publishing futures : a prediction

The cusp of a new decade is always, I think, a place of fertilisation. Who could have predicted in 1999 the state we’re in now, at least web and tech-wise? Yet the clues were clearly present and we should all have bought shares in google, let alone apple – a company, in 1999, about to be evaporated by Dell (remember, no iPod until 2001).

Now with the imminent release of a tablet-like netbook from apple, it might be nice to, like Beth Scorzato, speculate on what might happen by 2019.

1 eReaders (for want of a better term) will be ubiquitous – for both web browsing and reading books and newspapers. Present kindle-type ebooks will be seen as crude antiques

2 Book-only bookshops will cease to exist – only the supermarkets/amazon and secondhand bookdealers will touch paper in warehouses

3 Print on Demand (POD) will become mainstream for publishers and their goldfish. And you. And me. Prices will drop significantly. Desktop PODS churning out back catalogues/esoterics might be a lifeline for small bookshops. Back to Penguin’s business model – a book for the price of a packet of fags (yes we still had cigarettes in 2010 – shocking)

4 Murdoch’s paper stable (ugh) and possibly the Telegraph and probably not the Guardian will be all that’s left of serious paper journalism in the UK (hope I’m wrong on that one)

5 Right now there is someone in a publisher’s office who has mapped out the decade sans books, and how to make money from the upcoming all-digital delivery method. One of the first ideas will be to offer eBooks as text or spoken by the character of your choice. Somebody right now is synthesising Stephen Fry’s/Judi Dench’s/James Mason’s voice for posterity…

6 TV’s will become digital content windows – it’s possible satellite/cable tv and their fixed schedules will cease. Once the broadband network is upgraded, services like the BBC’s iPlayer will form the tv equivalent of a web browser (OK this has already happened)

7 When the next “event” happens, everyone will know in real time via their handheld “books”. Perfect for causing mass panic and therefore the next surveillance stepup in govt powers

8 Specialism will be the outcome for many authors – it’s what you know and who you know. Many authors will become their own publishers/marketers/shop (see 3)

9 Poetry might make a comeback, as an antidote to information overload. Those who get this right, like Carol Ann Duffy, will become the new cultural commentators, replacing celebrity journos/commentators (fat chance)

10 The ideal platform for all this would be a DVD-case-sized, hinged, twin-screen tablet, naturally with a touchscreen interface

11 My wish through all this webtech hype is that (e)bookbuyers will rediscover simplicity and silence and personal truths, as they slip into the screen on train on bus on garden seat

Thought some of you might like this – a spoof of the BT “J R Hartley” ad… (see 3)