The Coming Battle Of The e-Books

The Coming Battle Of The eBooks


Going by the title, you probably thought you might be stepping into a virtual version of ‘Game of Thrones.’ While the publishing industry is certainly not that violent or bloody, it is undoubtedly a cutthroat business with competitive players seeking dominance over the other.  The show loves to repeat the line “Winter is Coming.”  If that description really holds water, than the business of digital publishing might be in for a bumpy ride.

In the digital publishing arena, it is a well-known fact that Amazon dominates the eBooks industry. Amazon introduced the Kindle in 2007 and steadily dominated the industry. Amazon has not only conquered it but in 2018, they seek to be the ‘store of everything.’ Amazon has become the retail juggernaut of our age while investing in credit lending, auction houses, film producing, grocery chains, fashion designing and delivery and logistics, among other things. There was even a recent announcement that they were going to invest heavily in health care to bring its costs down in the United States by collaborating with Berkshire Hathaway and JP Morgan. However, this is getting off topic. According to a recent author earnings report, Amazon maintains an 83% share of the electronic-book market in the United States Amazon accounts for 83% of US ebook purchases – and the rest is almost entirely shared between the Apple iBookStore, Barnes & Noble, Kobo US and the GooglePlay Books.

This is probably why other companies are looking to take on Amazon and beat them at their own game. Apple is working on a redesigned version of its iBooks e-book reading application for iPhones and iPads and has hired an executive from Amazon to help. The new app will include a simpler interface that better highlights books currently being read and a redesigned digital bookstore. The revamped app in testing includes a new section called Reading Now and a dedicated tab for audio books. While Apple has failed in the past, they feel they can provide an alternative to Amazon.

Another retail giant is getting in on the action. Walmart is teaming up with e-reader maker Rakuten Kobo. Sometime later this year, Walmart will start selling eBooks, audiobooks and Kobo e-readers in the United States, looking to expand a market presence that has been limited to physical books, typically paperback bestsellers, along with a broader selection on line. Kobo, a big presence in markets like Canada and the Japan, sold about 1.25 million books in the U.S. last year.

However, one has to ask the question, where is this all going? How will this affect the market going forward? In the first eight months of 2017, eBook sales fell 5.3% while physical books edged up, according to the Association of American Publishers.  All of this leads one to believe that readers are possibly suffering from a form of digital fatigue. Similarly, these tech-giants are offering books in bundles, which have led to market discoverability but smaller profit margins. So, how do content providers and publishing service providers survive in this digital world?  Investing in areas of artificial intelligence and other future technologies will serve the industry long-term. That is the direction where service providers need to go. Machine learning, a branch of A.I., builds predictive models by studying patterns over a large training set. The larger the training set, the more accurate the prediction. A.I. can be useful in publishers’ content marketing strategy.

The future is in technology, in all its forms. The possibilities are endless. While humans have created AI, AI will not replace humans. It will drive us to be more creative and provide better innovative solutions than ever before.