Keynote given by Peter Collingridge at the BiC (Books in Classification) conference in London, December 2010.
I’m Peter Collingridge, co-founder of Enhanced Editions. I have a 13 year background in digital publishing, starting off at Canongate in 1997, where I set up their first website, which was described by the Guardian as “A cool club stocked with well-read friends rather than a lazy corporate exercise”.
The connection I made with readers directly through this website has been a big influence on my outlook towards the opportunities of digital, and part of what I will talk to you about today.
I left Canongate 4 years later to set up my own consultancy, Apt, which has produced over 25 digital projects for publishers, from HarperCollins and 4th Estate, to Random House, Granta Magazine, Picador, Mills and Boon, Hachette, Walker Books, Laurence King, Little Brown, Portobello, Frances Lincoln and many more.
In 2009 I co-founded Enhanced Editions with two of my smartest friends. Enhanced Editions was set in the belief that we could make the ebooks that the 21st century deserved, and our first project was Nick Cave’s The Death of Bunny Munro. Here’s a short video about that:
Bunny came out in September last year, and was lucky enough to receive some pretty amazing feedback from users, the media, and the industry. We’ve produced more than 20 apps in the last year, as well as helping Andrew Wylie “destroy publishing” with his Odyssey Editions launch.
From all these projects, and more, we have learned a huge amount, all of which comes under the banner of today’s topic - the realities of digital change.
I don’t want to stand here and give you the sales pitch. In fact, we are basically closing our doors for the next few months to all but the most exciting of projects, because we feel that it’s time we went back “to the lab” to work on the next generation of products.
What I would like to do is share with you our current thinking about what the future of publishing looks like, and how we think publishers should be set up to benefit from such a future.
So, this afternoon I am going to talk briefly about where we think publishing is headed (clue: it’s all about your consumers), and how the most effective publishers will orient themselves to this direction.
By 2015, publishing industry executives estimate that between 20-50% of books sold in the US will be digital. Other countries, including the UK, will not be far behind.
Industry analyst Mike Shatzkin reckons that “If by the end of 2012, 25% of sales for a new book are digital, then about half of new book sales will be made through online purchases”
In other words, as well as a shift to digital in terms of ebook sales, don’t forget about the continued chunk of the print business also going through online retailers. The consequence of both is obvious: physical sales, and the shops that make them, will be cannibalized. And some of those shops will close, probably concentrating power in the hands of fewer, larger players.
Scott Lubeck of BISG recently told me that he is interested in the “cataclysmic tipping point” in eBook publishing; that moment when the existing supply chain, geared around physical products, begins to disintegrate. His estimate is that it is around 15-20%, and that as well as bookshops closing, other things will happen. Economies of scale, such as the price of paper, printing, ink, and distribution, will go away. And the result of that is that physical books will become more expensive, or even less profitable, thereby driving cost-conscious consumers even further towards ebooks, and publishers to the wall.
Tim Spalding, founder of social reading website LibraryThing, takes this further when he talked recently of other “positive feedback loops” in eBooks. One such effect is “the highlander principle” - this is that in ecommerce, success tend