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In 2013 we had more questions than answers

24 December 2013

'I remember writing at the end of 2012 that whatever else 2013 brings, the only thing we can all rely on is that we'll know a little bit more by the end of the year than we knew heading into it. Digital does not move in a digital way. The year asked more questions that we knew we had to answer.

There are constants. Readers still read, writers still write. Everything in-between these two poles is up for grabs, however. How readers will read, and the types of content they will want to read, are moveable items.

The transfer to e-readers suggested a relatively passive shift of content from one format to another, but with e-books sales growth tapering, what happens on tablets will dictate the types of books we need to produce. Where readers buy their content from seems more secure. Amazon continues to set the pace both in terms of online retail, and e-book sales. In 2013 we also learned what a relentless innovator it can be with multiple beta-launches, from Kindle Worlds to MatchBook. And yet even here, Amazon is not unassailable.

The biggest headache for the sector might not come from tangibles such as book formats, or retailer power, but the continuing struggle for the sector to show its worth, and the value of the structures that underpin these activities. We cannot overstate the importance of copyright in this respect, and the importance of keeping a check on the Open Access debate as it grows.

There is plenty working in the industry's favour. Despite the noise around digital, much hasn't changed, and where they've needed to adapt many of the traditional business we know and love have shown they can. But let's not get lulled into a false sense of privilege. If we spent, as I'd thought, much of 2013 waiting for others to answer the big questions for us, then we were wasting our time. In 2014 we should seek these answers out for ourselves.'

Philip Jones, Editor of the Bookseller, in Futurebook  (Apologies for quoting so fully from this, but it is an excellent summary of where we stand.)