By Mark Piesing
Water, gas and electricity are basic ingredients of our modern lives, and priced accordingly – and to treat books in the same way would see somehow sacrilegious. Yet that is precisely the scenario – perhaps even opportunity – that the publishing industry faces as the Internet enters its second stage, according to techno-optimist Javier Celaya, CEO and founder of new technology consultancy Dosdoce.com.
At the London Book Fair he will be presenting with Laura Summers, co-founder of BookMachine, and Laura Ceballos-Watling, Head of Business Development, CEDRO, the seminar “New Business Models in the Digital Age” on April 16. In anticipate of the event, Dosdoce has made available a new 72-page comprehensive report “New Business Models in the Digital Age” to download for free (in PDF, EPUB, or MOBI formats).
“New technology always stirs up fears of the unknown,” Celaya says. “Initial fears cause heated debates that are quickly forgotten as the advantages become clear. The discussion of the Internet is in the same place as we become aware of the advantages and disadvantages of different business models.”
“Many publishers don’t want to see books as utilities, but that’s where we are going anyway,” says Celaya about a business model that he believes will lead to a great deal of innovation. “After all, we don’t pay in advance for the electricity we consume; we pay for what we consume. So why should books be different?
We also pay more for our electricity or airline tickets according to whether we are using it at peak times or not – so why don’t we can’t more to read a book in the morning and evening rush hours than in the quieter hours in between?
“Also, why should we pay in advance for a book we don’t read or don’t even like? So if we read only forty pages … we will only pay for forty pages and not the whole book.”
According to Celaya, it only made sense to be charged the same price to read a whole book or part of it in the days of print when there was a limited supply of books; nowadays “it is nonsense” as thanks to digital technology almost any book is available to almost anyone, almost anywhere in the world, and because of open access and the self-publishing phenomenon “there is no chance of publishers avoiding this.”
For Laura Summers, “publishing houses are at varying stages of development when it comes to selling their books online, so there definitely isn’t a one-size-fits-all. What works for a niche imprint won’t necessarily work for mass market titles. Similarly, many young people are looking for quick reads on their devices and struggle to engage with full-length novels, whilst many avid readers are churning through print books.”
At the moment she is interested in “watching the rise of models which are developed specifically for mobile reading. The TED books app is an excellent example of how shorter content can be delivered, and tools such as Valobox and Slicebooks which allow publishers to divide up their books are smart.”
In the end, says Javier Celaya, “the old model business models are gone. Ten years ago they couldn’t imagine the iPad and what its impact was going to be. We can’t know what is going to happen in the future.”