Monday, 30 December 2013

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

Five Digital Publishing Predictions for 2014

Posted: 30 Dec 2013 09:22 PM PST

As the calendar year comes to a close, many pundits have turned to prognostication and published lists of predictions for 2014. Here’s my list:

  1. Some things will change. Some things won’t change.
  2. New fads will replace old fads.
  3. One in four of 2013′s rumors will turn out to be true, while the rest will be forgotten.
  4. 10% of the rumors which first circulated in 2012 will come true. The rest have already been forgotten.
  5. Everything that happens in 2014 will become 2015 predictions.  (h\t to @willentrekin)

Snarkyness aside, I can’t actually make many predictions that wouldn’t be obvious as soon as I wrote them down. (Mark Coker, on the other hand, did a fairly good job on identifying how current trends will be reinforced.)

Here are the three of my predictions that I think are worth repeating:

One: Amazon will announce a program, buy a startup, or launch a product that will surprise everyone at the time but will be an obvious expansion on what they have done before. Sunday deliveries, buying Goodreads, and Kindle Matchbook all could have been predicted had someone phrased the right question.

Launch a smartphone /set-top-box? This will almost certainly happen; it makes too much sense for Amazon not to follow through.

My (un)surprising prediction for Amazon for 2014 is that they will buy an indie ebookstore/platform. I don’t know the name, but this store will probably outsell Amazon in certain markets or with certain types of content. The company will be acqui-hired less for its market share and more for its technical skills. (This prediction is not a surprise because I already made a similar prediction months ago.)

My other (un)surprising prediction is that Amazon will buy a startup that is working on clear solar panels (if they don’t already own one). Again, this prediction should not come as a surprise. Amazon will want to put the panel on a Kindle’s screen, but the tech will probably have too many engineering issues.

Two: The hot buzz word for 2014 will be the global ebook market.

Lots of people spent the last 6 months of 2013 pointing at the AAP statistics and bemoaning the flattening ebook market.  Starting some time in May or June 2014, those same folks are finally going to notice that the ebook markets in much of the world are actually on the rise.  You can expect to read a lot of buzzworthy stories about how this market ore that market is the next great opportunity. DBW 2015 will focus an entire track on international expansion.

Three: The US ebook market will also increase in terms of dollar value, unit sales, and market share.

This is a pretty safe bet to make; the US ebook market was down in 2013 in part because of the 2012 market bubble and because of increased price competition from the majors. Christmas gadget sales and new lower prices for big name titles will combine to boost the US ebook market above the reported AAP figures for 2013.

Will the US ebook market in 2014 match the high point reached in 2012? Maybe, but probably not unless there is a surprise blockbuster hit. The next Hunger Games movie isn’t due out until November 2014, and while it will have a positive effect the sales bump won’t be quite as large as when the first movie was released in 2012.


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Marvel Stops Distributing Comics to Bookstores – Comic Shops Appear Unaffected

Posted: 30 Dec 2013 12:44 PM PST

With first marvel[1]newsstands and then supermarkets dropping comic books, it’s gotten harder and harder to find comic books in stores. And now that Marvel has pulled their titles from Barnes & Noble the task is going to get a little more difficult.

Bleeding Cool reported late last week (and B&N confirmed today) that Marvel will no longer be distributing the weekly comic books to B&N stores. B&N hasn’t given a reason for the change, but they did note that they will still be carrying the longer and more expensive graphic novels:

This is a Marvel decision to pull single issue comics from retailers. Not a B&N decision. This doesn’t apply to graphic novels.

Marvel is unavailable for comment at this time, so there’s no way to know exactly why they made this decision nor whether it represents a major shift in their distribution plans.

Update: Marvel responded to PW with the news that Marvel had ended their relationship with BAM and B&N close to 3 months ago, with little fanfare. In fact, Marvel pulled out of all bookstores this Fall, not just the 2 biggies in the US.

