In 2010 Steve Jobs announced the iPad that propelled tech companies, publishers and consumers into an exciting new era. Now with over 40% of the worldwide population believed to own at least one tablet and 91% a smartphone, smart devices are here to stay.
So why did so many book apps fail to work?
In the days of early book app development, publishers were in unknown territory which seemed rife with opportunity, but developer costs were extremely high and consumer interest was practically non-existent. Which often led to digital ghost towns rather than the envisioned gold mines.
Nonetheless, one of the biggest challenges facing digital publishing is that as an industry we are not in control of consumer consciousness. We are now competing not merely with each other, but with other entertainment industries for the escapism choices of our consumers.
In the digital space, publishers are not yet meeting an existing user demand for an innovative narrative experiences – because there isn’t a demand to meet. The human race evolved with literature, in its physical printed forms, at its heart for centuries. But for books to retain that central place in the future we need to claim the digital reading space. We need to experiment and explore to help consumers discover the new reading experiences awaiting them.
It feels as though we’ve woken from the digital hangover of the early ‘10s and found that we still have many more exciting, and commercial opportunities, to explore – but that we do need to be careful and considered in how we approach untested models and markets. What this means in practice, is that we have to experiment in a commercially viable way to to bring our incredible world-class IP to life, through previously unexplored reading experiences. We will need to iterate in order to create new ways of accessing our content, and publishers will continue to innovate via projects. Some of these might fail – but we need to be taking risks, because if we don’t, our customers will follow the tech companies who do.