Five Digital Publishing Questions for Peter Hudson

Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.

The Digital Book World Conference + Expo, kicking off on January 13, 2015 is packed with an incredible amount of information and ideas about the digital publishing landscape at a time of remarkable transformations. To help attendees make the most out of those three days, Digital Book World is sitting down with conference speakers to help lay the groundwork for conversations that will take place at the conference and continue for many weeks and months afterward.

This is the first installment in our “Digital Publishing Questions” blog series, featuring BitLit Co-founder and CEO Peter Hudson.

What do you think has been the most newsworthy event in the past year around publishing and digital change?

There are many publishing stories that grabbed headlines this year, like the Amazon-Hachette dispute, but there are two events this year that I’m surprised haven’t made bigger headlines: In Europe the Tolino Alliance has expanded beyond Germany and has for the first time started to reduce Amazon’s ebook market share in that country; and a Nielsen study found that while ebook adoption has slowed for all age cohorts, it is in fact falling for millennials.

What are you anticipating as the big change we will see in 2015?

I think we’ll see subscription services such as Scribd and Oyster start to be seen as a normal part of the digital sales strategy for ebooks. While subscriptions services have been around for a very long time (Safari launched in 2001), these “trade” subscription services appear to be solidifying themselves in the minds of both publishers and readers.

I do think that print and digital bundling will hit the “innovator” edge of the adoption curve in 2015. We saw Kindle Matchbook and BitLit launch in 2013. In late 2014 we’ve seen both Kobo (in Australia) and Barnes & Noble launch point-of-purchase print and digital bundling. I see this as an area that will see exponential growth in 2015 as more publishers come to understand what bundling can do for them in supporting diversity in the print and digital retail landscape.

What is the most important thing publishers need to accomplish in 2015?

If publishers work on just one thing in 2015 it should be publishing the best books they possibly can. If publishers work on two things in 2015, they should also do whatever they can to ensure the long-term diversity of the print and digital bookselling ecosystem.

Will Amazon’s ebook market share grow in 2015, or will this be the year that Apple, Kobo, Google and Nook (or someone else) push them back?

In mature markets (U.S., UK, Canada, Japan) there is little scope for movement in the market share between the major players. The low-hanging “readers” in all of these markets have bought into one or another of the DRM-protected walled gardens. While it’s true that digital readers are moving toward reading in apps on tablets–and that reading on a tablet allows a reader to buy some books from Kindle and some from Kobo, and then read them all on their iPad–there are structural economic problems with agency pricing (70:30 splits) and apps (70:30 in-app commerce payment processing), which continue to lock readers and publishers into large incumbents who own hardware ecosystems.

Are there any companies (start-up or otherwise) now flying below the radar that you think may break out in 2015?

Yes, BitLit. As the company’s co-founder I obviously have a biased opinion. However, great start-ups find simple solutions to multi-sided market problems. When publishers bundle ebooks through BitLit they increase the perceived value of print books; give their customer (the reader) more value for their dollar; collect the names and email addresses of their readers; and they support all print retail channels.

Peter Hudson is the Co-founder and CEO of BitLit. He’ll be speaking at Digital Book World 2015 on a panel called “Launchpad: Start-ups You Should Know About That You Might Not,” about how innovative new companies are rethinking digital content development and distribution in a variety of exciting ways. BitLit offers readers discounted ebook editions of titles they already own in print. In a significant expansion of its business, BitLit recently partnered with Elsevier to launch a pilot program featuring 5,000 of the publisher’s titles.

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