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From the Tech Desk
Three Publishing Technology Trends to Watch in 2017
Every year brings new evolutions in book publishing, particularly on the tech side of things. As we get further and further from the advent of the eBook and the rise of all things digital, the publishing industry seems to be settling into a groove where technology is an integral part of virtually every facet of business. Just because we are settling in, though, doesn’t mean that things won’t continue to change. Evolution never stops, and 2017 will continue to see shifts and innovations in the technology behind books. Here are three key trends that we think will be integral to publishing technology in 2017.
1. Audiobooks will continue to boom
For this one, we don’t even have to go out on a limb. Audiobooks were arguably the story of the publishing industry in 2016—to the point that From the Tech Desk spotlighted audiobook topics in two of our 12 columns from the year. If you think that the growth of audiobooks is going to slow down or plateau in 2017, think again. Between the first quarter of 2015 and the first quarter of 2016, audiobook sales grew by more than 35%. Not all of the numbers are in from 2016 just yet, but barring some huge drop-off after the first few months of the year, audiobooks are easily the largest growing market in the publishing industry. This post from Good e-Reader even indicates that some publishers saw triple-digit growth in audiobook sales in 2016.
In other words, what was once an optional part of the publishing market is now essential. Any indie publishers that aren’t on the audiobook bandwagon will likely climb aboard in 2017. Self-published authors, meanwhile, will want to become familiar with audiobook creation services like ACX.
2. Book bundling platforms will rise to prominence
Technology has drastically lowered the barriers to entry in the publishing industry—a fact that is something of a double-edged sword for indies and self-published authors. On one hand, it’s easier than ever before to publish your books and offer them for sale. On the other hand, the market is so saturated with titles that it’s difficult for independent authors and publishers to stand out from the pack.
If there is a solution to this conundrum, it might just be book bundling services. Take StoryBundle, an email subscription services that scours the web looking for the best indie authors and titles. The company then puts together a bundle of independent books and offers these bundles to their subscribers on a pay-what-you-want basis. Admittedly, the formula doesn’t sound like a recipe for bank-breaking receipts. However, book bundling is a way for indie authors to get noticed by readers—something that can’t be taken for granted in such a busy market. Expect services like StoryBundle to gain traction in 2017.
3. Subscription services will finally get off the ground
For years, the publishing industry has been trying to devise its own version of Netflix or Spotify. The thought of a subscription service that could really excite and mobilize readers is enough to make any publishing executive salivate. So far, though, the road has been treacherous. All the way back in April 2014, From the Tech Desk spotlightedthree eBook subscription services—Oyster, Entitle, and Scribd—and speculated about what the publishing industry might learn from the music industry. Scribd still exists, but Oyster and Entitle are both dead, suggesting that the subscription model might just not work for books.
In 2016, though, it seemed like a few of these services were finally finding their way. Audible, a popular audiobook subscription service, is arguably the preferred ways to access and listen to narrated titles. Amazon, meanwhile, seems to have cracked the subscription service code with Kindle Unlimited—much to the chagrin of authors and publishers. In 2017, it looks like subscription services will officially be here to stay. One of the big challenges of the year, then, will be for authors and publishers to determine how to harness these platforms to reach more readers—all without settling for bad terms and low payouts. There’s an uphill battle, though: services like Spotify still pay musicians minute sums of money—which means that, if publishers can solve that equation, it’ll be the music industry learning something from the publishing world for a change.
These trends certainly aren’t the only ways in which technology will impact and shape publishing in 2017. Another key area of concern, for instance, is social media, where authors and their platforms will only become more vital in the coming months. Expect authors to branch out beyond the usual social platforms (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) and to try experimenting with other social networks to reach their readers.
All of these trends have one thing in common: reach. What can authors do to reach readers? What can publishers do to reach audiences? How can indies break through the noise to win business and reader time? It will be technology that makes or breaks the fight, and the trends discussed above will all figure in heavily to the final outcome.
Craig Manning is currently studying English and Music at Western Michigan University. In addition to writing for IndependentPublisher.com, he maintains a pair of entertainment blogs, interns at the Traverse City Business News, and writes for Rockfreaks.net and his college newspaper. He welcomes comments or questions concerning his articles via email, at firstname.lastname@example.org.