‘Simply putting a book into the cloud and onto a screen doesn’t make it anymore superior than a paper book.’ Marcelino Elosua said this to me when I first went to meet him at BlueBottleBiz. He is the CEO and Founder of the company, a collaborative learning platform, and LID Publishing, which turned 25 in 2018, so he knows one or two things about the publishing world.
Simply put, Elosua argues that when ebooks were released, it was the equivalent of the theatre being recorded onto film. It was a technological breakthrough, but it didn’t enhance the experience. However, as time and technology moved on, the pianist and silent actor was replaced with spoken work and recorded sound, the black and white screen was filled in with vivid 4K colour, and film studios were developing special effects departments and the next techniques including 3D to improve the movie-goers experience.
Moving on from this, the way we consumed movies began to change with the rise of cloud services. Blockbuster was the prime example of a company not reacting to the rise of this technology, and they rejected the opportunity to purchase Netflix in 2000 for $50mn. Blockbusters boss, John Antioco, thought it was a “very small niche business.” This was when Netflix was just a mail order delivery system, which evolved with the technological rises. According to Recode, Netflix is now worth over $140bn, more than Time Warner, General Electric or McDonalds.
Elosua argued that the subscription model and true cloud technology would need to be implemented to push ebooks beyond the humble paperback, but it would require a different relationship between the publisher and the author. Back when he made these predictions, Amazon was at the top of the ebook game, with the Kindle being the ereader to own. However, did we consider smartphones and tablets? Also, did we predict the domination from Apple and Google with their own book stores being produced?
A great example of how publishing is changing is the 50 Shades of Grey series. Initially being published as an ebook and as a print-to-order run, it went on to become an international best selling book trilogy and film franchise. From the author’s perspective, they can now publish on sites like Amazon, reach millions of potential customers and keep 70 per cent of the royalties. With this has come freelance proofreaders and designers to accommodate for this market in which anyone can publish a book.
Despite this new market, established publishers are being signed up to subscription models, similar to a Netflix for books. So there is now a definite gap between the self-published and the established publishers. They both bring pros and cons, but these new market conditions bring their own challenges. Content providers are now no longer just producing a book, but recording podcasts and radio interviews, videos and guest articles to promote the book and, more importantly, the author as a brand, is becoming the norm. And this is where subscribers are benefiting, as they are receiving all the content that the cloud platform allows us to, with different types of formats complementing the book, which in the early days of ebooks, stood alone. The major beneficiaries of this technological revolution is the consumer. They receive more content for a overall lower price, improving value and the customer experience.
So this is the position of the market today, but what is in store for the future? Well, Netflix is now one of the largest content producers in the world, with Original series for Netflix and Amazon Prime being hugely lucrative. So are we now going to see subscription services become book publishers, and drive greater competition in the publishing market? Only time will tell.
Kestell Duxbury is our Knowledge Editor at BlueBottleBiz. He has over 3 years experience in journalism, editing and marketing of online platforms and magazines. He is a self-confessed geek and holds a Masters degree in Politics..