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October 2014

The book industry is missing television's boat

The industry press is replete with coverage predicting the fall of the book publishing industry. I disagree with this bleak forecast. But in order to stay alive, publishers are going to need to think beyond print to digital conversion. Book publishers must learn from television's tough lessons learned: the value of relationships, the economic potential of subscription and ad-sponsored distribution, the power of episodic content, binge viewing and the allure of free.

While major book publishers struggle to combat Amazon's hold on their industry, they have failed to deliver a meaningful alternative. The book publishing industry needs find their inner Hulu, and create a powerful new digital platform that can leapfrog the market stasis that has long defined their struggle.

I consume most of my books on the go, listening to them through Audible's Android app. But Audible is far from an ideal platform. Audible demands either a monthly subscription or retail-like per-book fees for their audiobooks. And while Audible is one of my favorite apps, it is frustratingly limited in it's vision and scope.

I want an Audible-like product where I can:

  • share, swap, or borrow audiobooks from friends - possibly for a small fee
  • subscribe to a serial series at a discount
  • access smaller, more frequent releases from my favorite authors
  • engage with the authors and with other fans
  • gain access to supplementary content like author interviews
  • share my listening history with friends and family
  • gain perks when friends purchase books I recommended to them
  • discovery and engage with emerging authors
  • listen to books for free with integrated advertising - book readers are an often affluent audience
  • listen to or subscribe to magazines, particularly the lengthier feature pieces

With only one player in town, the audiobook space is ripe for competition and innovation. And if leading publishers fail to fill this void, someone else will.