James McQuivey’s most recent estimate on eBooks is not surprising. As he put it in his blog, “The punchline is this: 2010 will end with $966 million in eBooks sold to consumers. By 2015, the industry will have nearly tripled to almost $3 billion, a point at which the industry will be forever altered.” I’m excited, to say the least.
However, while these estimates are interesting guesses — and probably good ones! — I’m more interested in the backend implications for publishers, and really for books. One particularly pertinent, but rarely mentioned, impact of eBooks is that of information architecture. That is to say, how the images, words and design appears on the page.
Quite frankly, while eBooks give the reader a significant amount of control of the text size, font, etc., the reading experience “as it was intended” is being altered. The art of designing a book is being lost. I find myself reading eBooks which have large blank spots in pages, followed by awkward sized pictures. Page references that don’t make sense. For that matter, PAGES that don’t make sense.
There is an enormous opportunity for players in this space to pick up slack and design an auto sizing and formatting component to eBook design. Sadly, from what I’ve seen, I don’t see most publishers working on this solution. A few, but most of them seem to think that they have bigger fish to fry. But then there’s the question, if the publishers are not writing the books, not designing them, not digitally marketing them, not printing them, and not distributing them — what value are they actually creating?