especially in ;ction, where it
represents more than 50% of
purchases in categories such as
romance. Still, e-books are
down roughly 27% from their
2013 peak, and there is heated
debate over whether this is the result of people going back to
print or reading less overall as they are drawn into the spiderweb of short-form content streaming on their handy
smartphones. E-books have a very hard time competing with
other screen media in this context.
Frankly, I’m not sure it matters how people are consuming
content. I would argue that focusing on the question of reading vs. watching or print vs. digital is missing both the point
and the promise of where we ;nd ourselves today.
The Omnivorous Story World
Technology is now so seamless and so powerful that if a child
is into fairies, or a reader is passionate about English mysteries, or a home chef is into a particular style of cooking, they
can chase that passion across a multitude of platforms,
including books, TV, consumer goods, social media interactions, music platforms, apps, fan-created content, online
education, live events, and much more. Not just by buying
but by learning and exploring.
The passion of the individual organizes this pattern of
investigation, not necessarily the content creator. In fact, the
most exciting examples of this type of consumption are not
usually the product of a single creator or company, and seem
to take on a life of their own. (For instance, are you aware of
the current slime frenzy? Google it.)
Comics & Graphic Novels
It also makes sense that in today’s highly visual environment,
comics and graphic novels would be embraced by new readers who increasingly prefer to take in their stories with a
multisensory approach. We’re seeing sharp growth in this
genre for both kids and adults, and many innovative artists
and writers are ;nding new readers as they push the limits of
this type of storytelling.
At the same time, we’re seeing energetic adaptations of
classics where the visual storytelling adds whole new layers of
The Future of Publishing Is...
As the publishing world gathers in London, an
industry vet and the executive director of new
business at NPD Book surveys the storytelling
BY KRISTEN MCLEAN
This year Apple’s iPhone will turn 10. The first-gener- ation iPhone;was released on June 29, 2007, and the iPad followed in 2010. Many of us can barely remember the time before we had them, so pro- foundly have they transformed our lives—including
our relationship to reading.
If you started in publishing back in the B.A.—before Apple—
era, you probably remember living through the intense existential crisis that overcame the industry when the digital
future of 2007 met the ;nancial crisis of 2008. No one was
sure that there would be much reading and buying ever again,
and there were dark predictions about “screen addiction.” By
2010, there were essays about the shallowness of angry ;ying
There were also blindingly bright predictions about a
future in which no paper would be required. The Amazon
Kindle was also born 10 years ago, and, without the chains
of the printed books, many consumers opined that the price
of books should drop because, after all, there were no longer any costs to making them. Everyone was going to be
reading more, more, more.
In truth, we really had no idea what was happening—we
only knew that it seemed transformative. Flash-forward 10
years, and we now have some perspective on these prophe-cies. And not everything has turned out as we predicted.
The one thing we do know: there is no going back. People
now integrate technology seamlessly into their lives, and
they do whatever makes the most sense to them as they
pursue their goals in a particular moment. I believe that presents exciting opportunities to innovate in ways we’ve barely
started to think about. Here are the biggest trends I’m
It’s Not Print or Digital
First and foremost, people still love print books. This is especially true of children, parents, teenagers, and millennials
overall. Millennials are also much more likely than baby
boomers to favor print magazines and subscribe to newspapers. Sales of print children’s books are up consistently for the
last ;ve years. If you just want to make great print books,
there is a healthy market for that.
At the same time, digital has made respectable inroads,