I have a pretty good track record as an ebook trend-spotter. It’s that time of year again. What do I see coming our way in 2014? Here are my annual epublishing predictions for the coming year.
1) Someone will step in and fill the tagging void. I have noticed a few app store apps pop up in my RSS feeds lately with little notices on them that they ‘comply’ with the standards of some organization or other. The most popular seems to be a group called ‘Moms with Apps’ whose ‘members’ must have their app verified to be free (or not) of data collection, ads, social media, in-app purchases or external links, with a banner in the app store screenshot that explains how they did. I expect that following the self-published smut fiasco of 2013, we’ll see something like this arise for books. I’d also love to see someone start giving out a banner for self-published books which have been verified as free of typos, edited by a professional who is not the author and formatted in DRM-free, clean epub.
2) There will be a shake-up in the magazine market. First, there was Zinio. Then Rogers Media recently pulled their stuff out and started their own service. Now, Kobo is allegedly launching their own tablet magazine app. Who will succeed? Who will fail? Is there a market for e-magazines, as they currently exist in glorified PDF form, or will people prefer (and pay for) a less linear product? I expect to see some experimentation in this area, and some of the lesser players to drop out.
3) There will be some experimentation in the tablet app area. Kindle, Kobo and other main players all have tablet apps, and they seem to get updated more frequently than the e-ink firmware does. So I expect to see feature sets start matching up more specifically with the e-ink counterparts, and once that’s happened, I expect that the tablet apps will be the experimental platform for trialing new features. Kindle has the vocabulary builder that Kobo doesn’t have. Kobo has the Pocket integration the Kindle doesn’t have. I think they’ll throw out every feature they can next year to see what sticks as the e-reading platform matures.
4) We’ll see the rise of the publishing para-professional. I think the notion that a lone author can’t do it all will finally start gaining traction, and we’ll see a rise in freelance cover artists, copy editors, book promoters and so on. I think some of these people will come from actual publishing jobs, which they might lose during corporate herd-thinning and then decide to continue on their own. I think many of them will also come from author success stories who realize that they can set up a second revenue stream for themselves (and promote their own stuff too) by offering counseling, mini-courses and the like to other aspiring successes.
5) Niche sites for specialized self-published content will grow in popularity. I was recently made aware of two sites where teachers can post (and sell) their work to other teachers. I think we’ll see more like this very soon. It’s not ‘Kindle Store or Bust.’ There are other markets, and I think some of these specialized niches will try and mine the gold—and be successful. I think, too, that some of the tagging stuff from my first prediction might resolve itself in this way, and we’ll see specialized sub-areas of the main bookstore sites, for things like kid-safe content, Christian content and so on.
6) The library market will shrink significantly. Unfortunately, I think the public library market will be a victim to publisher pricing. Some publishers have raised the costs of their library e-offerings so significantly that libraries may drop out of their catalogues. Other publishers have raised them so much for consumers that may of these readers are turning to the free library offerings instead, and I think as publishers figure this out, they will try and close that loophole. I know I personally have been appalled at how high the prices are on some of Big Pub’s offerings, both of new release and of backlist titles. There is no way I will pay $18 for a five-year-old title which is now in $6 paperback! So I get it from the library (in ebook format, naturally) or do without. I think they are going to play games with the library ebooks to try and win back customers like me!
So those are my thoughts on the coming year. Am I right? Did I miss anything? I’d love to hear your thoughts about the year to come!