on Book Publishing in the Next 10 Years

By Jeff Rivera Comment

With the excitement of the current
Consumer Electronic Show
(CES) in Las Vegas going on, we wondered how technology might change publishing in the near future.

We asked technology expert
Scott Steinberg
, publisher and lead technology analyst for to weigh in on his vision of the book publishing in the next 10 years.

There was a time when some may have scoffed at an outsider’s opinion of book publishing. Now, technology and entertainment have merged and their vision of the future is just as valid for the book publishing industry as a veteran book publisher from a major house.

Scott Steinberg:
Five core ways technology will revolutionize the future of book publishing in the next 10 years, if not sooner (think half a decade or so), depending

on how quickly the eReader and eBook categories evolve into affordable, intuitive devices and how rapidly everyday readers, not just early adopters, are willing to adopt these new formats, providing them with some degree of mainstream ubiquity,:

1. The rise of the independent, as I expect more individual authors and small presses will be able to take advantage of the digital format to sell direct to the consumer, make a healthy living doing so and take advantage of the platform to provide more (and more unfiltered) coverage of a broader range of content, including niche and emerging topics. Just as apps have liberated bedroom coders, so too will the preponderance of ways to connect directly with readers, build a healthy fan base and enjoy higher profit margins doing so compel legions of aspiring authors to finally put pen (or is that stylus?) to (digital) paper and permanently blur the lines between amateurs and professionals. While they’ll still have a place in the industry, I suspect by that point, most agents will be, shall we say, a good less relevant than they’ve become accustomed to in the past.

2. Greater interaction with authors and audiences who’ll be able to actually influence the end shape of actual novels, if not actually force them to iterate and evolve on a regular basis, ensuring that not only will readers now have an active voice in the tale – they’ll also effectively be writing themselves into the story. Today’s books are basically passive, one-way transfers of information in which the reader willingly digests an author’s words and views with no expectation of having a say within the context of the given dialogue. But just as Twitter is being used to crowdsource ideas and input for articles today, or solicit reader reactions that can prompt later story updates, changes and expansions, so too will the ability to instantaneously update and iterate digital editions be met with some degree of expectation from the public that someone will be listening to their voice on the other end. And from online reviews to eReaders and tablets that allow users to comment on and discuss works of literature or pass opinions along in real-time, they’ll have more ways of getting the message across than ever.

3. We see less distinction amongst digital publishing formats, as software platforms such as Blio that allow for delivery of eBooks on virtually any device (tablet PC, netbook, smartphone, portable media player, etc.) largely relegate dedicated “eReaders,” and other single-purpose devices, to niche status. Ask yourself: Do you really need yet another high-tech gizmo – and expensive one at that – to pack in your carry on when a current device can provide nearly as much functionality? We already see platforms such as cell phones and laptops gaining in power and versatility, and unless you’re a heavy reader or simply can’t stomach the idea of squinting at a relatively small screen for long periods of time, it’s going to be hard to justify doling out for yet another fancy gewgaw.

4. The rise of the multimedia novel, which substitutes video clips, sound bytes and short animations in place of pictures and illustrations, much as digital magazine editions are doing online today. Somehow, in a world of widespread high-speed broadband connectivity and high-definition 3D content, the old pencil sketch and low-res photo just don’t seem to cut it.

5. A new breed of author rises, buoyed on a cult of Internet celebrity, fueled by their ability to quickly churn out opinionated/compelling content on a consistent basis, stay in constant communication with fans, deliver custom pieces directly targeted to audience requests, and generate works consumable in brief bursts that fit better with readers’ increasingly hectic lifestyles. Much as we see bloggers and vloggers (video bloggers) with cult followings today, I suspect we’ll eventually see the rise of ultra-prolific penmen that take advantage of electronic publishing (the main costs being associated with researching, writing, laying out and possibly digitally delivering books – not dealing with physical goods, storage, distribution, ongoing overhead, sales staff, etc.) to – regardless of actual writing experience or talent – powerhouse players in the industry.