In the eBooks Market, Fragmentation is Forever. Deal with it.

The headline has been stolen from Richard Wong’s blog posting at TechCrunch: In Mobile, Fragmentation is Forever. Deal With It.

One of the worst myths floating around the blogosphere is the wait by some for a “unifying technology” that will make things “simpler and easier” to develop services and apps for the global mobile market….

……..Anyone who is waiting for a single silver bullet to solve fragmentation issues in mobile will be waiting a very long time, especially if they want to go after the global mobile opportunity. As such, it is important for mobile entrepreneurs to wade in and sort it out for themselves. No one is going to flatten the industry such as Microsoft did in the PC-era to make it simple.

I could have stolen the whole piece. Much the same is true of the eBooks market. In fact, the variety and importance of languages, scripts, publishing traditions and cultures mean that it is even more true of digital publishing. There is not going to be a single solution for digital books, in the way that Microsoft for a time flattened the PC market, or that Google has ‘mostly’ flattened the web search market (but maybe not if you live in China or Russia). Two years ago, many assumed that Amazon would dominate the eBooks space, then it looked like Google Books Search might provide a universal solution. Now Apple, with its soon to be launched iPad, looks to be on a big upswing. But surely these rapidly shifting fortunes for the major players tell us that it is unlikely that there is going to be a single solution for digital books (I would certainly not dismiss Amazon or Google or Sony or Facebook from the race yet). And then there is the business of magazines and newspapers as well as books. Surely, there is going to be an incredible diversity of solutions for digital distribution of stuff that was formerly printed. Deal with that. Live with that.

Some of the strategies that Wong proposes for the mobile entrepreneur apply to the publisher.

  • Dont wait for the magic bullet
  • Get down the user experience learning curve (there are markets already)

But some aspects of the publishing dilemma are peculiarly acute

  • Publishers who operate across markets (selling to trade, educational, travel and academic, maybe books and magazines) need to be particularly flexible and experimental. It is not necessarily an advantage to be a very big publisher.
  • Rights complications, copyright, and language issues make published books an excruciatingly convoluted market. It is not going to get much better and customers dont want the pointless complications.
  • Quality and fashion are still keys to success in publishing
  • Because fragmentation of the digital space is a problem for consumers and users: intelligent solutions to the problems of fragmentation will be especially profitable for nimble publishers.

I recommend the whole of Wong’s piece.

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One thought on “In the eBooks Market, Fragmentation is Forever. Deal with it.

  1. Publishers who operate across markets (selling to trade, educational, travel and academic, maybe books and magazines) need to be particularly flexible and experimental. It is not necessarily an advantage to be a very big publisher.Very wise! Consequently, big publishers should help their different divisions build their own experiments and benefit from the amount of comparative results, while smaller publishers couldn't afford to test so many models.

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