The Disruption of Book Publishing – This Too Must Change

Digital technology is disrupting long-standing business models across all sectors of media, entertainment and information including, of course, book publishing.

Traditional book publishers are finding the competition for leisure time increasingly intense as digital entertainment options and adoption skyrocket.  Even those who continue to appreciate the value of reading a good book are consuming books in new ways including eBooks; Kindle, iPad and Nook readers; and other mobile devices.

The definition of what a book is and is not is in flux as publishers experiment with multi-media and interactive offerings such as Fourth Story Media’s Amanda Project.  This collaborative fictional mystery for girls is told across a variety of different media including an eight-book series and interactive website where girls can become a character in the story and contribute to the books.

A second example is the recent collaboration between Hyperion Books and ABC Television.  Hyperion Books is a general-interest book publisher within the Disney-ABC Television Group. Cognizant of opportunities and imperatives to redefine traditional publishing models, Hyperion has had several successful initiatives.  These include a highly successful integration with ABC’s Castle television series in which a mystery novel by the show’s protagonist was published serially online before being printed and distributed via traditional channels.

In the non-fiction realm, Flatworld Knowledge has developed a highly disruptive model that allows students and educators to define the way in which they would like to consume and interact with textbook content and do so in accordance with their individual budgets, study habits and other preferences.  And then there is the market for self-publishing and publishing on demand.

The pace of change is picking up speed as Digital Natives, who are used to a “where I want it, when I want it, how I want it” lean-in participatory and social media experience mature – and as the general population becomes more digitally immersed.

During a discussion at the WIMIFuture of Publishing” conference, I asked one of the panelists whether the impetus for creating these types of innovative solutions had created a need for people with less traditional publishing backgrounds and more digital expertise and insight.

I also brought to his attention the work of Campfire (, a Triple Play Client founded by the producers of The Blair Witch Project. Campfire has applied that kind of interactive storytelling to the marketing space, creating multi-faceted narratives that inspire consumers to proactively unravel stories.  Examples include the “Art of the Heist” and “Beta 7.”  While these programs were developed as marketing campaigns, the interactive mindset provides a good stimulus for creative thinking about the opportunities facing book publishers.

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