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Publishing 2020: The next 5 years

If one thing defines the last five years in publishing, at least in English, I’d argue it’s retail consolidation, writes Michael Bhaskar. That Amazon carried on growing and dominated ebooks is unarguable.

Too many books

What about the next five years? What will be the defining change? I’d pick out two dynamics to watch-take your pick. The first involves a surplus of available product. There are too many books published is hard to dispute. With more than a million new titles in English alone, there is already a wealth of books.

A monopoly on certain must-have titles is still pretty safe bet to bring people in. But something has to give. A new focus on selection, filtering systems, recommendation engines, imprints as stores of editorial judgement, publisher brands as selectors will come into play.

Pricing, copyright, marketing, everything is and will be shaped by the fact publishing is the ultimate saturated market. Publishing across the board will become more curated.

Secondly, I think we’ll see the ongoing after-effects of retail consolidation. This drives a move towards bigger and  smaller publishers. While the middle has struggled for some time, we are entering a new era of supergiants. Penguin Random House and the merger of Nature with Springer are two examples of how the big are getting bigger.

Centralisation and fragmentation

But just as the internet and the fast, connected world promotes scale and centralization, so it also allows for and encourages fragmentation.

If you’d  have asked me what the biggest trends were likely to be over the next five years in 2010, I would have undoubtedly said ebooks, apps and digital publishing. The next five years then are about the ongoing waves from this centralization which  transforms the balance of power and unleashed an unprecedented flow of content.

We will see a new super league of publishing giants emerge, on a new scale adapted for a world of digital media, big retail and austere government spending.

Source: Frankfurt Show Daily – Magazine


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