But while I cannot speak for Marvel, I can add that Marvel does not appear to have pulled back from distributing to comic book stores.  ComiXology is still showing that comic book buyers can still add Marvel titles to their pull lists for this week, next week, and the week after. This tells me that comiXology still expects the comics to be available at their partner comic shops.

TBH I was half afraid that the B&N news was the first sign that Marvel was abandoning floppies entirely. That sounds crazy, I know, but that doesn’t mean that Marvel couldn’t have found a compelling justification for taking their weekly comic releases digital- only – but that’s not the case.

Now that Marvel has pulled out of bookstores they’re going to have to depend more heavily on digital sales and on sales via  comics shops, but I don’t think they’re going to feel much of a pinch.  In my area there were only a couple B&N stores within driving distance, but according to comiXology’s shop locator there were 50 comic book stores within 50 miles. Even if I exclude the ones on the other side of the Chesapeake Bay and the stores in Gainsville or Annapolis, I still have some dozens and dozens of places to buy comic books.

Of course, not everyone is as lucky to live in suburbia as I am, but then again there are places in the US where B&N’s 600 or so stores are pretty thin on the ground as well.

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LitRes Expands into Education Market with New Reading App

Posted: 30 Dec 2013 11:18 AM PST

Russia’smzl.yxluafqa[1] leading ebookstore launched a new reading app earlier this month.

LitRes for Schools is a new app for iPad and iPhone. It was developed in accordance with Russian educational standards.  It’s focused on providing reading material for grades 5 to 11. According to LitRes CEO Sergei Anureva the app is “designed to simplify the selection and purchase of books for parents and students, especially during vacations and holidays”.

It’s not clear from my source how this differs from the LitRes apps for iOS or Android, or the LitRes ebook reader, but I suspect that LitRes is filtering the selection for age-appropriate content.On the other hand, that might not be the case; Barnes & Noble released a similar app in 2010 (NookStudy) which did not restrict the content it could access. Of course, that was intended more for college students so it made sense to avoid restrictions.

LitRes for Schools has the same basic features as the other LitRes apps, including syncing bookmarks and reading location font size, line spacing, margins, and color options; and a night reading mode.

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You can find the app in iTunes.

LitRes originally launched in 2006 to provide a legit alternative for pirated ebooks, and it is now reportedly the single largest ebookstore in Russia. This company recently completed a round of financing in which they raised $5 million. LitRes sells around 380,000 Russian language titles from over 100 publishers in print, digital, and audio. The ebooks and audiobooks can be read in LitRes’ apps for Android, iPhone, and iPad as well as on LitRes’s own branded ebook reader. The LitRes Touch a 6″ ereader with a touchscreen, Wifi, 2GB of storage, and a retail price of 2999 rubles, or about $93.

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Infographic: New Technology Will Slay us All And Bring Down Western Civilization

Posted: 30 Dec 2013 07:35 AM PST

Former MPAA BadForYou-techno-panic-timelinehead Jack Valenti may be famous for predicting that the VCR would kill the movie industry, but he’s not the first to look at new tech and cry that the sky is falling. I doubt that he is even the 21st to make that claim, though to be fair some of the doom and gloom predictions have come true.

The following infographic details some of the more outlandish claims made over the past 500 years, including photography killing off painting, recorded music leading to the demise of live performances, and newspapers and the telegraph leading to nervous disorders as people are exposed to “the sorrows of individuals everywhere”.

Okay, that last one has actually happened*, but it is the rare exception.


The above chart is missing a few of my favorites. Railroads, for example, were likened to the fire and brimstone of Hell. Standardized time was also vociferously protested, with some going so far as to smash their watches in protest.

But the infographic does include the fear-mongering that radio would make people stop thinking. It rather puts the whole “the internet is making people stupid” argument into perspective, doesn’t it?

* Example: If you’re convinced that a moment’s inattention will result in the worst possible outcome, or that we live in more dangerous times then 30 years ago then you have one of the nervous disorders that Dr beard predicted in 1881. (The crime stats show that you are wrong.)

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