at least one separate site for each vertical. Lastly, he advised publishers to look to "construct alliances that will enable new businesses and new business models."
Among Shatzkin's other predictions for 20 years from now:
• the subscription model will dominate, with per-item sales becoming more and more rare;
• the mega trade houses will be consolidated, and there will likely only be one or two in existence;
• press runs become the exception rather than the rule; and
• crowd-sourced content, editing and curation are the norm, though there will still be room for "professional and personal super-editing and calibration."