Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.
The fifth annual Digital Book World Conference + Expo was last week. As with many conferences there was a whirl of activity; running into old friends and meeting new ones; hearing about the latest tech company and also listening to and learning from many industry professionals.
For me, the DBW conference is the perfect “lead-off hitter” for the year. As a consultant, my business is seasonal. It is slow in December and August and crazy-busy from January-June. DBW is the place that I meet everyone and get a good sense of what the year will look like. It is an early indication of the trends for the year.
I also find it a good place to confirm what I know, but also it allows me to question my thoughts. In today’s transitional world of publishing, it is imperative to be flexible and open to changing the directions as the industry continues to be in flux.
What trends did I learn from the show? There are many, but a few that stood out:
1. Amazon will continue to drive industry disruption. But they are not invincible and will face more competition.
Amazon continues to dominate mind share. The morning of the second day was devoted to discussions regarding Amazon. Brad Stone gave an excellent talk about what he discovered while researching his book THE EVERYTHING STORE. He has respect for Amazon, but also was clear about the hardball tactics. My main takeaway from his and others re: Amazon is that they will continue to drive hard and innovate, but they are not invincible. There will be others that will disrupt the disruptor.
Although most of the discussion was about Amazon, there were a few B&N Nook comments. Not all was negative although the sentiment is that there is a lot of work to be done both in the stores and with the Nook. Interestingly enough, I heard very little about Apple, Google, Sony or Kobo this year. In describing the state of the B&N stores, consultant Joseph Esposito just suggested people visit the store in Yonkers.
2. Subscription plan ebook retailers will continue to make inroads into bookselling and will start to be a factor in digital sales.
One of the emerging avenues to sell ebooks is the growth of subscription plans. There was a lot of discussion about the ones in the market. Ranging from “these are bad for the industry” to “this is the next wave of bookselling.” Although there is still a lot to develop, the presence of Entitle Books; Oyster; 24Symbols; Scribd and the newest (yet to launch) Librify show that there is a lot of interest. Although these companies have yet to make a dent, they have all come a long way in a year. More publishers are signing up and that is important. The better the content, the more likely these start-ups have at succeeding.
3. Discovery is still important, but being able to easily analyze the sales trends and use the data is critical. More tools are available to gauge the effectiveness of marketing programs.
Most publishers have converted their lists to digital and are on-sale. There is still a lot of debate and experimenting on “discoverability.” Goodreads, BookBub, Jellybooks and a host of others are having an impact and now part of many marketing plans. But one trend that I see being more important in 2014 is the tracking and interpreting of this information. I sat through a fascinating demo from a company called Curalytics. The company analyzes curation data to focus on the tastemakers and influencers. It helps identify a more effective way of marketing on-line.
The new ebook retailers (subscriptions) all have mentioned how they will share as much information with publishers as possible (Kindle, Nook and Apple only share what they have to). App Annie is another company that caught my eye. They are the leading sales reporting company for apps and have recently turned to ebook reporting. Their dashboard is easy, fun and free to use.
There were so many other observations and networking options that came out of DBW. But these were just a few quick observations from a very busy three days. I look forward to what 2014 will bring and am already planning for DBW 2015. Off to the ALA mid-winter show in Philadelphia this weekend.