The Most Radical Publishing Events of 2010 and Predictions for 2011

In Editorial by Edward Nawotka


For our final new issue of the year, we wanted to reflect a little on the year and share what each of us thought was the most radical publishing event of 2010 and gaze into our crystal ball for 2011. Look for five days of our best stories from 2010. We’ll be back in 2011 with fresh reporting, insight, interviews and opinions from the world of publishing. Till then . . . Happy Holidays and Happy New Year.

Thomas Minkus, Publisher:

The launch of the iPad on April 3rd 2010 is, to me, the most radical publishing event of the year. As an entertainment device for the entire family, the iPad has found a home on millions of coffee tables around the world in a matter of months. For many, the iPad is THE current gateway to consuming content digitally. It demonstrates that reading a book on a screen can be as pleasant an experience as reading a printed book. More than the Kindle, the Sony or the Nook, the iPad seems to have the power to convert even die-hard paper lovers of all ages into e-book readers and customers.

My prediction for 2011: With falling tablet prices, the rise of iPad competitors, and the future release of the second generation iPad, consumers will be less likely to buy or use dedicated e-book readers like the Nook or the Kindle. Instead they will opt for multi-use, tablet-like devices that can accommodate enhanced e-books, color images and multimedia experiences.

Hannah Johnson, Deputy Publisher:

Because we are talking specifically about publishing in 2010, I will have to leave out the international takeover of Angry Birds, an iPhone-app-turned-franchise that has been downloaded over 50 million times and is consuming hours of people’s lives around the world each day. No, in publishing, the most significant development this year has been the death of “death of publishing” articles and the mentality that goes along with it. Is anyone legitimately questioning the survival of publishing companies in the digital future? In 2010, publishers made the decision to embrace digital strategies, work with new technology, and lead the way in producing and selling great content digitally.

My prediction for 2011: Angry Birds, the enhanced e-book.

Erin Cox, Director of Business Development

Most radical publishing event of 2010? Hrm, looking at international publishing, it’s hard to say . . . is it the big Spanish publishers joining together to create an e-book publishing platform? Is it bricks and mortar bookstores finding their way into the digital realm through creating their own devices (Barnes & Noble and Thalia) or Google Editions? Is it Amazon moving further ahead in their own publishing program? Is it Andrew Wylie circumventing the big six to create a relationship directly with Amazon? Is it the onset of the iPad or the decrease in price for e-readers so virtually anyone can afford them?

I’d have to say that the most radical is likely from my own perspective as a literary agent . . . that agents and writers have glimpsed a world where they actually turn down big advances (or don’t take advances at all) in order to guarantee promotion and marketing budgets, to be more heavily invested in the publishing process, and to receive a larger royalty percentage on the back end. Now, this doesn’t work for everyone because oftentimes writers need advances to live on while they write the books, but the days of those outlandish advances might be nearing their ends.

My prediction for 2011: The talk of the publishing industry dying will decline and we will figure out new, inventive ways of reaching readers and selling books. Just focus on the content, publishers, and the readers will come.

Edward Nawotka, Editor-in-Chief

The most radical publishing event of 2011 was, as Hannah said above, the shift in attitudes of book publishers away from thinking that digital was going to be a sinkhole that was going to subsume the book business and publishers subsequently adopting the view that digital represented a portal into the future and the wallets of (some) consumers. It cannot be disputed that 2011 is the year that e-books were finally embraced by the mainstream. Look around you…how many people do you know who are reading digital books? Maybe it’s your wife, child, mother-in-law. Maybe they have a Kindle or a Nook or an i-something-or-other. Last year you’d have had a hard time finding anyone who’d read an e-book other than a few select early adopters. This year, e-readers are the hot holiday gift. By this time next year, e-books will no longer be a novelty, they’ll just . . . be.

My prediction for 2011: Everyone Becomes a Publisher. Literally. Whether it’s bloggers turning their posts into books with Blurb, or going the whole DIY route, self-publishing will become an increasingly attractive option for greater numbers of writers, be they casual or professional. Not so fast. If the growth numbers hold steady, I expect Bowker to announce before BookExpo America that nearly a million new titles were published in the United States alone this year – of which it’s likely more than half were self-published. If you’re looking for a top trend for 2011, a further explosion of self-published books, either in print or digital, is likely to be it. Of course, point-and-click book publishing might never truly make an author happy –publishing is, after all, collaborative — and the question remains of whether the audience is there to buy and read so many of these new titles.

DISCUSS: Share Your Strongest Publishing Memory from 2010 and Predictions for 2011

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

Edward Nawotka is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. A widely published critic and essayist, he serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries.