Sunday, February 27, 2011

Solar as disruptive technology in the energy business

It has been a long time since I last blogged; time to get back again! My professional focus has changed completely about a year ago. After organising the first e-reading event in the Netherlands I started to work for Solland Solar, a leading PV (photovoltaic) company in the Netherlands.

Although 2 completely different markets and industries some parallels can be identified:
- relatively young and fast growing markets
- driven by technological advances
- disruptive in nature.

The last point has already become very clear for e-reading. There will not be many CEO's of newspaper/book publishers or bookstore chains without worries about their companies' future.

For solar energy the disruptive potential is not so obvious yet but the threat is there for the large utility companies. Only partially because solar energy is an alternative to fossil energy sources like coal and oil. But more so because it can generate electricity close to where it is needed, in many cases on the consumer's rooftop and because the consumer is in control of this source of energy. And that is a major threat for energy companies that are used to build large power plants and be in control of energy generation and supply.

That's it for tonight. This week I will be at the Ecobuild exhibition in London, presenting Solland's unique solar technology and new module Sunweb at the presentation theater. See you there?  

Friday, December 11, 2009

The future of book retailing

On the surface 2 contradicting and rather striking news items emerged over the last 2 weeks. First there was the message that Borders UK went into administration. Apparently the company had suffered from increased competition from online retailers and supermarkets. Just a week later rumours appeared that Amazon was looking for physical outlets in the UK. So after Borders UK fails to make money out of  brick&mortar shops, Amazon (still 100% online) seems to be moving into b&m?

Amazon opening outlets in the UK may appear as a thumbs up towards the retailers heavily depending on their b&m stores: apparently e-tailers cannot cope without b&m shops. Even if Amazon makes such a move  the conventional retailers are still light years away from companies like Amazon. e-tailers typically work with margins <15%, retailers on the other hand need >25% to sustain their organisations. Many of the book retailers have by now moved into online sales as well but their cost structures did not change. On the contrary: moving into e-tailing requires considerable investments in IT and personnel over a longer period of time without getting immediate returns.

Amazon on the other hand will continue to dominate online sales and will only open physical stores in small numbers initially. They will continue to do so only if the shops really add value to their online business. For Amazon b&m shops are an extension of their successful online business. For the conventional retailers their b&m core business is being threatened and their move to online is a difficult step into a new world dominated by strong players and different rules.

What's next? The future looks bleak for b&m retailers. e-books will make things worse for conventional retailers. It is obvious that consumers will buy e-books via internet, the domain of Amazon. Digital natives becoming the dominant consumers in the coming 20 years is another powerfull force towards e-tailing. Retailers will have to start making changes quickly now they still can. Moving to a cost structure that is more in line with their online-only competitors is key to their survival even if that means making drastic cuts in the number of their physical outlets. Else there will be more companies following the path of Borders UK.

Monday, November 30, 2009

What publishers should understand about "Nowism", one of the world's leading trendwatching organizations came up with the trend "Nowism" in their November report. Relevant to any company focused on consumers the trend description offers a lot to learn for companies involved in the book industry as well.

Nowism is described as: "Consumer's ingrained lust for instant gratification is being satisfied by a host of novel, important (offline and online) real-time products, services and experiences". Key in the description is "instant gratification": consumers wish to instantly get something the moment they actually want it. claims, and I tend to agree with them, that this lust for instant gratification is nothing new but has been and still is ingrained in the mind of consumers. However, with digital technology progressing consumers no longer have to physically go to a business outlet for their intant gratification but their desire can nowadays be satisfied via a multitude of digital platforms and services.

Nowism explains the popularity of smartphones but also the growth in the e-reader segment. Small (if possible pocket size) devices with wireless connectivity allow consumers to satisfy their lust for information/content/entertainment 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and at any location around the world. The attraction of these connected devices as a tool for instant gratification for the consumer also brings an enormous potential for companies involved in the content and media industry.

