SPECIAL REPORT: Embracing the ‘Kindle Effect’
Kuyper says that the download capabilities of Amazon’s Kindle may prove to be the main driver of the format’s future expansion. “Business will trend toward the most efficient means,” he says. “Kindle, thus far, appears to be the dominant tool, probably because of being able to download books directly to the device.”
Gallagher agrees that the tipping point for e-books may be what he calls the “Kindle effect”: “merging technology and delivery methodology, giving the customer only exactly what they want when they want it.”
While still in the early-adopter phase—avid readers, business travelers and commuters, mostly—Allessi believes the appeal will grow as consumers recognize “liquid ink” technology does not cause eye strain. The key, again, is effective marketing, from simple strategies such as making sure e-book retailers feature titles prominently on their home pages after a mention on “Oprah,” to asking authors to publish first in e-book format before print.
Harper’s commitment to the technology is demonstrated by the company publishing “every single title we can”—meaning all except heavily designed titles—in e-reader format on the same day as print editions, Allessi explains.
“I really do think, once you explain it to people, it’s a straightforward desire,” she says.
Assessing the Long-term Digital Impact
In the face of opportunities made possible by technologies such as the e-book readers come challenges related to the proliferation of digital content and its (still unclear) effect on the industry. Especially in some of the more traditional parts of the supply chain, the question of how digital assets add value is an open one, Gallagher believes. “Will printers take on the role of digital asset distribution when they are not printing?” he asks. “Will wholesalers get more into print-on-demand? How, in general, will publishers be getting their products to market? It doesn’t necessarily mean a brick-and-mortar store anymore.”