So a few years ago, I posted “predictions” for the future of publishing. I clearly don’t have the gift of prophecy, but thought it would be fun to go back and look at what I had to say, and how my predictions panned out. This is from Dec of 2009:
1. Borders will survive, but Barnes & Noble will take over. Um… wrong. Borders, a fun but poorly managed business, is gone. B&N has taken over, but we’ll see if that lasts.
2. A major author will self-publish. This seems comical now, with everybody self-publishing, but at the time there was a question if established authors would try self-pubbing or remain exclusively with traditional publishers. Score a small one for me.
3. Ebooks will more than double in sales. Ha! It didn’t take a genius to figure that out, apparently. Ebooks have doubled, doubled again, then doubled again. Now the growth is slowing, but it’s still the future. I was right, but a blind man could have picked this horse.
4. Authors and publishers will offer a lot of free ebooks to boost readership. Again, this seems stupefyingly obvious now. So I was right on the basic idea. I just didn’t realize a million wannabes would glut the market with crummy free books, and therefore dilute the value of free ebooks.
5. Libraries will move to ebooks. Well… who knows? They want to, apparently, but publishers are worried about usage and lost revenues, so it’s still not clear how libraries are going to work (or if we need all of them, in an age when anybody can google a topic on their laptop). No points for me on this one.
6. Apple will create an e-reader. Um… score big on that one. This prediction was made before anyone had heard of an iPad, by the way. Again, it might be obvious now, but at the time it was a guess made by looking at the market.
7. Publishers will acquire websites in order to target niche audiences, and replace book sections in newspapers. Okay, this was one time I reached a bit. I thought publishers would purchase and promote some of the big, successful book websites. Instead, they simply started their own sites.
8. Publisher print catalogs and sales conferences will die out. Totally wrong. I guessed this because I thought the notion of a catalog and “selling season” were becoming passé. While companies have gone to a digital catalog, and are doing more with online ordering, the fact is that everybody still has a sales conference and creates a catalog of titles. Oops.
9. There will be a hardcover option for every book. I thought everyone who posted an ebook would have the opportunity to generate a hardcover edition for true fans. Swung and missed. One of the weaknesses in the current system at Amazon or B&N or Smashwords is that offering a “print” option of an ebook is a completely separate decision, a separate package, a separate set-up cost. (If I were going to make predictions this year, it would be that Amazon will figure out this mistake and solve it.)
10. Everybody will switch to XML. I assumed expandable markup language would be the core of every document. It’s still the basis of Word and iWork, but it’s clear that I lack the techno-geek qualifications to look into the future of digital bookmaking and tell readers anything about software. My bad.
So…. not a bad prognosticator, but not exactly as good as the Mayans, who predicted the world will end next Wednesday, in case you aren’t ready. You may want to go ahead and indulge in that extra slice of pie this weekend.