#ftmedia12 - The eBook (r)evolution

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth
  • Matteo Berlucchi, Chief Executive Officer, aNobii
  • Santiago de la Mora, Director, Print Content Partnerships EMEA, Google
  • Tim Hely Hutchinson, Group Chief Executive, Hachette UK
  • Michael Serbinis, Chief Executive Officer, Kobo

Moderated by Richard Waters

Michael Serbinis – They’ve been in business 26 months, and they’ve seen it move faster than they expected. They’ve sold millions of readers (but won’t say how many exactly), and that people who buy eReaders are reading more. People who read on tablets, less so. Casual readers are buying and using tablets. Dedicated readers are buying eInk devices – and reading between a book or two books a month on them. They have romance readers who are reading 30 books a month (!).

[![](http://www.onemanandhisblog.com/Photo 8 Mar 2012 13:52.jpg)](http://www.onemanandhisblog.com/Photo 8 Mar 2012 13:52.jpg)
**Tim Hely Hutchinson** – 1% in 2009, 10% in 2010. Now around 30% digital on a monthly basis this year. Very, very fast transformation. They are largely substitutional sales, he says. The most vibrant part of the market is children and young adults. The big thing is the black and white ereader. Fiction and narrative non-fiction on eInk devices. He’s given up predicting the rate of growt because he’s been wrong so often. There’s obviously still a lot of affection for the printed book.

Santiago de la Mora – People are switching between devices, reading the same books on their phones and their readers.

Hely Hutchinson – People want their tablets to do more than just replicate the book – they want interactivity. That will follow in things like cookbooks. In five years people at this conference will think that today’s eBooks are very rudimentary.

Serbinis – We’ve not seen prices going up. We’ve seen a steady month on month decline in the prices people pay for eBooks. Publishers have been very responsive to prices based on sales.

Matteo Berlucchi – Tax is a factor. It varies country by country. In the UK, we pay VAT on eBooks but not printed books. It will take some time before prices find their natural price.

de la Mora – Google is supporting VAT homoginisation across Europe, and they think the wholesale model is the right one for the eBook vendors, rather than the agency one.

Hely Hutchison – the agency system was introduced partly because it was appropriate, but mainly as a pro-competition measure. We welcome Google and Apple and Amazon into the market – but they’re all giants and they all have deep pockets. And they have agendas beyond selling books. And we’re concerned that they don’t wipe out the established book publishing market. By giving all vendors the same margins, it encourages competition. And it has worked.

Berlucchi – the focus of our service is how to discover books – and it’s much harder to do that than music of videos. We’re focusing on harnassing the power of the crowd. The decision of your next book is often mediated by someone – a reviewer, a friend over dinner, etc. If you don’t have a healthy margin, you won’t be trading. There’s a very big elephant in the room that trades at nearly zero margin.

Hely Hutchinson – They’re certainly not our enemy. Our only concern is that having any big corporation dominating an industry is of concermn to all the other players on it. That’s why we’ve tried to create a level playing field to invite others in.

Berlucchi – They’re fantastic at executing when they’re executing – but customers don’t realise they’re locked into the Kindle ecosystem. You can’t leave the platform with your books.

[![](http://www.onemanandhisblog.com/Photo 8 Mar 2012 13:54.jpg)](http://www.onemanandhisblog.com/Photo 8 Mar 2012 13:54.jpg)
**Serbinis** – We’ve been an open platform from the start – you can download your content and go wherever you want (apart from Amazon who won’t let you in).

de la Mora – Google’s strategy is one of openess and Google Play (the new name for the Android Market + Google Music + Google Books) offers a very easy experience. (And then he repeatedly dodged the question if carriers were free to to include Google Play on phones).

Serbinis: Romance and sci-fi genres might be good for subscription models – we’ve seen demand for it.

Berlucchi: Books are highly social, and a great conversation currency. They’ll be using Facebook, but not Credits – just working through the API.

Serbinis: Facebook Timeline/Ticker are blowing away the previous best marketing tools for books.

de la Mora – We’re big believers in the long tail, and we’ve seen it in Google Books.

Hely Hutchinson – it’s completely transformative of how we do our marketing. It used to be about getting large stacks of books in shops and supermarkets, and that’s going to change completely. It’s great that they han have a book in their hands as soon as they have the impulse.

Berlucchi – Books are much more timeless than movies or cinema.

Hely Hutchinson – Packing books with e-edition, and passcodes and that sort of thing hasn’t really worked. It seems to put people of. And we need to balance the cost of doing it, and the return we’re getting.

And then Berlucchi completely steals the show by demonstrating the principles of paper rights management:

[![](http://www.onemanandhisblog.com/Photo 8 Mar 2012 13:51.jpg)](http://www.onemanandhisblog.com/Photo 8 Mar 2012 13:51.jpg)
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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.