Recently, I was asked about the future of eBooks, and their relevance in the marketplace. I offered the following perspective and predictions for this emerging technology and associated genres.
- More attention will be paid to the technology that allows content producers to improve publishing efficiencies. Organizations tend not to invest in new technologies unless they are experiencing pain. After the first few times they feel enough pain – either missed deadlines, or production costs, or loss of revenue, and so on – they will start looking for ways to produce ebooks more effectively.
- There will be an expanded use of ebooks. There are still many companies that don’t use ebooks, and don’t see how ebooks apply to them. Soon, they will start connecting the dots, either because their competitors have taken the leap, and they feel the need to keep up, or someone in their organization has experimented with an ebook, and they’ve gotten good results. The demonstration of the benefits of the technology will start the search for more innovative uses.
- There will be more novel uses of ebooks. This isn’t the first go-round for ebooks – I remember the first ebook cycle – but this time, they quickly morphed from ebooks to emanuals and ecatalogues and so on. As more organizations think to involve creative people in the process, there will be more “experiences” created, way beyond the straight-up dissemination of information.
- Ebooks will change how learning is delivered. The education industry is reputedly starting to twig on catering to different learning styles, and the ebook platform seems to be a natural jumping off point for that. It allows instructional designers to provide a personalized experience to visual learners, audio learners, kinetic learners, sequential learners, abstract learners, and so on – all derived from the same body of content in a single ebook.
- Alternative distribution and delivery systems will develop. Not everyone wants to put their publication into Amazon or iTunes for delivery. But that seems to be the most common way of delivering content today. There will likely be developments to automate how people distribute their material to avoid proprietary systems.
- Formats will standardize to manage the pain of outputs to multiple channels. There are currently a number of formats that are intended to lock people into a platform: .AZW for Kindle, .EPUB for Nook, and so on. As quickly as these formats proliferate, so do readers pop up on competing platforms: Kindle reader on the iPad, for example. At some point, the industry will follow the lead of the music industry, which has a couple of basic formats that work everywhere. It will be the sanity check for authors, publishers, and readers alike.
The adoption of ebooks seems to be slower than for things like mobile, probably because organizations can only grapple with one content challenge at a time. However, as organizations figure out their multichannel publishing challenges, they will also be freeing up some critical bandwidth to allow for exploration of this potentially valuable channel.
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