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The Future of the Book: What You Need to Know as a Reader

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You and I are probably categorised as 'heavy' readers to the publishing industry. We are biblioholics and consume words voraciously. We read instead of watching TV and browsing a bookstore is a visceral pleasure. We care about books in all their forms and we want publishing to thrive and give us new experiences and knowledge. So I think you'll be interested in the Future of the Book as described at The Bookseller conference this week.

(1) You can't stop digital, but there are also increasing innovations in print. 


2011 was the year when everything changed in publishing and this will be the first digital Christmas after the widespread adoption of ebook readers. It's not mainstream yet but 2012 will likely be the big year for the rise in digital book consumption in the UK. Ebooks have the strongest growth across multiple segments and are cannibalising print sales. Mass market e-fiction is growing but the children's market and academic will soon catch up with colour tablet readers like Kobo and Nook, and perhaps even Kindle Fire if it's released here.

Publishers see this trend and are changing their publishing models to adapt to the market. If you haven't tried an e-reader yet, or you're still wondering what the fuss is about, you will soon find adoption is necessary as ebook-only editions are released as publishers try new revenue models. At the same time, the print space is being improved with beautiful collector's editions and innovative presentation that make consumers want both mass-market, easy to read ebooks and special print books to have on the shelf.

(2) Publishers want to talk to you. 


Publishers realise that in a digital world, marketing to the customer can be more effective than marketing to retailers which is currently essential in print. With ebooks, you can buy immediately from your device when you hear about a book and that's power in the hands of the consumer. So publishers want to talk to you directly and help you discover books, apps and experiences from their authors. The obsession at the conference was 'discoverability' with new start-ups demonstrating innovative ways for readers to find books. One stand-out example was Small Demons which links books by People, Places and Things to provide a themed browsing experience. Try it, you'll be hooked! In the next year, these experiments will result in a whole load of new ways you can interact with books and authors as well as share with other readers directly on ebook platforms, apps or online.

(3) It's about the experience, not just the book. 


In the digital future, it's not just about a physical book or even a plain text ebook which is what we have now. There have already been some tentative experiments in apps and enhanced ebooks but there is clearly a desire to see more of a push into developing a customer experience and not just providing a physical read. This might take the form of web apps or apps for the smart-phone market as well as online multi-media games. JK Rowling's Pottermore was represented at the conference and is a prime example of using new forms of media to provide a consumer experience that is far beyond a physical book. Fans are already able to submit their own contributions to the Potter world and when it opens they will have their own home online. Great for the fans, but also beneficial for the Potter publishing industry.

All these developments represent opportunities and exciting new experiences for you and I as readers. The publishing world is no longer cowering in fear in the face of digital. The savvy publishers are in fact using highly creative methods to deliver quality both in the digital and print space. So don't worry about the publishing industry, because the future of the book in all its forms looks bright indeed.

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