Revisiting My 2011 Publishing Industry Predictions

WAY back in December last year, I made a post with a set of predictions about what would happen in 2011, in the realm of ebooks and epublishing. Here's the link.

So I was curious, with the year ending, how I did. What came true? Where was my crystal ball horribly off?

Let's see.

 

- EPUB solidifies as the main open format. AMZ maintains its lead as the dominant format, however, losing some market share as iBook builds on the continued success of the iPad, but still holding 2/3 of the market for Amazon.

Yes. No real shockers there, though.

- Ereading Devices begin to coalesce into several main groups: dedicated eInk ereaders (long battery life, easier reading, but poor internet and less multipurpose), tablet computers (the iPad, Archos, and the numerous iPad clones planned by every major computer retailer for early next year), and pocket communications devices (basically, cell phones, often with video phone, often mini-tablets in their own right, with ereader functionality). None of these are dominant yet. Netbook sales plummet as tablet computers eat their market.

Yes. Although the Archos is dead, the Fire and Nook Tablet have risen to the challenge. Some computer manufacturers have had their tablets flop (Dell, HP), while others are seeing sales soar (Asus, Toshiba). The iPad is still dominant, but has a host of competing products, and phones continue to grow - the Samsung Note is a great example of a supersize cell phone that's half cell, half tablet.

- By the end of 2011, wireless internet companies are offering cheap tablet computers for free with two year 3G/4G contract (not so far out; the cheap ones are only $100-200 retail right now), giving millions more people access to mobile internet tablets (with ereader capability).

Oops. I missed on this one. I still feel this was a missed opportunity for wireless providers. There are some *very* inexpensive tablets out there still, and 3G services are already offering discounts for the high end tablets like the Galaxy. Offering the basic models for free with a plan should be a no-brainer. But it hasn't happened - not yet anyway. I'll reserve this one for 2012.

- Amazon releases the color eInk Kindle. It sees sales as a niche product, since it costs more than the B&W eink, but doesn’t play video or look as crisp as LCD tablets – so it’s really mostly for readers who want to buy magazines and newspapers from Amazon.

I got this one part right. We certainly have a color Kindle! The Fire has sold millions of units already. But it's not eInk. And far from being a niche product, it looks like the Fire is perhaps the most popular Kindle right now. The reason it's not a niche is because it's LCD, not eInk - so it has much broader potential appeal. Amazon's moves with free video for Prime members has been a powerful stroke in marketing the Fire, too. So I hit the board on this, but missed the bullseye.

- Borders declares bankruptcy to reorganize. They close most or all of their big box stores, moving to a mostly online retail position with minimal brick exposure.

This happened. And then their reorganization failed, and they got an extension. Then it failed again, and they went under completely.

- At least three new ebook retailers take off to compete with Amazon, B&N, Borders, iBook, Sony, Kobo, and Smashwords.

Yes. Actually, there are quite a few more than three. But none have been able to generate enough market share to be real competitors yet. Some regional companies are getting into ebooks in a big way, though - Kalahari.com is serving some overseas markets in the same manner Amazon is here in the US, and is beginning to make people take notice, for instance.

- B&N begins the process to close their large stores, shifting to smaller print on demand stores capable of producing fast, quality books from their e-inventory. This does not happen in 2011, but they begin the work to make it happen.

Definitely seeing the shift toward this in B&N, as they busily dump every store for which they don't own the physical property. Not seeing them make major moves into POD based stores yet, and it's possible they simply might skip that step entirely. Ebooks are growing so fast that there might be very little time between when big box bookstores stop being viable (probably happening in 2013-2014 here in the US) and when even POD based bookstores stop being viable due to increasing ebook dominance.

- Ebooks pass 25% of total consumer book sales.

Yes, happened in January. Dipped down a bit over the summer, but definitely back over 25% before the end of the year.

- Joe Konrath sells his millionth self-published Kindle book toward the end of the year (he’s passed 200k for 2010).

Darn it, I inserted this partly as a joke, but I really did think the guy had it in him.  ;)  He didn't make it, far as I know, but I think he's getting close. And good for him. Some people have done as much for indies as Joe has, but few have done more. He's earned his success the hard way, and I'm glad for him.

- New York Times sets up the ebook bestseller list, as they have announced they plan to do. Over 10% of the books on the list are self-published by the end of the year, with signs that this is growing.

A tricky one. The NYT did indeed set up this list, but I did not predict that they would deliberately falsify their list by excluding indie books! This has devalued their list (already dubious) in terms of using it as any sort of measure of success. Later, they began adding a few self published books, but very few. As a result, at this writing only one of the top 25 fiction ebooks on their list is self published. HOWEVER - seven of the top 25 ebooks on Amazon are self published. And scanning fiction genres recently, 60-80% of the top 20 list for every genre I reviewed was self published. Indies have moved onto the bestseller lists in a very noticeable way.

- No major publisher shuts down (I know some folks are predicting this, but I just don’t see it, not next year anyway). However, we see more line consolidations and changes to infrastructure as publishers continue to prepare for the digital-primary publishing world.

Correctly predicted. I think we may see some issues for some publishers in the next year or two, but most are still reporting higher than normal profits, due largely to paying a lower than usual share of profits to writers on ebooks.

 

 

So that's where we were. Many predictions were dead on; some were off on the specifics, but on in general. And I missed on a couple completely.  ;)  But that's the nature of predictions. Overall, I think we're sitting just about exactly where I expected us to be when I made those comments a year ago. Indie sales have moved to an undeniable chunk of the marketplace - not yet dominant perhaps, except in fiction, but substantial and growing. Publishers are still chugging along and beginning to come to grips with the new market. Retailers are continuing to battle for customers and work on improving the experience for their users.

It's been a fascinating year - the year when the stage was really set. I think 2012 will be critical, too, because it will largely determine how the chips fall, where control of what work is published lands, and who ends up in the best position in the years ahead. Make smart decisions, folks - what we do now will have reverberations felt for many years to come.