Barnes and Noble slash price of e-book reader from £69 to £29 and quickly sell out in a promotion aimed towards gaining more of the UK’s digital market. However overall trends show ownership of tablets overtook ownership of e-readers in 2012. Highlighted by predictions that e-books could well be a device we look back on and say that was an early device before tablets took over. Mirrored by book chain Eason reconsidering it’s intentions of bringing out its own e-reader.
In terms of online selling, Kindle Worlds, a home for fan fiction approved by the books they are inspired by is going to launch in the US. Hodder looks to develop a ‘family of online hubs’ through which to engage readers directly with authors across genres. Integrating social media with forums and reviews to gain sales through recommendations and John Smiths (academic) are to offer e-textbooks via website kortext. All of which mirrors Mark Oliver chief executive of media strategy company Oliver and Ohlbaum associates statement that digital disruption is speeding up, highlighting self-publishing and subscription models as areas of rapid change.
Amazon features heavily this quarter due to its lack of paying appropriate tax, in the UK 110,000 sign petition urging Amazon to do so. As a consequence Amazon didn’t attend the Salon du Livre or London Book fair which was described as wracked with nerves, under Amazons looming but mostly absent presence. In another area Amazon buys ‘Goodreads’ a community based book recommendation site, who pledge to maintain independence. They also suddenly cut ties with ‘Lovereading,’ another recommendation website, citing that they breach the Associates Programme Operating Agreement. Which baffles the site as they do not appear to do so.
Faber’s Henry Volans makes the case for new experimental forms of fiction. He suggests that the linear novel is not going away but the protectionism around what we already have is no better than trying to secure a monopoly on experimentation. An example of non-linear writing can be found in Iain Pairs new novel Arcadia. It will be in app form first, as it allows Iain to write as he wants to. He is writing the book online in a custom-made web tool, which allows him to plot each episode of his novel spatially on a graph. The story can be read either by following a character from start to finish or by cutting across a half dozen major threads, visually tracking progress on the way.
Libraries receive a fair amount of coverage with ‘Envisioning the library of the future of the library report’ from the arts council suggesting the tension between the wider need to keep book places open, and the costs of doing so are visible. There is also now the possibility of a national e-lending model for libraries, where they pay per loan to the publishers. Pilot schemes for e-lending could begin in summer 2013 following a government review.
The discussion around device lock-ins continues. The European and International Booksellers Association find there is no technological reason why e-books can’t be offered across devices and that the walled gardens exist due to Apple an Amazons business models.
Questions are however raised about whether consumers care about Amazon and Apples attempts to tie readers into devices. This may be because of our attitude towards the digital books we are consuming. With a physical book we expect to keep them after reading, rather than games that come with consoles, which are abandoned once complete. However the titles read in e-books mostly appear to be throwaway reads, holiday romances, rather than the lifelong keepers.
Concerns about how the media imply that bookshops are for the technologically incompetent are raised by the president of Booksellers Association says this simply is not true. This is important as when a bookshop closes two thirds of the money spent on books does not go to another retailer, it’s simply no longer spent on books. This combined with the importance of discoverability is the value of the physical bookshop.
Those casting their nets into more reflective waters suggest innovation, international strength and a focus upon what makes books excellent as the cause of 2012’s resilient performance. Which is interesting as significantly we are now seeing a plateau in e-books sales, which for some suggests that things are returning to ‘normal.’ With advise for the next year centring around the need to think of books much more as objects with specific purposes rather than a means a storing and disseminating information. Also that judging the pace of digital change will be one of the key challenges and a suggestion that companies much learn to extend their reach, insights and capabilities in the digital environment. One observer however remarked that there is no such thing as normal, the kind of change we are used to will be replaced with another kind of change.
Within books and education the Academic Bookselling conference announces aims to probe whether students want interactivity within their textbooks. An important focus as Universities spend on physical books is likely to drop as fees increase squeezes budget for space and students pockets can no longer afford them. But also because in 2012 67% of students now study from e-books and listed them as one of their three main resources. At the younger end of the spectrum we see that children are reading more on screen, those who read daily on screen rather than print are less likely to be strong readers than those who read regularly in print.
This quarter the BBC launched a reactive radio capable of altering broadcast scripts depending on your location and surroundings. The idea behind it being to explore ways of individualizing the radio experience and have it capable of responding usefully to different user contexts. Certainly something for me to keep my eye on for responses over the next quarter.