How Internet Trends Affect the Publishing Industry
The Internet took over. It’s true. We’ve got to accept this. But this isn’t the first time the publishing industry faced significant change. It survived the radio and video eras by keeping a clear focus on content and the customer. Books are a unique medium: they are not supported by advertising. The business model is completely different than the television, film, and even newspaper and magazine industries. We don’t use advertising to sell books, and we don’t need advertising to support the content within books. But what do we do when we find ourselves in a paperless world? A recent study, conducted by Morgan Stanley, gives us a few insights into global internet trends.
One of the major trends is the increase in the global use of wireless internet. People want what they want when they want it. And they now have the technology to demand this at their fingertips. The cell phone and the tablet are increasingly becoming the go-to spots for entertainment and news. Users are connected all day, every day, to an affordable, fast, and easy-to-use media source. They have access to nearly everything, from yesterday’s episode of House, to the latest NY Times Bestseller. It’s the instantaneous nature of the internet that attracts them, and the mobile phone and tablets support that immediacy.
The data supports this assertion. The use of the iPhone and iTouch has grown exponentially since their launch in 2007. In their eleventh quarter, these devices had a subscriber base of 86 million. AOL, launched in 1994, had only 8 million subscribers in its eleventh quarter, while Netscape had 18 million.
And it’s not just the phone that’s growing the mobile web. Better processing power, smaller computer chips, lower prices, and expanded services have led to a strong pattern of device integration. Ten billion or more devices now support the mobile web, including the iPad, Kindle, GPS, home entertainment systems, and game consoles. Integration will only continue to increase in the coming years.
One of the things to come out of the mobile space is the app. Apps allows mobile users to quickly get the information, entertainment, or game that they desire. In April 2009, there were 18 million smartphone owners using apps. One year later, that number had jumped to 38 million. What do app users do on their phones? 48 percent simply browse, 40 percent maintain their social networking sites, 30 percent check the news, 20 percent look up sports or movie information, and 10 percent shop at online retail sites. There are 200,000 apps available for the iPhone. Over four billion have been downloaded by a total of 86 million users. That’s 47 apps per user. All since summer 2008. The Android phone has 50,000 apps available. 400 million have been downloaded by 10 million users, for an average of 22 apps per user. All since fall 2008. The Apple iPad is a newer technology, highlighting on the integration technologies available today. It reached a user base of one million in only 28 days.
The incumbents of the technology sector are taking these changes in stride, and often driving them. Apple and Google are at the head of the smartphone battle. Amazon.com is leading the ereader and ecommerce revolutions. Netflix is perfecting content streaming of movies and videos. But new players are motivating change as well. Companies like Facebook and Twitter have changed the way people connect with each other. Skype allows users to make free calls to anybody with internet access. OpenTable and Yelp are harnessing the power of location-based services. And Hulu is taking on Netflix in the content streaming business. Innovation is coming from all directions right now. The worst thing any industry could do at this moment in time is to maintain the status quo. If everything around you is changing, than you have to change as well.
The biggest thing the publishing industry needs to do is follow the pattern of integration. If people want to read books on their phones, lap tops, iPad, Kindles, or Nooks, make sure you have a system in place that can pump those formats out. And not just new releases. The entire portfolio of available books needs to be digitized and made available on multiple devices. And make it cheaper for consumers. If a paperback version of a book costs $7.99 in a bookstore, it should not cost the same or more in eBook format, as many publisher’s are attempting to do. Consumers have already begun to boycott those publishers. There is no reason that the book should not cost at least half of its physical price when made digital. The most expensive parts of the process have been excluded: the printing and distribution.
Readers should be able to download any book they want at a low price, with just the press of a button. It should reach any of their devices within minutes, and have the money automatically deducted from their account. Devices like the Kindle and the Nook have begun to do this, but the mobile phone and tablet industries are also prime targets in which to roll this system out. Nothing, however, can be accomplished without the enthusiastic support of the publishing companies. If retailers like Amazon or Apple’s iBook app have to fight the publisher’s over price and format, than the industry will get left behind.
If the publishing industry can get the digitization system down and the price point worked out, it can then move on to making reading a multimedia experience. Pictures, sound bites, video clips, direct links, the ability to share content across a number of social media sites, even make characters and authors a huge presence in social media…the possibilities are exciting, and they continue to grow every day. With this cut in printing and distribution costs, publishers can focus on finding a wider array of talent: writers, editors, illustrators, designers, programmers. This talent can take the content and the experience to the next level, target untapped markets, and push past the limit of the traditional page.
- Amazon Announces Magazines and Newspapers for Kindle Apps (geardiary.com)
- What’s at the core of the success of eReaders? (ireaderreview.com)
- Books in Browsers? Google, Amazon Bring E-Books to the Masses (pbs.org)
- Google opens e-book store in challenge to Amazon (thenewstribune.com)