Last December, PW asked me for predictions for the year 2008. I agreed, but stipulated that it was “no fair” keeping score on how I did. But apparently my editors have decided that all is fair in love, war and publishing predictions so, here it is, Mike Shatzkin's scorecard on Mike Shatzkin's predictions for 2008.
I said the popularity of e-books would increase—that the rising Kindle tide would lift all the e-book boats. That appears to be unambiguously correct. Most major publishers reported huge gains in e-book sales for the year; Random House has recently said its rose 400%!I said sales of books in electronic formats to public libraries would continue to grow. All the major distributors have reported an increase in business and in the number of titles available to and through libraries.I said this would be the Year of the Author. One thing I predicted that did not happen was the self-publishing of a new title by a major author. Maybe in 2009. But there are now at least three imprints—Bob Miller's new HarperStudio, Roger Cooper's Vanguard imprint at Perseus and Eric Kampmann's independent Beaufort Books—that are offering authors “partnership” deals at much higher than previously standard royalties. And I'm proud to be a co-founder of Filedbyauthor, a new Web initiative giving every author with a book in print his/her own Web page.I said publishers would start acquiring Web sites to get content and to target niche audiences. Wiley's 2006 purchase of the U.K. site whatsonwhen.com, now integrated into a B2B site called FrommersUnlimited, seemed so sensible that it should have sparked a trend. But none has hit my radar screen.I said Christmas 2008 would be the first one in which sales of customized books would become “substantial.” I think I'm actually a year early on that, but the signs are there. Custom book creator SharedBook has announced partnerships with a slew of major publishers and has opened its own online retailing capability to bring customized and personalized books to the public.I said XML would “no longer be considered optional.” That's a squishy one, hard to prove, but I think I was right, at least in a lot of places. It is great validation that Hachette Book Group has gone to a StartwithXML workflow under the leadership of David Young.I said Apple would make an e-book reader out of the iPod and iPhone. They haven't, but they've made it easy for others to do so. At the end of 2008, Stanza is the leader in this space, and new applications of this kind are still to come.I said B&N would continue to leverage its great supply chain to lengthen its lead over Borders. And, in an incredibly difficult year for all book retailers, B&N has substantially outperformed its closest competitor.I said the lack of a competitive supply-chain infrastructure would handicap Borders, which would get a new owner. Turns out I was half-right. The lack of a competitive supply chain has been such a handicap that Borders has not yet found a new owner! The combination of a difficult economy for bricks-and-mortar bookstores and an infrastructure that can't compete makes it a very difficult acquisition.I said that the increased use of publishers' Web sites to sell direct would lead to pricing experiments. While publishers are getting increasingly aggressive about selling direct, particularly for digital downloads, the pricing experimentation I'm expecting as a result hasn't really surfaced yet. However, Random House offered a ton of free e-books through Stanza as a promotion for some multibook authors; that's a nod in the direction I was thinking.I said literary agents would begin to consolidate. No real evidence of that in the U.S. yet—I guess I'm saying I was “wrong”—but in the U.K., ICM and Curtis Brown reached a co-agenting agreement to handle foreign rights sales.I said publishers would rethink the traditional sales conference and begin to move to a continuous (not seasonal) publishing model. Macmillan is reported to have held a “virtual” December sales conference, but this is another one that might have been smarter to predict for 2009 or 2010.I said that some publishers would begin producing a hardcover of every paperback and a large-print edition of every title. Not quite there yet, but a new company called Read How You Want is trying to make that happen. The increased use of an XML workflow will make this come true in the next year or two.I said publishers would push harder to publicize books through the Internet because traditional review channels would continue to diminish. Well, the traditional review channels have certainly diminished, and publishers have increasingly turned to bloggers, Web sites and e-mail blasts to promote their titles. Most publishers now have dedicated staff for Web marketing.I also said 2008 would be the year of experimentation. In many ways it was: Random with free e-book giveaways; Penguin beefing up its e-book editions of classics; Harper creating an imprint with Bob Miller that has a new business model for authors and a no-returns option for intermediary customers, as well as its Authonomy and BookArmy sites. Experimentation will be curtailed in 2009 because of the difficult economy, so I got that one into the right year.
So, although I said “don't keep score,” I'm not sorry somebody did.
|Shatzkin is founder and CEO of consulting firm the Idea Logical Company (www.idealog.com).|