Cover Story - Outlook 2010: The Future of the Industry
This type of interactivity is already starting to happen, Rubin notes, with Vooks (video e-books) and other means of synthesizing different types of media. Recent interactive activities connected to books for kids (such as Scholastic's "39 Clues" series) and adults (a GPS treasure-hunting game accompanying Brad Meltzer's novel "The Book of Lies") bring together book, Web and social activities in ways that could be taken to a new level with e-content.
"Those possibilities bring additional opportunities for micro-payments," Rubin notes. Then, there are the opportunities for disaggregation: selling chunks of XML-tagged (most likely nonfiction) content that make searches through multiple e-books a snap, allowing consumers to create their own custom products.
"I know that the largest players in the space are investing heavily, and investing at a loss, to make this happen, because they believe in the future prospects," he says. "You've got to believe there's something in it."
"The biggest offset will occur when we find new ways to monetize e-content," agrees Hall, "potentially through more advanced e-books that take full advantage of the digital medium or 'pay-to-upgrade' models that tier the pricing of content according to the depth of added benefits beyond a basic ePub conversion."
With the e-commerce market share rapidly increasing, selling in the digital realm allows for a type of "long-tail" product depth that a retail store cannot mirror, she adds. "This is where we'll find the longevity for backlist titles."
How David Killed Goliath
It truly is a brave new world—of cross-selling, bundling and smaller revenue chunks—but not one book publishers need necessarily fear. In fact, Rubin says, publishers' core competencies make them the best positioned to take advantage of these new possibilities.
"[Publishers'] core competency, if I had to break it down, is finding talent and working with that talent so that the talent respects them," he says. "Good editors can help the author hone in on the right topics and the most salable topics and really improve content."