How Book Publishers Can Outlast Book Publishing

Inkling digital publishing start-ups innovation Matt MacInnis“The book was a very sensible solution to a lot of problems for a long time, until it wasn’t,” says Inkling founder and CEO Matt MacInnis.

“Today it increasingly isn’t.”

MacInnis is among those who believe the traditional publishing model is under threat from “fast-changing customer expectations” to which publishers can’t always adapt quickly enough.

Unlike other instances of disruptive innovation, though, “publishing’s problem isn’t a single competitive technology,” MacInnis writes. “Rather, it’s the hundreds of small software companies that rise from the cracks to nibble on the feast of available problems to which the book is no longer the best possible solution.”

In order to survive the death of the book (in all its formats), MacInnis contends that “every publisher must find its path to reinvention as a software company or else decline into irrelevance.”

Much more.

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EU Antitrust Head Explains Amazon Suspicions (Bloomberg)
Margrethe Vestager, the European Union official spearheading the recently announced antitrust investigation into Amazon’s ebook business, says her agency worries the company has “grown so big that they think they can use their strength to close competition, to close the road to innovation.” Nevertheless, Vestager has promised to determine empirically whether that concern is well-founded.

Skeptics Question New Kindle Unlimited Model (Melville House)
One independent publisher says the new author compensation model Amazon announced this week for Kindle Unlimited, its ebook subscription service, doesn’t add up. Taking a close look at Amazon’s hypothetical arithmetic under the new system, in which authors will paid based on how much users read, she concludes that “it’s unlikely that most authors will make $10 a page.”

Hachette UK Buys Nicholas Brealey (PW)
By acquiring Nicholas Brealey Publishing, including the UK-based publisher’s two U.S. imprints, Hachette’s UK division adds to its offering of global business, travel and other nonfiction titles.

Facebook Is Testing ‘Buy’ Buttons (The Motley Fool)
The social network is expanding a pilot program for merchants who sell via the e-commerce platform Shopify, allowing them to add ‘buy’ buttons to their posts inside Facebook. One observer explains why, in his view,“Amazon has reasons to be wary, but nothing truly to fear” just yet.

Kobo Adds Bait to Hook New Users (Ink, Bits & Pixels)
Kobo updates its iOS app to allow readers who aren’t yet Kobo customers to preview limited samples of ebooks available on its platform, giving mobile users a feature similar to one on its website.

Amazon Wants to See Your Ears (BidnessETC)
Amazon files a patent for technology that would recognize users by the unique shapes of their ears, which some have speculated could make its way into the next generation of the Fire Phone, as a way of unlocking the device for its owner. One commentator points out that that application is limited (you don’t have to input a passcode to answer an incoming call), but it could compute the distance to a user’s ear in order to adjust volume controls.

Fine-Tuning Social E-Reading (Talking New Media)
UK-based ebook start-up The Pigeonhole aims to offer a curated social e-reading experience by serializing content and connecting users with authors and like-minded readers. The company’s founder explains The Pigeonhole’s vision for making the digital world an intimate, personable environment for readers.

Subtler Forms of Censorship in China (NYT)
China’s guest-of-honor status at this year’s BookExpo America drew protests from free expression advocates last month. According to one industry insider, though, “a mere poem rarely lands anyone in prison,” and much of the time, neither does an article or even a full-length book. But self-censorship abounds, and “the social cohesiveness of the literary establishment, rooted in traditional Chinese attitudes toward authority, is far more corrosive to Chinese writers’ artistic independence than the state itself.”
Related: Key News and Ideas from BookExpo 2015

How Nonprofit Presses Shape the Academic Market (The Scholarly Kitchen)
One industry leader points out just how unusual it is that in the academic sector for-profit publishers must compete with not-for-profit counterparts, and the pursuit of missions and profits alike influence the market overall. Among other things, that dynamic is impacting how digital innovation takes place in the academic space.


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