Greetings. This week's American Bookseller's Association "Expo" in New York City showed an industry in the midst of a major transition. Changes in the nature of books and bookstores, along with changes in technology and what constitutes an actual "book," are fundamentally altering the business our buddy Gutenberg created back in the 1400's when he invented movable type printing. To say that these changes are profound would be a dramatic understatement as books morph into a variety of digital forms that can be read and listened to. And as the places to buy books morph as well with independent booksellers struggling to survive in the face of competition from the big bookstore chains, Amazon.com and other on-line stores, book publishers' websites, and even big box retailers.
Then add to the mix changing consumer needs and desires. Armed with so many choices about what to read and how to get it, they are also changing their habits–reading fewer books from start to finish and opting to get ideas, inspiration, and content from an ever-widening set of sources. All calling into question the very nature of the book experience.
I must admit that I still have a real fondness for buying a physical book, throwing it in my suitcase or briefcase, then taking it out to read while on a train, plane, or upon arriving at my destination. I like the look and feel of a real book, the sense of its substance, the chance to turn real pages, and the ability to easily go back and forth in search of particular pages, ideas, and sections. But I'm also getting more comfortable with the reality of e-readers and their versatility in letting consumers take a lot of books and content with them in an easy to carry package. And I also enjoy listening to e-books and sometimes reading no more than an article or blog post without having to make the commitment to buy and read an entire book.
For those of us who are authors and readers, this dramatic transition is filled with challenges and opportunities. How will things shake out? Will there continue to be a market for our writing and ideas in book form? Or will we also have to morph in a new direction…that could eventually earn us many more readers (or in Twitter terms "followers")? So this year's book show provides an intriguing test of the promise of change and innovation. And it's an issue that all of us who create and consume content will be an important part of. But it's also an issue that all of our companies and organizations will need to address as we reinvent the future of our own industries. Industries that will be recast by those with a new understanding of customers, needs, and the power of technology.
We win in business and in life when we create and embrace dramatic change. And when we consistently provide products, solutions, and content that really matter to those we serve.
Cheers and happy reading in whatever form it takes!