Tim O’Reilly Says Future Of Ebook is as a Service, Not a Product
Yesterday I posted a blog discussing one point addressed during the CEO Roundtable at the Digital Book World Conference-namely, book discoverability. The larger discussion of that panel focused on the future of the ebook, for which the CEOs (Tim O'Reilly of O'Reilly Media, Dominique Raccah of Sourcebooks, Carolyn Reidy of Simon & Schuster, and David Nussbaum of F+W Media) seemed to have more questions than answers.
A later session, led by O'Reilly and titled "The Ebook Revolution Is Just Beginning," provided a few more insights and asked the question, "What should the ebook become?" O'Reilly's answer was that publishers aren't selling information products anymore, but rather information services.
To exemplify this O'Reilly cited the shift from product to service that the map business has experienced. In the beginning, the map was a product and a very helpful one. Then the map moved to the internet, and it gradually became interactive. One could obtain step-by-step directions, find restaurants or shops, and post reviews for other map users. The map became audible, and at the same time invisible, as directions could be recited directly into a user's headphones. The most recent iteration of the map, O'Reilly argued, is the self-driving car, a device that is operated by the simplest of requests, "Take me to ____." Instead of being a product for us to explore, the map has become the platform with which we explore.
The map was a tangible product much like the book, but its successful integration into our lives was spurred by its seamless transition into a service, one that leveraged new platforms and technology to make our lives easier.
So how can publishers translate this to books? O'Reilly puts it like this: "Create more value than you capture. There is a lot of talk about, 'How are we going to survive this transition?' The questions instead should be, 'How are we going to be of use, how are we going to help our authors, and how are we going to help our readers?'"
The answer to those questions is by putting experience first, says O'Reilly, who argues that his company's Safari Flow, an online library of professional topics for programmers and designers, is one such example. Users can personalize what topics they want to receive information on, and Safari Flow provides a constant stream of information (mirroring social) that users can peruse. And it is subscription-based because more and more consumers don't want to own things but would rather have instantaneous access a la Netflix.
Having great content, according to O'Reilly, is not enough for publishers. Creating platforms that deliver that content in ways that make consumers' lives easier is the next step. That's what O'Reilly sees as the future of publishing.