I am struggling with how to summarize the first day of Digital Book World in a meaningful way. I will first talk about what I am understanding to be the components of today’s world of digital books and then throw out some observations from the day.
Components of the digital book world
So here is my attempt to list the components of the digital book world today:
- Traditional players from print publishing: authors, agents, and publishers.
- Major retailing platforms: Kindle Store, iBookstore, Nook Book Store, Google Play, Kobo eBooks Store.
- Independent retailing platforms (most are iOS apps sold from Apple’s App Store): e.g., Inkling, Storia (Scholastic), Reading Rainbow.
- Physical readers and tablets: Kindle and Nook dedicated black and white e-readers, Kindle Fire and Nook HD color tablets, iPad, Android tablets, Windows 8 tablets.
- Reader software: Kindle, Nook, iBooks, Kobo, etc.
- Digital book file formats: EPUB 2, EPUB 3, MOBI/KF8, iBooks Author, PDF, iOS apps, Android apps, etc.
- Digital book authoring tools: MS Word, InDesign, iBooks Author, etc.
Many of these components are changing rapidly. Combine and recombine them all—in their various states of transition—and you have, well, chaos.
A few observations
And now for a few general observations:
- Traditional publishers are scared. Look at the chaos described above. Add to it fear of Amazon domination, digital book prices dropping, piracy concerns, competition from non-book media on the tablet platforms, competition from self-publishing authors, and uncertainty about what consumers want in digital books—and you get near panic.
- Everybody hates Amazon. Amazon is too big, it has draconian licensing contracts, it uses proprietary digital book formats, and more. No love here for Amazon.
- Everybody respects Apple. Apple allows authors to set prices, has robust support for EPUB 3 in addition to its own iBooks Author format, is expanding its stores internationally, and more. Apple is big, but is seen as opening the doors of innovation for everyone’s benefit.
- Nobody talks about Barnes & Noble. Well, that’s a little strong. But I think the feel of the conference is that the retail platform game is between Amazon and Apple.
This is a kind of sense of the conference. More tomorrow.