The global self-publishing industry is growing at a healthy pace, buoyed by rapid adoption of e-readers, tablet computers and print-on-demand technology. According to industry estimates, the self-publishing industry has scaled the $100 million level, although it is still a fraction of the global trade publishing industry that is pegged at $13.97 billion as per 2011 estimates.
Taking cognizance of the growing popularity of self-published titles, some leading publishing houses are looking to buy out known self-publishing firms. Penguin books owner Pearson's recent takeover of Author Solutions Inc (ASI) from Bertram Capital for $116 million is a case in point. As per the deal, ASI will be integrated into Penguin's back office and technology infrastructure.
This development points to the making of a new global book publishing ecosystem that is increasingly influenced by consumerization of technologies across markets. In fact, many best-selling authors are already opting to self-publish their work, keeping in view this emerging trend. Take the case of J.K. Rowling who is reportedly planning to sell e-book versions of the Harry Potter series directly from her website Pottermore. In time, it is likely that a greater number of celebrity authors and leading publishing houses will embrace new technologies to take their books to a wider audience.
Retail giants like Amazon are preparing for this paradigm shift. Recent reports suggest that the company is planning to expand its mobile platform and broaden its offering of devices beyond e-readers and the Kindle Fire tablet.
The publishing industry's thrust on digital content is matched by a growing trend towards monetization of content itself. In realizing this objective, the industry is called upon to invest in a new technology architecture that houses sub-sets like digital asset management, web content management, authentication, micropayments, CRM, and analytical tools. The content monetization drive is largely governed by the fact that today's consumers are adequately exposed to digital content.
Several large media publishing houses have already taken the 'paid content' route, erected pay walls or introduced micro-payments to monetize their digital content. A few are offering 'tiered services' and 'multi-platform access' to consumers to meet their differentiated needs. These trends will no doubt have a key bearing on the self-publishing industry which is going digital in a big way. Success in this direction will also hinge on the adoption of a well-defined pricing and billing model.
While technology has accelerated the growth of the self-publishing industry, its long-term prospects would depend on how effectively titles are promoted. So far, traditional players have held sway over markets by virtue of their extensive marketing and distribution networks. However, this gap too will be bridged as new-age authors and publishing houses leverage internet technologies and mobility to address a larger readership.