The future of publishing is entering a new golden era that will make publishing available to more people. Twitter, new long-form content distributers and an increase in digital ad spending will support this new era.
I recently attended Le Web in Paris, where the theme of the conference was innovation in the next decade. It got me to thinking about where we go with publishing. Even on Google, you won’t be able to find an article on publishing trends from the 1440s, the decade after Johannes Gutenberg introduced movable type printing to Europe. But if you did, it would probably focus more on the gloomy outlook for the illuminated manuscript industry than on the then-unfolding print revolution, which launched cascading innovations that would change everything and usher in the Age of Enlightenment.
Something similar is at work today: Digital publishing is now a mature, thriving industry, and yet many still insist that publishing is in its death throes. Book publishers know better: While hardcover sales declined slightly between 2008 and 2012 (from $5.2 billion to $5 billion), eBook sales grew at an astonishing clip during that period, rising from $64 million to $3 billion. And while digital publications are typically sold at a lower per-unit cost, profit margins are much higher – from 41 percent to 75 percent as publishers make the transition from print to digital.
Content is thriving more now than ever before. The book transition that in large part has been ushered in by Amazon is succeeding because, rather than relying on an old infrastructure to sell and distribute books, authors and creators are now able to use technology to connect directly with their audience. The days of huge organizations needed to market a particular title or even entourages travelling from one bookstore to the next are over. Authors and creators can do what they’re best at, and platforms can enable them to directly connect with their readers.
Despite the growing pains that accompany any major transition, publishers will be in a strong position in 2014 and beyond. But what trends will drive the evolution of digital publishing? How will the integration of mobile devices and cloud-based platforms affect the way people experience published content?