The Future of the Book Industry
The past year wasnâ€™t the greatest in the history of selling dead trees with words printed on them. 2007 was the year the Kindle reared its ugly (and it is ugly) head, a device which may (or may not) do to books what mp3s did to music, which many saw as the beginning of the end. Elsewhere the idea of giving ebooks away for free in an effort to sell more physical copies gained traction. This notion is seen as a harbinger of doom by some, while others don’t think it’s a bad idea at all.
The fact that books will at some point be available on some type of electronic device and be pirated by the thousands isnâ€™t, in my opinion, the big problem here. The real problem is that people have not chosen to pirate books on a grand scale in the western world yet. The real worry is that independent book stores are closing and book review sections are disappearing. Books donâ€™t appear to be as important to us as they once were.
But looking forward, there is an upside to all this which so far I havenâ€™t seen much discussion of. There are so many areas where book publishing and the digital world donâ€™t seem to gel that well, but there is one area where they do. Books are sold by word of mouth, and have long acted as social objects â€“ creating connections between us. One of the most exciting new trends Iâ€™ve seen is the ability of books to connect directly to readers through social networks. The future of publishing might be embedded in Facebook.
A few months ago, I started talking to the founders of a new Facebook app called iRead, which allows you to display what youâ€™ve read, what you are reading, and whatâ€™s on your reading list on your Facebook profile. You can write reviews, rate books, and itâ€™s very search friendly, allowing you to import your Amazon wishlist directly into Facebook.
iRead is a killer app for readers because it connects you to others with similar tastes. In a world without as many professional book reviewers, networks of readers like this are going to matter a great deal more to authors. But the real upside to all this for authors is they get to test market books before theyâ€™ve released them in ways they couldnâ€™t before â€“ they can talk directly to people interested in their books, and get a picture of what their audience looks like before theyâ€™ve even released their first book.
iRead have been using The Pirateâ€™s Dilemma as a guinea pig for many of their new functions for the last month, and itâ€™s been great to see thousands of interested readers sign up and find out who Iâ€™m talking to. You can download a PDF of chapter 1 here , and we have 20 copies of the first edition to give away to iRead users. As long as there are forums like this where people can discuss and share books effectively and they can continue to spread virally, I think the future of books is safe.