Last Friday and Saturday, I joined the annual meeting of the Book Publishing Association of Alberta (BPAA). I'd been invited to present two talks that I've been developing over the past year: "Disaggregating supply" and "Community organizers".
This is the only time I've delivered these talks in tandem, but in preparing for the meeting, I found that they fit well together. In "Disaggregating supply", I craft an argument that we are moving inexorably toward a pre-book world, while "Community organizers" offers publishers options to monetize the creation, management and dissemination of content in a world that is not limited to the sale of traditional containers.
The disruptive impact of digital technologies, particularly the way that they change both consumer expectations and the threshold for a "minimum viable product", is a regular theme here (and elsewhere). The impact was once something on the horizon, a thing we should be thinking about. It's not on the horizon anymore, something the Economist addressed last month:
The most obvious change in the past few years is the decline of “physical” products, such as CDs, DVDs and print newspapers. In 2008 nearly nine-tenths of consumer cash went on them; by 2017 it will be a little over half, with digital grabbing the rest.
The Economist article, "Counting the change", makes a central point about the need to rethink business models as formats are challenged by new delivery mechanisms:
Media firms used to make a fortune selling “bundles”. Songs are grouped into albums; newspapers are packages of articles and advertising. The internet lets people pick what they want.
My BPAA talks also made this point, not as an argument that the markets fully exist today, but that the work required to prepare for them has to start now. The maps between where we are and where we'd like to end up are still being drawn, but we have to be talking and planning now, while there are still roads left.