The Future of Publishing Explained
In just the last few months, I have delivered many lectures to many groups involved with the publishing industry. I have been to Santa Fe to speak to the International Regional Magazine Assoc. and to San Diego to speak to RISI, representing the global forest products industry. I have been to Washington, D.C. to speak to ASBPE. I have been to New York for the BPA and to Boulder for the MPA. And this week I spoke at The Digital Publishing and Advertising Conference (DPAC 4) in New York City.
No matter where I go or who I talk to the essence of what everybody wants to know is the same thing: What is the future of publishing, and what is going to be my place in that future? Without all the details, my message is and has been that we are headed into the next golden age of publishing.
That being said, I wanted you to know that one of my other companies, mediaIDEAS, announced the launch of a new comprehensive report analyzing and quantifying the opportunities for e-paper e-readers over the next decade. This might sound like a plug on my part, but it isn't. What I want to do is share some of the broader insights of the report and key in on what I see are some of the opportunities of our industry.
My partner and the report's author, Nick Hampshire, stated that "E-paper e-readers will be one of the major disruptive technologies of the early 21st century." He said, "It will change the nature of publishing and related print industries forever, ushering in a host of innovative ways to present, market and distribute content."
The report shows that since the first e-paper e-reader came onto the market in 2004, these devices, with their "green" credentials of reducing paper consumption, have already proved very popular with consumers, and the market for them is booming. By 2006, there were three types of devices available. By 2007, there were five, and currently there are over 40. This number will more than double in the next 12 months. Unit sales are also booming. In 2008, 1.1 million e-paper display-based e-readers were sold. In 2010, that number will rise to about 6 million. And by 2020, global annual e-reader sales will reach 446 million units with a value of over $25 billion.
Therefore, if we can all agree that the digital universe that we now find ourselves embedded in is not going to go away, then I think we have to seriously consider what the primary reading substrate is going to be. If Nick is right in his research and there will be 6 million e-paper display-based e-readers sold in 2010, the publishing community has to stand up and take notice. We have to know and recognize that people will be reading on those platforms and they will be reading our words, thoughts and ideas.
The questions that will obviously come to mind next are, how will we make money and what is the correct business platform? I will admit that like everybody else I am still working on the answers. I have proposed the cable TV model of consortium publishing for a decade, and I have read that Time Inc. management is now focusing on that idea. We have all heard that Rupert Murdoch and all the newspapers are trying to develop a pay-for-copy model. I am not too certain of the success of that approach, but I am sure that people will write and people will read and that it will be a lucrative business to put the reader and the writer together.
So the platform will clearly be digital e-paper and any business model may have to follow the cart. But to think that there will be no successful business model for digital publishing is ludicrous. There are hundreds of billions of dollars for grabs in the information distribution business. I do not guarantee you a piece of the action, but I know damn well that plenty of people will do very well in the new digital age of publishing. Think fast, think courageous, and think digital.