Friday, July 30, 2010

Report from the July “Exploding eBook/iPad iBreakfast”

Ana Maria Allessi, VP Publisher, HarperMedia
Andy Weissberg, Managing Partner, Digital Publishing Partners
Anthony Antolino, Senior VP, Copia
Mike Shatzkin, Founder, Idea Logical Co.
David Steinberger, CEO, comiXology



The mix of exhilaration and trepidation that once swept through the music world may be shaking at the foundations of the once staid world of book publishing.

One thing that is clear the public seems to have taken to the iPad and to a lessr extent, eBooks with an enthusiasm that caught many visionaries off-guard.  Apple announced over 3 million units sold and Amazon reported they had sold more eBooks for the Kindle than print editions.


Yet many readers say they still love the feel of a book. So what do digital books bring to the table that are somehow different from a plain old print book? What exactly is the paradigm shift taking place and how will publishers, resellers and content creators react. Most of all, what will consumers pay for?

According to Dave Steinberger of Comixology, the big word coming out of ComicCon – where comic lovers coexist with digital commix and moviemakers – is Transmedia: Content exists across media. It also seems to help explain which media belongs where – some media like comics belong as static or as movies but not as moving comic pages and so on.

Certainly, according to the publishing futurist on our panel, Mike Shatzkin, of the Idea Logical Company, with digital books, everyone can be published and have instant distribution from their websites. This is a game changer for everyone! Mike was also recently quoted in the New York Times, pointing out that the surpassing of print by eBooks (on Amazon only, of course) was inevitable.

But who, said Andy Weissberg of Digital Publishing Partners, really knows because measurement at Amazon is not, pun intended, an open book. More importantly, if eBooks eliminate so many stages in the publishing process – like retailer and to some extent the old publishing houses, where do the big publishers fit in? Ana Maria Allessi, of HarperMedia talked about publishers as really being developers and marketers of authors. Which begs the question of whether publishers will start to look more like record labels that now have 360 degree deals with their artists so they now get a piece of their live appearances and merchandise sales.

The Transmedia paradigm shift is easy to understand in some areas but more complicated in others. A famous training author might generate profit with the application developed by the publisher to help deliver and test the readers (e.g. a voice coach whose iPad product can listen to the readers voice and judge it). In thrillers and romance novels the background details – like the extras in a DVD could be plus. Vook does this with supporting videos (the Slash book has Guns & Roses interviews and concerts). The best seller on the iPad right now, according to Shatzkin is Elements which give the viewer the full story with pictures and videos of all the elements on the periodic table. Is this an anomaly or simply the non-fictional romance novel of geekdom or is it more - a clue about 360 degree novels about the future?

It’s hard to tell – these are tantalizing clues to which you need to add the next element. As they say, if Henry Ford asked people what they wanted, it would have been a faster horse. The translation of that today, is a Mustang.

One of the interesting possibilities is that iPads and eBook devices will become portable book clubs simply by plugging into community. Why read your book alone? Why wait for the book club to meet?  As Antolino pointed out, you don’t buy what the best sellers tell you, you buy what your friends recommend.

The consensus is that the party is just getting started – if it is a party – but the full picture is only just emerging. The rules are only now being written and will probably be rewritten a few times too. This is an emerging world that is likely to change the publishing world forever, and with New York at its center it means that many more conversations are coming here before we get a true measure of the changes taking place.

To listen to the podcast click below. 
eBook/iPad iBreakfast Podcast Part 1
eBook/iPad iBreakfast Podcast Part 2

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