The Year Ahead: 2013

The Year Ahead: 2013

This is my annual post where I look ahead to the next year. I’ll make some predictions, but I’ll warn you ahead of time…I don’t always get things right. ;) I do think I’m getting better at it, although there are always some surprises.

First, let’s take a look at what I predicted for 2012.

I had two categories: predictions and speculation.

Here were my predictions for 2012:

More than one new Kindle Fire

Status: hit

I got several elements of this correct, which is nice. :) I thought that they would bring out a 3G/4G model (I only said 3G, but close enough) of the Kindle Fire, and that they might partner with AT&T for a data plan. I thought a more fully-featured 7″ would be more expensive, and I was wrong there, but I was right about a camera (although I said “cameras”) and GPS. I thought we might see more than one larger screen Kindle Fire, and we did. I wasn’t completely right, but I did pretty well.

Continued support for Reflective Screen hardware…and a wi-fi large screen

Status: mixed

They did continue to support reflective screen hardware, and both Barnes & Noble and Amazon introduced frontlit models. They did not, though, introduce a larger wi-fi reflective screen device (replacing the DX) as I thought they might.

Current TV through Prime

Status: miss

I thought we might get current TV shows within a day or two of their broadcast through the Prime “no additional cost” video, and we didn’t. We can watch current TV as it is on using US TV Free, but that’s not the same thing.

Barnes & Noble hardware does well, Kobo doesn’t, mini iPad

Status: mixed

I got the description of the mini iPad pretty well (“…I think Apple will likely come out with a “mini” (or micro or nano  or whatever) iPad that competes more directly with the Fire. I would guess it would still cost more money, but be cheaper than the current generation.”), but I think I underestimated Kobo and overestimated the NOOK line. We’ll get a better idea on that when we see the fourth quarter and annual numbers.

Voice command

Status: miss

I can’t voice control my Kindle Fire, unfortunately. Oh, there are a couple of apps with voice recognition, but this didn’t happen in the way I thought it might.

For my speculation category, which I considered to be on less solid ground, I’d actually say I did better than on the predictions.

Governments make more public domain titles available

Status: unknown

I haven’t really looked at this carefully enough to evaluate it.

E-book sales growth rate eases

Status: hit

What we are hearing is that the growth rate slowed down…it was still huge, which is what I suggested, but slower than it had been.

Control over what is on each Kindle

Status: hit

Kindle FreeTime did pretty much exactly what I thought might happen. Even though that is only on the Kindle Fire line, that’s still a hit in my book.

Color reflective screens

Status: miss

These are not yet in the commercial market, and it may be that they are missing the window, but we’ll see. If a color screen reflective device was cheap enough, it might push out grayscale ones.

Kindles get better social features

Status: miss

We still don’t have something like “your friends like”…I do think this has to happen with Amazon, but it didn’t last year.

Challengers to traditional publishing

Status: hit

I mentioned Amazon’s moves into traditional publishing as part of this, and though bookstore boycotts affected it, the success is clearly there.

Blended media and synergistic marketing

Status: miss

I thought Kindle Fire usable books would get integrated audio and video…and Whispersync for Voice isn’t exactly what I was suggesting (although I suppose that’s in the same category).

Legal battles

Status: mixed

I was too broad on this. I was pretty good with the Agency Model, but I thought we might also get equal collection legislation (a nationwide sales tax policy), and we didn’t. Also, the Google settlement is still dragging on..

Advertising on the Kindle Fire

Status: hit

Yes, they got advertising and I described it as an opt in/opt out situation, and that was pretty close. It didn’t initially lower the price (and that matches what I said), because there was no option to get a Fire without it at first.

Amazon phone

Status: undetermined

I was just sort of floating the idea, and didn’t really make a prediction.

Now on to

2013 Predictions and Speculation (I’m combining the two)

Resolution of the Agency Model in the USA

I think we’ll see Macmillan and Apple settle with the Department of Justice. If they don’t, the court case could drag on past 2013, but I think that’s less likely.

Another major merger announced

My guess is that the Random Penguin (I can’t resist calling it that) merger is approved. That would leave, among the US Big Six: Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, and Hachette. I think Macmillan and either Simon & Schuster or HarperCollins bring the most diversity, but Joe Sargent (the Macmillan CEO) is a stubborn person who might not want to make it happen. Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins would be a real powerhouse…but I do see Macmillan in the mix somehow. I’ll say…Macmillan and Simon & Schuster as most likely. If that happened, would the other two also team up? Could be…and there could certainly be other media/tech companies in the mix. I could even, by the way, see NOOK/Kobo talks getting in the news.

