Eight Scenarios for the Future of Publishing!

Eight Scenarios for the Future of Publishing Blog

Last week, Consultants Rhiannon Griffiths and Alice Bidetti attended The Galley Club’s Eight Scenarios for the Future of Publishing event, with speakers Angus Phillips, Director of the Oxford International Centre for Publishing at Oxford Brookes, and Michael Bhaskar, Co-Founder of Canelo, who have together recently published The Oxford Handbook of Publishing.

Angus and Michael presented eight thought provoking ideas for the future of publishing, which concluded in some friendly debates by the end! These were taken from the last chapter of their book, which they say is not a ‘how to’ guide, rather an exploration of the ideas around publishing; with more people choosing to study it, the subject has expanded a lot with more ideas and many new books. So without further ado, here are the 8 ‘plausible’ scenarios:

  1. Big name authors self-publish - one example of this is the Pottermore brand, but there does not seem to a be a huge amount of authors following suit. If a large number of bestselling authors went solo rather than their publishing house, it could put a publisher out of business.
  2. Books written by AI – all books are just a string of letters which is basic data. It would be possible to feed that into a machine learning system, to output a book, which might not be good but it would improve faster than an organic system.
  3. Books disappear – the way we consume information is changing, we turn to the internet/videos for a lot of services including dictionaries and DIY assistance. There are less books in schools, and we have a lot more of a visual and audio culture and reading has taken new forms
  4. A service – like Netflix or Spotify, would there be a way to consume books this way? It is already seen with Journals, and in trade there are things such as Kindle unlimited, and new business concepts such as Book Box Club who  are posting monthly print books in boxes.
  5. Translation on demand – AI is being used for automatic translation – if you download enough books, machines can translate new ones using books that are already in the system. This could allow for big books being released being translated on the release day.
  6. Digital is free – the ebook market and the print market are diverging quite quickly. Certain genres work better in one or the other, what if publishing completely separated those? So ebooks are not a cash economy but print is extremely high margin – so the money is made by high quality collectable print objects.
  7. Death of retail – the high street is in a crises, and the physical model of selling books is very difficult as there is a large amount of inventory, most of which is slow moving so there is a lot of storage space needed for non-sales. What if they are only sold from the internet, how will that affect how publishers sell a book?
  8. Resurgence of analogue – the world goes in a 360, suddenly the government realises the damage from screens on physical and mental health, and doctors start prescribing reading books, and there starts becoming a sense of shame of being on your phone in public. Books are then seen as an asset to society and investment in public libraries and sales in books start rising as people want to be seen with them.

 

These examples really challenge the perceptions of the industry. The last one is one of the most positive pictures, and there has been a resurgence of book sales in the past 2/3 years so it has potential! However even from the more negative possibilities, there still remains opportunity, especially in areas such as audio and translation. It is up to the industry to grasp these opportunities first! Some really fascinating ideas, and we look forward to what’s next from The Galley Club.