For authors, publishers and book retailers it means that the digital revolution we are in is not just a transition from paper to ebook. These parties have to realise that the complete Reader Experience is being affected by digitisation: from orientation to purchase of a book and from reading to sharing experiences. For every element of the Reader Experience consumers are looking for instant gratification:

orientation:  looking for book reviews /recommendations on the (mobile) internet
purchase and delivery:  delivery of an e-book should only be 2 mouse clicks away
reading:  having the option to read from multiple devices
sharing experiences:  sharing via social media / digital book clubs

At the end the company that can best satisfy consumer's lust for instant gratification during the complete Reader Experience will become the winner of the digital revolution. I expect that in many cases these winners will not have made their money from paper books....

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What publishers should understand about "digital natives"

As mentioned in my previous post I want to take a closer look at important trends shaping publishing, now and in the future. Before turning to Nowism, a trend described only recently in the November briefing of, it is better to start off with an oldie: "digital natives" versus "digital immigrants".

These terms were first used by Marc Prensky in 2001 (!) to describe the radical and structural difference between his students  and the teachers. Prensky dubbed his students as "digital natives":  “native speakers” of the digital language of computers, video games and the Internet. As a result of their continuous interaction with digital technology Prensky concluded that: "todays students think and process information fundamentally different from their predecessors:
"Digital Natives are used to receiving information really fast. They like to parallel process and multi-task. They prefer their graphics before their text rather than the opposite. They prefer random access (like hypertext). They function best when networked. They thrive on instant gratification and frequent rewards. They prefer games to “serious” work".

What does that mean for the teachers being in the "Digital Immigrants" category? "As Digital Immigrants learn  to adapt to their environment, they always retain, to some degree, their "accent," that is, their foot in the past". This means the teachers will largely stick to their pre-digital-age programmes (ie. what worked for us, will work for them as well) creating a disconnect with their students.

Moving to publishing the parallels with Prensky's education environment are striking. "Digital natives" are all consumers below the age of 30 while the "Digital Immigrants" are the publisher's executive teams. Nowadays paper products no longer fit the prefered way in which digital natives consume information:
fast: real-time news updates
parallel: access to multiple apps at the same time
graphics: video over text
random access: hyperlinks
networked: social media
instant gratification: instant access to informatie (including mobile access)
frequent rewards: recognition for contribution.

The publisher's executive teams are trying to adapt to the changing environment by adding bits and pieces of the digital age to their offering. However they do so from a pre-digital-age background and perspective trying to put their past success in a new jacket. Murdoch's continued struggle to adapt his News Corp businesses to an internet dominated by Google exemplifies the struggle of digital immigrants to come to grips with the digital age. The question arises of course whether today's publishing CEO's are able to lead their companies into the future successfully or whether more digitally adapted or even digital native CEO's are needed....

Next time Nowism, any comments on above?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Nowism: Consumer trends should lead developments in publishing industry

The above title may seem logical to most of you; isn't it an obvious statement for all companies and industries? It should be obvious indeed but after attending 2 publishing related conferences last week it appears to me many parties have forgotten about this including the organisers of such conferences.

In both conferences the time spent on changing consumer behavior is close to 0. Instead the companies involved discuss defensive moves, what should be the price of an e-book and how can democracy survive without quality journalism. It is clear that the position of the companies involved is used as the starting point of discussion rather then the consumer.

In the coming weeks I want to focus in my blog on consumer / market trends that have an impact on how consumers (you and I ) "consume" content in the future. It is difficult to tell how the future will look like but by understanding the consumer trends it will be easier to judge in which direction we are heading. Starting point will be: Nowism, a trend described in November 09 briefing. Read it, it is an excellent briefing giving a lot of important clues to the publising industry on how to act in the coming years.
Let me know how you think Nowism will impact the publishing industry. 

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Understanding Reader Experience crucial for future of book industry

After many requests I have added the text of my speech at FBF09 to the ppt slides for easier viewing on slideshare. Have a look at the ppt about Reader Experience.

Friday, October 23, 2009

How to survive the digital revolution in book publishing and distribution: understanding the Reader Experience

Have a look at my Frankfurt Book Fair presentation regarding e-reading and impact on book industry. Advances in digital technology and changes in the Reader Experience will drive changes in the book industry. For the full text of the presentation please download the ppt and look at the notes pages of the ppt file. Looking forward to your comments