Nothing really groundbreaking in hardware

I’m scared about this one! I think this is a consolidation year. I wouldn’t see a large screen wi-fi or a front-facing camera on a Kindle Fire as ground-breaking. This year, we had the frontlit reflective screens, and that’s truly significant. I’m just not picturing something like that. More features, prices coming down, yes. I think we may see a move towards wat I now dub the “phablet”, (which might get simplified to “fablet”). That’s something with a larger than regular cellphone screen, but it makes calls. We already see some advertising around that with the Samsung Galaxy Note. I can make and receive phone calls on my Kindle Fire using Magic Jack and Skype, but I think that’s just the beginning. In the future, I’d see us getting reflective screen cellphones, flexible displays (wrap a cellphone around your wrist, unfold a phone into a bigger display), eye and gesture tracking (so you can do things without touching a screen), and wireless transmission of power to our devices, but none of those market ready in 2013.

More well-known publications going digital only

I think we definitely see that this coming year…the kind of things that make the news.

Author cooperatives

As US copyright begins returning rights to authors for books published in 1978, I think we may see brand name authors getting together to form a company, sort of like the old United Artists or Dreamworks. Pottermore has to suggest that controlling distribution could work, and if you got, say, Stephen King, Anne Rice, and John Grisham together, they could certainly lure (and pay) top notch editors. I think readers would go for that, too. If you don’t need book factories, as you did in the days of paper, this gets much easier. It would allow the authors to bring over their editors, and I think that may be where the real loyalty lies (as opposed to loyalty really being with the publisher, especially as the heads of the publishing companies change).

Direct distribution from publishers

They have got to be looking at this. The periodical publishers talked about it, but I think social media has grown in a way that makes it more possible for book publishers. People will buy a book from a tweet, and that’s a way to get the distribution you need without a storefront.

Book production services

I think Amazon could do very well with software and services to help fledgling writers. Pay a fee, get editing, proofreading, cover design, that sort of thing. I think other people will do it, too, but I think Amazon could seriously get into this business. Maybe require that Amazon gets a “first look” for a one year exclusive. Exclusive content will continue to be important to Amazon, and they’ve promoted that a lot with KDP Select.

Social structures from Amazon

I’m going to keep saying this until it happens. ;) They need to set up some way for us to join groups and see reviews and reading habits from those groups. Those could be friends/family/coworkers, or could be famous people.

Account management improvement

Kindle FreeTime and Whispercast clearly are a move in this direction. I think  we will see more ways to send a book to more devices, and to limit content on different devices, on the same account. This has to move past the concept of “parental control”.

Subscription “all you can eat plans”

Kindle FreeTime Unlimited could be a test case for this, as was the limited test of Prime on a monthly basis. I don’t strongly think this will happen, but I think it may be an alternative that attracts some segments (a “romance” or  “science fiction” plan, for example).

Well, there you go. I’m not all that confident about these, but we’ll see. As always, I predict there will be things I haven’t predicted. :)

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

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6 Responses to “The Year Ahead: 2013”

  1. Morgan Says:

    I’m baffled that the kindle isn’t integrated with Shelfari. that would provide the social structure you mention, reduce our dual entry (when i rate and tweet a book that should link directly to my Shelfari account!), and just be awesome.Amazon bought it so, again, I’m baffled as to why this hasn’t occurred yet. any thoughts?

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Morgan!

      Well, that actually should be “isn’t more integrated with Shelfari”. You can get to the “book extras from Shelfari in some places, and work with them. X-ray actually takes you to Shelfari. X-ray is available on the Kindle Paperwhite, Kindle Touch, Kindle Fire 2nd Generation, Kindle Fire HD 7″, and Kindle Fire HD 8.9″. You can also (through several steps) typically get to them from a book to the book description to the Amazon product page.

      That said, I absolutely agree with you. :) It should be far more integrated than it is. You can import your Amazon books into Shelfari, but it should be more.

      Amazon doesn’t tend to massively transform their acquisitions, at least as far as users can see. I doubt that all that many people who use IMDb.com (which I do often) even think of it as an Amazon company. I wonder if they don’t make agreements in the process to allow them to be run largely as they have been. Eventually, things do change, and it has been over four years in the case of Shelfari. Shelfari does say, “Shelfari by Amazon.com” at the top.

      The other thing that occurs to me is that they may want to develop something else…I don’t know how much the Kindle gains by association with Shelfari. I think the Kindle brand is much bigger in public awareness, so it could be that they’d rather brand a Kindle social networking element (even if that meant renaming Shelfari…if that’s allowed in the agreement). Maybe when they hit a five-year mark, they’ll have more flexibility?

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