The E-book Opportunity
Stack believes e-book publishing will bifurcate into two distinct categories: a text-based ePub market based within the e-ink devices, with an "occasional embedded image or video," and an "mBook" market, featuring true multimedia titles as emerging via iPad and Android apps.
The discussion is especially important when considering the children's book market, says Stack. "Children's books ... need a tight integration of images, animation, video, audio, text and interaction," he says. "To paraphrase ["If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" author] Laura Numeroff ... if you give a child an iPad, you will be left with no doubt where the children's book market is headed. Their fingers fly across the screen, and their joy and engagement with the story is remarkable."
"Cross-device software that merely gives a reading capability, albeit a poor one, is not sustainable," Stephenson warns. "If a standard screen size is adopted with adequate performance and common open software, a true cross-platform solution is possible. But until this happens, we have to adapt to devices."
While there are still kinks to be worked out—among them format standardization, reform of a licensing system, Stephenson says, which is regionally-based and "not designed for the Internet," and tax and legal issues accompanying new distribution models (such as whether the agency model is anti-competitive, as Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal recently contended)—sales numbers seem to indicate the e-book market has fully come of age.
"We fully and forever 'tipped' in April 2010 when the Apple iPad crossed swords with Amazon's Kindle," Stack says. "Publishers should be genuinely exhilarated over the next decade with the pace and scope of the impending transformation. But, we are truly optimistic because the core of publishing is truly timeless. Storytelling is the art form at which publishers excel, and that will be more important than ever. The need for selection, editing, author development … marketing, social networking (digital hand selling) becomes even more important in our new 'disrupted' industry." BB