I have been involved in 2 eBook projects last year (2012). It allowed me to observe the evolution of some publishers, libraries and bookstores towards eBooks. Here are some trends I have identified.
2012: The eBook technology has been understood
Making an eBook, lending an eBook, streaming, ePub, eReaders, iPad, Amazon… In general, people start to feel ok with it.
2012 : Traditional actors still prefer to stay away from the eBook technology
However if the concept of an eBook is now clear (at least for “Textual” and “APPS” ebooks), the actors tend to prefer to stay away from its technology. It is not a bad idea, but it doesn’t help staying in the eBook game.
There are a lot of discussions within associations to join forces to build or rejoin eBook platforms as a group. There is a feeling that eBook technology will quickly become commodity while remaining complex. Most of the actors want to stay away of the eBook technology by outsourcing it to IT actors. But there are problems with this approach 1) How to differentiate ? 2) How to maintain the customer relationship ? 3) How to keep margins ?
2013: Looking for a business model , contents and… contracts
Now that one understands what is an eBook and how to sell or lend it, now come questions that should have been answered in the first place : What is the business model ? What do I sell ? How can I get a contract to lend or sell eBooks ? How will I convince a publisher to give me the right to sell or lend his eBooks ? What does the law say about doing business with eBooks ?
On the publisher side, the questions are different : who can I trust ? where can I send my eBooks and be sure they won’t be pirated ?
Due to the cost of an eBook platform (owned or outsourced) and the size of the Belgian eBook market, building a solid business model remains complex. The eBook “chicken and egg” (“demand needs offer and offer needs demand”) circle still needs to be broken in Belgium.
2013: Meet the customer
Let’s assume one manages to get a platform up and running and have all the re-selling and lending contracts signed with publishers (representing authors). The next question will be “where are the readers ?” and “what do they want to read ?”. We will finally come to the question : what is an eBook, after all ?
2013: What is an eBook ?
People read less and less. Or do they read differently ? What would be the ideal size and price of an eBook ? Why do people read ? When do people prefer digital over Paper ? eBooks will have to find their niches.
So the top eBook activities for 2013 should be :
- Identify eBook readers segments
- For targeted segments, take commercial positions in the eBook value chain. Sign contracts, obtain rights to re-sell or lend. For publishers get the sales channels established. Negotiate the content.
- Make sure to make or propose the right eBooks for the right customer segments
None of those activities are technical. This is why I recommended to the Fédération Wallonie Bruxelles (FWB), at the end of my technical eBook study to first spend money on a “Mediator”/”Negotiator” for the Public Libraries and labeled Bookstores. One needs first to identify who is open to do eBook business before assembling or finalizing the eBook platform.
Link with Entreprise Architecture
This blog is about Entreprise Architecture (EA), so what is the link with EA ? As an IT Architect you can do your best in the Applications and Technology layers, but without a clear Business Layer (Business Service, Business Processes, Business Roles), it is difficult to build something that will resist change. The only option I have is to make eBook platforms based on a modular Service Oriented Architecture (SOA). You can’t optimize an IT platform if you don’t know what the Business will do with it. We will soon assemble our eBook platforms and we will by than need to have answered the following question : what is our eBook business after all ?