Creative disruption212
The obvious rst steps here are travel guides and recipes; just two
examples where books can be the core foundation of high-value
applications that are aware of your location, some of your prefer-
ences and the time of year. The result can be much more useful – and
therefore much more potentially valuable and protable than a book.
Fighting for a place at the table
Yet again, the challenge for publishers here is that they are going
to have to ght to be part of this process of value creation. The
publishing world involves rights being split into formats and geogra-
phies and just because you get the right to publish someone’s book, it
doesn’t give you the right to turn it into an iPhone app.
In 2009, for example, celebrity chef Jamie Oliver launched an iPhone
app, Jamie’s 20 Minute Meals, that showcased 50 recipes with some
added functionality such as videos and a shopping list feature. The
initial pricing at £4.99 was cheap compared to one of his books, but
he could happily deliver one of these a month; or offer a subscription
service. The point is that this was very much his application, created by
the app developer Zolmo, without a traditional ‘publisher’ involved.
So yet again we face an element of digital disintermediation. If
publishers are to seize the growth potential here they will have to
build on their core advantages (their relationships with authors, and
exposure to ideas, characters and properties at
a very early stage) and enhance them with new
skills, ventures and partnerships. Publishers need
to go beyond books, and even e-books. Take the
example of this book. When I rst met with the
publishers they warned me I wouldn’t make much
money from it, but there is money in public speaking. I was slightly
taken aback then when they didn’t immediately introduce me to their
speaking agency. After all, why not reap the prots rather than hand
them off to another intermediary?
publishers
need to go beyond
books, and even
e-books
2139
n
Out of print: the reinvention of book publishers
On a considerably more ambitious scale, Random House is looking to
exploit the potential of its children’s books by going into partnership
with Komixx Entertainment to create a joint venture, Random House
Children’s Screen Entertainment, to develop cartoons, live action
drama and games. Early in 2010, they announced their rst deal
signing the worldwide lm rights to Monster Republic, a teenagers’ sci-
book by the author Ben Horton. The deal was signed pre-publication –
in other words they used their advance knowledge of the book and the
author to their advantage and was heralded by Philippa Dickinson of
Random House as proof of how to develop a concept from manuscript
to a multimedia platform.
This is not without its risks. Not every manuscript becomes a great
book; and not every great book becomes a great lm or computer
game or mobile application. The potential for publishers to extract
even greater value from the intellectual property they help create is
balanced against the increase in risk that comes from moving into
new creative forms and distribution channels. There will be plenty of
failures from moves similar to those by Random House. That is part
of the business. But, as we have seen, these are the challenges with all
signicant adjacency moves. And as with other experiences, there is
an equal risk in not seeking them out if you want to deliver long-term
growth through the process of digitisation.
Of all the sectors I have looked at while putting this book together,
trade publishing is the one that is most in the balance. I suspect the
uptake of e-books, either via dedicated readers such as the Kindle or
the iPad, or through smartphones, will outstrip most forecasts. The
devices are gorgeous, the experience for reading ction or biography
(basically anything that you don’t dip in and out of) is perfect. In
general digital adoption always outstrips most people’s forecasts in
the long run.
The challenge for publishers then is whether they have learned enough
from watching the newspaper industry and the music industry, to be
able to get the basics right from the outset. For the sake of the success of
this very small drop in the publishing ocean, I sincerely hope they have.

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