An Agent of Change: Digital Disruption

LeHatThe digital disruption phenomenon is a strong undercurrent in many business enterprises and ventures nowadays. It has been defined by James McQuivey, of Forrester Research, as a means to change the entire way products are conceived, created and distributed in every industry.

Education ToolsCreation and usage of free or cheap digital tools is one necessity of digital disruption. Customer experience and satisfaction is acknowledged as the ultimate goal – think of Amazon in this case. It is no secret that they put the customer first and foremost. Finally there is an increased premium on partnerships, as they allow for more benefits and lesser costs.

While this is just a glimpse of the myriad opportunities provided by digital disruption, it has already made its way in the boardrooms – influencing acquisitions. Corporations have started looking and acquiring disruptive industries – which are potentially able to reposition the assimilating company into a position to capture the maximum profits in the future value chain. Think of Yahoo’s acquisition of Tumblr, the popular microblogging platform.

Finally, the digital disruption is not merely affecting the workflow of the companies. It is also ushering structural changes, which can be reflected in the demand for skilled and experienced people in IT, ICT and digitally focused sectors. One such publishing example can be seen in HarperCollins’ hiring of Charlie Redmayne, who was the CEO of Pottermore.digital-response

So far, the impact has been felt in the downstream strata of industries, hitting and effecting changes in distribution, operations, etc. However as the obvious agenda is transforming the upstream, where the margins are more, it remains to be seen what changes may occur in the future of companies and their handling of the digital disruptors.

An infographic about digital disruption, based on the research of Deloitte, can be found here.

Image Credits: Jackie Flynt, London Calling Social Business

The Publishing Landscape in 5 Years Time (Part II)

LeHatLike the title says. If you haven’t read the first part, you can do so here. Okay, so down to brass tacks.

AppsMobileI actually think that the digital transition is already coming to an end. The facts aren’t disagreeable, for instance, the number of smartphone users in 2012 surpassed the one billion mark, the size of the tablet market being predicted to increase to 357 million users worldwide by 2016 and a new estimate forecasting that Android apps could be the first to hit the vaunted 1 million mark in June 2013. All this points to a different kind of environment that we now live in – a digitally oriented one at that.

Will eBooks totally shut down the printed word? The short term answer is no. The long term answer is yes, but it will take a long time. Until society gains access to a cheap, flexible and multidimensional tablet and it becomes the norm to do run of the mill activities with tablets, the printed word will always find a place in people’s minds. But what is also happening is that gradual, yet imperceptible phasing out of printed books is occurring, slowly, but surely.

PricingAbout pricing and eBooks, well, what has happened has happened, although parts of it have resembled a self-inflicted Shakespearean tragedy. However, the Big Six (soon 5) have more or less embraced the agency pricing model – where the publishers set the price and the retailers get a cut from it. The wholesaler model, which was the norm earlier, consisted of the publishers selling the books to the retailer at a fixed price, and the retailer set the final consumer price. Still, the irony’s not lost.

piracyPiracy. Ah, a controversial topic indeed. The easiest way to describe the potential impact that piracy has on eBooks is that a publisher can run a huge loss through a simple P2P share or a torrent started by a single person. However, a product can be only truly pirated if it is downloaded illegally – just because it is there – does not mean an automatic loss on the ledger. And as Mark Bide often reiterated in his truly inspirational lectures, obscurity is a greater threat than piracy. If you can’t get noticed, you are a complete zero. A study conducted by Brian O’Leary also  found proof that for a publisher – O’Reilly and Thomas Nelson, sales were spurred by pirated books. Yet, another study by Attributor painted a gloomy picture – that ebook piracy is on the rise. But this is somewhat co-relative – after all if there are so many tablet and smartphone sales, it’s also reasonable to expect a bump in the overall piracy levels.

Translations and formerly overlooked nations (factors were weak markets, Steig-Larrson-Millennium-Seriesunfavorable laws and lack of freedom) are becoming more important on publishers agendas. Stieg Larrson’s Millennium series, which was originally in Swedish, saw a wave of Scandinavian novels and penetrations. Today, the esteemed London Book Fair of 2013 has Turkey as its main target of focus.

Lastly, there was a major merge of publishers – with Random House and Penguin joining forces. But, not to be outdone, Amazon pulled off a really savvy business deal, which resulted in a Twitter outburst, with its acquisition of Goodreads. If a Big Six member had acquired Goodreads, instant advantage, but unfortunately the episode again demonstrates the failings of publishers and their tendency to treat consumers like one night stands. Still, there’s always hope.

amazon-goodreads

Well, that’s about it. The first series of The Publishing Hat. Thanks for reading!

Image Credits: GFK TechTalk, SWLearning, i.i.com and Mixtus Media

Quicksand in Book Selling

Bookshops could charge for browsing. Stunned? And then laughter? Or maybe a ‘what the hell’ thing? You’re not alone. That was my first and initial reaction when I read about this idea thrown forward by Victoria Barnsley. And the C.E.O of HarperCollins, one of the Big 5 to boot. Apparently, Victoria Barnsley thinks that the physical bookshop’s existence is the biggest question that publishers feel at the moment. She’s more or less right and I do agree with her to some degree. However, her remedy is not at all correct. You can’t expect a potential buyer to pay up a fee just for browsing. And if in the rare case, pay to browse bookshops did exist, it would mean the true death of bookshops and push the customers towards online retailing.

#FutureFoylesRather, what Ms Barnsley should take notice of, is how Foyles is trying to reinvent itself. The last few weeks have seen Foyles hosting crowd-sourcing workshops to get new ideas and feedback as to how it can survive in an digital world. The problem is how geared books are towards online retailing. They are compact, inexpensive and can be transported relatively quickly. Amazon realised this early on and now it is reaping the results of its foresight, even if we may decry its growing power.

So what can be done? In the near future, a day might come when there are no bookshops in the world, and everything is done digitally. Or there might come a day when publishers choose to put all their eggs in the bookstores basket and cut ties with Amazon. Perhaps they could elect to have a single, uniform platform solely run by themselves, even. Lastly, bookshops reinvent themselves and become centres where both print and digital books can be sold painlessly and hassle free, whilst having the best of both worlds.