Big Ideas & Uncovering the Truisms of Publishing
I like big ideas. I particularly like them as opposed to predictions. Predictions tend to be specific and are usually wrong. Big ideas are like a friendly guide showing us the way, never allowing us to wander too far off the path. They stand true to the test of time.
I have two theorems that have guided my thinking about business and particularly the changes in the publishing industry over the years. Ten years ago these “big ideas” provided me with important insights as I led a publishing association that anticipated the boom in self-publishing, selling direct, á la carte publisher services, and more. As most “big ideas” are, these are simple truisms that allow for broad and yet specific application as to how business will evolve. The questions that remain are how do we leverage these Big Ideas and when do we proactively engage them.
The first of these ideas is that business will always trend toward its most efficient means. It is the concept of continual improvement creating profitability. The more efficiently something is accomplished or produced, the more profitable it can be. The second is that business will always trend toward giving consumers more of what they want.
The music and photo industries are perfect examples of what I am talking about. Today, music can travel from the point of creation directly to the consumer’s device of choice with virtually no manufacturing or distribution costs. Photos require no film to buy or processing services. The consumer can take the photo, edit the photo, and distribute the photo with no outside services or profit model. Both of these “new” industries are now very efficient. Consumers can get exactly what they want exactly when and how they want it.
If we apply that same thinking to publishing, it is easy to understand why we have seen the developments and innovations that we have in the last few years. Self-publishing and selling direct to consumers is efficient. Blogs deliver content immediately so authors can provide their perspective on up-to-the-minute topics. Subscription models allow readers the opportunity to sample or read just the content they want without paying for content they don’t. Technology will soon enable all but the most impoverished people of the world to access virtually any content that they want digitally and immediately.
As we look forward, it is easy to imagine the day when an author or publisher could create, and deliver, a time sensitive message that is only one sentence long, that processes through sophisticated translation software, and finds it way into homes, cabs, or fields in China, India, or Nigeria within moments. Ultimately, publishing will become an astounding assortment of content lengths, formats, devices, and media. This will continue to include time-honored print and bound volumes but they will be manufactured on demand and received the same day—or maybe even the hour! Content will be customizable and marketed to the “segment of one.”
As we have seen in both the music and photo industries, the ability to sufficiently monetize content will become increasingly difficult. It will likely involve new advertising models as well as revenue from events and other related activities.
As this relates to BISG, the future of publishing will require greater process standardization, timely and relevant data analysis, research and trend forecasting. We will bring the content community together to provide the information, support, and connectivity to help you be efficient and profitable.
What this all means for all of us in the “book” industry, is that publishing will become far more complex and sophisticated. We will need to know the reader better and better and find ways to communicate directly to them. At the end of the day, it will also be more innovative, interesting, exciting, and fun!
Related story: Why Bookselling Is Now a Relationships Game
Mark Kuyper is the executive director of the Book Industry Study Group, a leading book trade association for standardized best practices, research and information, and education and events.