I’m generally not very fond of making predictions about the future, particularly in the technology space. Imagine asking someone a decade ago what the mobile technology landscape would look like today, you would probably get an answer that looks something like this:
“What do you mean by mobile? You mean laptop? Oh I think laptop would be ultra thin and there would be cable Internet connections at every cafés which you can rent for a cheap price, like 50 cents a min. Hey how cool is that?”
This is hardly surprising, just like many other expert predictions that had failed miserably in the past; after all, no one owns a crystal ball. However, all of these fallen prophecies share something in common, they were made by those who could not step out of their own sphere of influence.
So with that firmly in mind, below is my feeble attempt to predict the 5 upcoming digital publishing trend.
1. Self-publishing will continue to grow.
While there is no reliable data on the gross sales figure of self-published titles, the sharp rise in the number of ISBN issued helped shed some light. According to this article, the number of self-published titles jumped 59% in 2012 over 2011, and 422% over 2007. Ebooks also comprised 40% of all ISBNs purchased, up from 11% in 2007. I see no sign of this slowing given that the web is democratizing the way we create, consume, curate and interact with content. In addition, you don’t have to sacrifice a big chuck of the royalties to intermediary agencies or deal with those spiteful non-complete clauses or options the big publishing houses like to put up in the contract.
2. Indie and Self-publishing authors will start to fully embrace social media.
Many of us know this, but very few people put this into practice, I mean hard practice. Sure, you can tell me authors are not marketers; they are not the types that can go on the street and sell to strangers. But social media at its heart is not about marketing (although they are being abused as such); it’s about connecting and sharing with the people and audience that you care, and those who care about the things you say. And what does everyone like to hear? Stories. Authors, by nature, are good storytellers. So think hard about your promotional strategy on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and the like. Remember you are not selling noodles, you are selling stories, and it’s about crafting the right message, reaching your target audience, and engaging them. It’s hard work and it takes time, so I have only one advice: Start early!
3. Big publishers will finally come to realization that Ebook is more than just a distribution channel.
Ebooks can be so much more than just reformatting text on various digital devices. With HTML5 and CSS, you can have rich media content with illustrations, sounds and videos embedded. Imagine reading Alice in Wonderland, when Alice falls into the rabbit hole, it actually makes a “boom” sound and auto-plays an animation. It would give the audience a truly immersive experience and fundamentally change the way of storytelling. We are beginning to see these interactive story Apps coming up, but the problem is that they are all individual Apps, i.e. one App to a book. What we need is a platform that these stories can be created and distributed in scale and consumed in a consistent format on any devices. The technology hurdles are still there, but they are being solved.
4. Social discovery of books will continue to evolve.
The success of Goodreads and other startups that specialize in book review and recommendation is a strong verdict that people are gradually shifting away from so called “expert review” (but by no mean this will vanish). The exploding self-published titles and the speed of a new Ebooks coming to market creates a problem on discovery. Navigating through all the noise and finding the content they love will be a challenge for readers, but the music industry is going through the same revolution, so perhaps there’s something we can learn from there and apply to digital publishing.
5. Collaboration happens at all level online.
The biggest challenge for self-published and indie authors is the significant “ other workload” they have to handle themselves apart from writing, such as copy editing, cover design, illustrators, PR and marketing and so on. Thus, I see a platform that serves to connect these talents and enable collaboration makes perfect sense; after all, we are all social animals. Collaboration is in our nature.
So what do you think? We would love to hear your thoughts. Come connect with us in the comments below.
Yeung Shing is the founder of TowerBabel, an online platform to read, write, collaborate and publish your own eBooks.