Monday, October 19, 2009

EU publishers digging their own graves? FBF09 feedback

I was disappointed after my visit to the Frankfurt Book Fair last Friday. No, my e-reading presentation at the pecha kucha went well (it will be posted very soon here, need to translate to english) and yes I had some good meetings. The thing was I had somewhat high expectations about witnessing the impact of the digital revolution (e-books, e-readers etc.etc.) at the largest book fair in the world. These expectations were fed by the fair's organisation making so much fuzz about events and activities related to the same digital revolution.

Unfortunately that is where the disappointment came in. The Innovation Area was as small as last year and I did not see or hear any evidence of digital initiatives by publishers (at least not from the consumer trade publishers). Complains were plenty about the limited number of e-book titles available in non-english languages and the lack of speeding up the conversion process. Most illustrative of the gap still existing between the early movers and traditional publishers was a short article in the Bookseller Daily. It mentioned criticism from book publishers on the Tools Of Change pre-event. Publishers found it a missed opportunity and more geared towards programmers then publishers...

[a bit more silence and thinking]

What makes a digital revolution happen: sw, internet, services, digital content = programmers and other wizkids /entrepreneurs. Which are the companies most likely to threaten the existing publishers: Amazon, Google and other digital companies that never published a paper book.

So wake up publishers before it is too late. Re-look at your activities and re-think where you can still excel in the digital era. Then work together with the digital experts and "programmers" to start trying out. In my opinion publishers (at least the EU consumer trade publishers) are digging their own graves by their lethargic attitude and failure to start experiments with digital initiatives and new business models.

In Europe we are at the beginning of the hockey stick curve with interest and revenues in e-reading increasing. But all new books need to be published as e-book to bring e-reading to the mass market. And when paper book publishers do not move faster then other companies will take up their role in the digital era.

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