Flipping through the swedish Eco consumer magazine “Camino” I stumble upon an article that catch my eye. It’s called Book 2.0. It’s about books. It’s about the digital threats/possiblities the book business will face. The exact same difficulties that the music and movie business have faced will soon face the book publishing business. Everyone interviewed in the article, publishers and such people, are certain of this.
Still, they seem to be very calm about it. Although no solution is in sigh. The Amazon Kindle reading device is mentioned.
When it’s time to conclude the article the journalist states: “It takes time to change habits. In about 30 years there might be a modified version of the e-book that is just as commonplace as Internet is today.”
I just cant believe that someone that obviously is a journalist and obviously has talked to a lot of people that are well oriented in the book business can come to this conclusion. Thirty years!
It took, what?, 2-3 years to change the way people listen to/view/find/experience/etc. etc. music and movies. Sure, a little lead time was necissary from Napster to iTunes/iPod etc. I can stretch to four years. It took four years to dismantle a whole business and to change behavorial patterns of how most peoples consume culture.
But for the book business it wont be the same?
I see only two major factors to why the change for the book business havent happend yet.
1. There is no simple way to copy a book or magazine by yourself
2. There is no good device for reading books and magazines
When there is a ‘copybox’ for consumer use, where you can put in a book/magazine and press ‘copy’ and after some minutes have it as a PDF or some other format on the screen and when there will be a reader with the same impact as the iPod the book business will find itself in a blood bath. And the whole process will go very fast. Basically the Internet is a ticking time bomb for the book business. The Internet as it is now, in the year 2008, is like a category 5 hurricane heading straight towards the book business. Data storage is cheap, books are small digitally(and painfully big in real life in our urban small apartments), entertainment and knowledge are popular content on the Internet - books are filled with entertainment and knowledge.
It really looks as no-one in the book business see this coming. It’s as if by some magic and yet to be known cause they will, by the help of “Good legal alternatives” and by “Protecting the copyright owners”, succeed where the record labels and movie studios have failed. What are the “good” legal alternatives coming from the book business? What I see now are mostly echoes of the failed versions of the music and movie business: prices that looks exactly the same as in the physical world(if not more expensive), meager amount of titles available and a reflex to avoid user generated content at all cost(as in user generated content owned by other people uploaded to a site - as at Youtube for example).
In the meantime it’s starting to pop up interesting services as Magcloud.
The book business have one or two years to get a head start in this race is my opinion. Soon iPhones and similar devices will get more advanced, have bigger optional screens, more storage and be more common. There goes the problem with the reader. Someone will eventually see the potential for sales of a simple and easy to use scanner with a flip the page function that by itself copy a book as a CD-reader previously copied a CD. I’ll give it three of four years until a box like that is widely distributed. In six years at the absolute max, I’m really really stretching it here, the book publishing business will catch up with movie and major labels problems. And now we are talking about an industry that really never saw the amazing finacial rewards as the music and movie industry experienced during several decades. The record labels and movie studios where the big bad wolf and they got beaten up really bad. The book business is like a newborn innocent Bambi. All cute and clueless about this big ugly monster called The Internet that suddenly has an apetite for fresh white-tailed deer.
That’s how it’s gonna play out.
ps. You can’t write a text about digital books and magazine without considering the ‘dark horse’ in this game. ‘The dark horse’ for books is the fact that you rarely bring electronic devices with you to the bathroom, for a good read while taking a bath or… other stuff.
ps 2. Also libraries have played a big part in the book business. This kind of model could be very good to apply as a digital strategy for book publishers. In the music business, CEOs rarely understand the concept of this “Library” thing. Lend things for free? Sounds fishy.