While 2011 shouted challenges of the digital “Wild West,” 2012 was a year where players tackled new issues in the digital frontier, along with figuring out exactly what role publishers would – and should — take moving forward. In many ways, 2012 can be considered a year where relationships became key: from the big merger possibilities involving four of the Big 6 to the more explicitly adversarial relationship between publishers/independent booksellers and Amazon; from experimental partnerships between startups and publishers to delicate discussions between publishers and libraries. Publishers have taken a lot of flak over the past year with the DOJ suit, along with criticisms from self-published authors with even more fragmented ebook ecosystems than before. Still, come the end of the year, the exceptional success with Fifty Shades of Grey, even though E.L. James’s phenomenon had self-publishing roots, proves that book properties can and will prevail across all platforms.
So while the year ahead holds much possibility, the challenges posed by years past and worked through in 2012 will continue to affect the publishing industry. Whether it’s traditional print book distribution such as Don Linn oversees at University of Chicago Press Distribution, the digital-only side represented by Larry Norton at INscribe Digital, or a story of convergence of different companies and models described by Brendan Cahill of NatureShare, the challenge of how best to get books into the hands of readers is central for all.
Below, we’ve posted trendspotting pieces from each of these executives describing what we’ve accomplished in 2012 and what 2013 has in store. Whether reflecting on the past or trying to pin down the future, their evaluation of where we currently stand is markedly similar: the foundation has been laid, but the great work has just begun.