I've been reading a bunch of "2012 Prediction" posts from people, ranging from the insipid ("We're going to see a lot of growth in e-books") to the inane ("I see a huge comeback for westerns"). So if we leave aside the obvious stuff, and throw out the silly predictions, what is likely to happen this year? Here's my best shot at making predictions for publishing in 2012…
1. The Nook is going to prove wildly popular. I have one, and I love it. The Kindle Fire has too many problems. Realistically, somebody at Google or Facebook, or maybe the Kobe people, will try to horn in on the e-reader market, so we could all be surprised by some cool new device. But Barnes & Noble's Nook is the class of the line right now.
2. And that means Barnes & Noble will figure out a way to integrate Nook purchases to brick-and-mortar stores. Let's face it: book shopping at B&N is FAR superior to meandering around Amazon. The problem has been figuring out how to monetize that for the store. I think this is the year B&N figures it out, and takes back a bigger chunk of the e-book market.
3. Additionally, that means B&N and other bookstores become game stores, puzzle centers, curriculum markets, and educational supply houses. It's already happening, and you'll see a huge shift in 2012.
4. To keep up, Amazon will not just start their own publishing lines, but will buy some publishing houses. I figure it's inevitable.
5. Specifically, I think Amazon starts its own CBA imprint. There's too much money in religious books to not do this.
6. The price of e-books will go up. I've done the math, and I can't see publishers keeping a rock-bottom price on e-books. That probably means the reading culture shifts into two broad groups — amateurs and start-ups selling very cheap e-books, and traditional publishers charging more for quality e-books.
7. Social networking will merge their technology with e-books. There's already been rumors of a Facebook reader. And take a look at what ReThink Books is doing — creating a tool where everyone in a reading group can read and comment on a shared document.
8. Enhanced e-books still won't appeal to the masses. For all the talk about the features, most people still want to READ a book, not have charts pop up and sing to them to a video background in the midst of a chapter. I could be wrong here, but it seems like it's just one too many features.
9. Short stories will continue their comeback in a big way. People reading books on iPhones or on a device while using an elliptical prefer short pieces — meaning renewed interest in this favorite category of mine.
10. I'll continue to get yelled at for popping the bubbles of all those dreamers who claim you're going to make millions by self-publishing. Hey… don't start. I've self-published, and made money, so I know something about the business. I'm not against self-pubbed books. But I've come to hate the dopey over-promising of those who do it, sell 50 copies, and claim they're a success. The fact is, there are certainly people making money at self-publishing… but, like every other business in America, for every one of those making money, there are 100 who try it and make peanuts. And there are still far too many crappy self-pubbed books — meaning there is still room for a well-written, well-edited manuscript produced and sold by a traditional publishing house. (Let the yelling begin.)