Lets start with a complaint. I seem to be the only citizen of the UK who has not received a letter from the Police saying that my phone might have been hacked by Murdoch’s News International newspapers. This is at once humiliating and ungrateful. Only recently I sent Rupert a birthday card (http://www.davidworlock.com/2011/03/birthday-greetings-rm/) I wonder if compensation will be offered to the bruised egos of those of us whose voicemail did not assuage the ferocious appetites of the newshounds at the now defunct News of the Screws. But I know that if I had the Tycoon’s dollar in my grasp I should be forced to pay it over to the benefit of the 200 wholly innocent computer operators, secretaries and cleaners who have lost their jobs in this debacle, and will be unemployed until Rupert gets the Sunday Sun launched later in the year.

So that is the topic that I do not choose to talk about. And I would have liked to talk about Facebook: everything in the social network devolves to video is a theory I have held for a long time. The Skype-Facebook alliance brings Microsoft back into play, but Google+, the social network, while it has few takers, has group video. The manifest destiny of social networks is video chat, and that is a subject for another day. Meanwhile, Facebook has seen its first net user declines. Watch this space.

Still with me? The most important issue of the week was definitely getting a copy of a new report on Market Sizing and forecasts for eBooks. I was delighted to see that this came from my erstwhile friends and colleagues at Outsell, not least because they have filled a real gap and we are all going to be grateful to them. As they would expect, I could argue with the forecasts, but so could most of us: the important thing is to have a forecast, based on historical data, which can be the focus of debate going forward. Outsell have decided to divide the market to be measured into three – consumer, educational and professional. This was very wise. They have also made the very first attempt that I have seen to get global estimates – Europe, Asia-Pacific and the USA will all be markedly different in their development in this area. It is comforting, after so many attempts at global trend analysis (thinly disguised US forecasting globally extrapolated) to see genuine attempts to understand players like Kodansha and fit them into the grid. The future is manga as well as Stephanie Meyer. So, inspired by these efforts, let me add a couple of thoughts on top:

The report notes that many publishers feel happy with eBooks. They should be deeply disturbed, in my view. The eBook is a transitory phase, and anyone complacent enough to believe that it “solves” any of the underlying issues of movement to a networked, digital marketplace needs a strong cup of tea and a good talking to, as my mother would have said. It is already clear that the only thing that these three markets examined by Outsell have in common is that they all define the word “book” in “eBook” very differently. “Book” is the packaging word of the print world: calling something an “eBook” does not mean that publishers can regard it as a format environment in the same way. In current attitudes to ebooks, especially in those devoted to ePub3 who point to the newly announced standard as a breakthrough in multimedia publishing, there remains the hope that eBooks can become an extension of businesses which are primarily print-based and wish to see change at their own pace. The problem is that neither customers or self-publishers, or custom course content producers or anyone else, is going to wait for them.

In the meanwhile, we all need to know where we are on the change graph, and then we can begin to adjust our own strategies as we guage how fast the water is running. Outsell have done us all a real service in getting all the data together: now we need to acquire it and begin the internal argument from here.

Worldwide e-Books: Market Size and Forecast Report, 2009-2013 (June 30, 2011) (www.outsellinc.com)


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