Guest Columnist: Will You Recognize the Industry in 10 Years?
One national publisher will enable entrepreneurial, niche publishers to take a gamble on bigger distribution on a title-by-title basis. Outside of B&N, brick-and-mortar sales will be going to only a handful of independents, libraries, mass merchants and specialty retailers. And, of course, there will always be sales direct to members of niche communities who, for whatever reasons, prefer bound paper.
In that future, B&N and the “Big Two” will almost entirely publish books that have already been created and published—test-marketed, in effect—by small players within niche communities. In those circumstances, books will be delivered by POD and electronic files with almost no retail distribution. They will be low-investment and aimed at very targeted audiences. Amazon will be a dominant player in that market, but the industry will have learned the transcending promotional effect of retail display. When B&N or a publisher makes a national publishing arrangement for a book, sales will jump everywhere, including at Amazon. Ingram’s remaining wholesaling business mostly will serve what remains of the library book market and specialty retail.
Almost every book that goes “national” will have been incubated through the niche-publishing farm system first. Agents and packagers constantly will survey the niche-publishing landscape, looking for projects that might warrant much more expensive marketing and distribution through one of the big distributors.
The robust e-book market—more than 50 percent of the sales of many titles (also a bit more than 10 years off)—will have been fueled by features built into e-books that can’t be replicated in print versions. For example, e-books will frequently use moving images as illustrations, rather than stills. And, of course, e-books all will have links, which will be consistently listed as the No. 1 deficiency responsible for the rapid abandonment of paper books.
Mike Shatzkin is founder and CEO of The Idea Logical Co. (IdeaLog.com) and has been at the forefront of supply chain and digital change issues in the book publishing business. He has organized and spoken at numerous industry events, written for trade publications worldwide, and, over the years, has counted most major U.S. publishers among his clients.