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What was the most important thing you learned about digital and books in 2010?

As is natural going into a new year, I did a little reflection on 2010, the year that was. And it was really such an extraordinary year.

For me, 2010 was the year my role as CEO and Publisher became mostly about planning the digital future.

In fact, 2010 was the year in which we all started to pay a lot more attention to digital. And there was news – often the lead stories - every day about digital developments. Who would have predicted that the book (and particularly ebooks) would be so central to the development of the web?

So I started to think about what was the biggest thing that I learned this year, what really changed in my thinking, and I think it was this:

We are entering a new age of what a publisher can be and what a publisher can do. It is (I believe) a new era of creative partnership in which a publisher may look a lot more like a film director for any individual project; an era in which the boundaries on what we can create with our authors and our digital partners is limited only by our imagination, vision and understanding of the needs of our customers.

It is both exhilarating and frankly terrifying.

And I believe this: There has never been more opportunity for books than there is today. We may be surprised to experience an explosion in readership. While some will read less (yes, distraction really is a problem), the very fact of making books so much more readily accessible will, I believe, significantly increase the number of books bought or read because so many more people will be easily able to buy books. Providing easy and relatively inexpensive access might actually create more book readers. Wouldn’t that be amazing!

I think we will look back on 2010 as the year when everything changed for our industry. It will be historic, it will be a year that we talk about and remember: we lived through it, we did this, we were part of this...we were part of the transformation of the book.

We are each grappling with a rapidly changing world -- facing challenges for which there was no training and that none of us could be fully prepared for. The entire book infrastructure is being re-conceptualized and rebuilt. The possibilities for us all -- everyone in the supply chain that runs from author to reader -- are enormous and at times overwhelming. And the thing that made me happiest this year was watching my friends, peers, customers and company step up and take it on. 2010 saw real progress on behalf of authors and readers made by so many (and yes, there’s always more to do). And as we go into another transformative year, we should celebrate the progress, the successes and even the failures of 2010.

So that's what really struck me about 2010 (and I guess it’s more than one thing).

What stood out for you? I thought we could compile into a list: #whatilearned2010. Feel free to post and tweet. Just send me links or post in comments below. I'll try to pull all the responses together into a single area so everybody can see them.

2011 promises to be extraordinary as well, the kind of experience and opportunity that will only happen once in our lifetime.

Happy New Year!


@draccah on Twitter


+2 # Sarah Miller 2010-12-28 18:00
I learned that liking digital books doesn't detract from my love for print books. That's something I might not have said a year ago.
-2 # Peter Turner 2010-12-29 11:15
Well, I think that 2010 marked the year when it be became clear that the existing structure of publisher-retailer-customer is bound to get reinvented. I've never heard so many publishing folks talk about the value of creating customer relationships--but to date very little has been done to tackle the problem of gather customers in the digital space. Related to this, is the realization that never before has publisher brand mattered more, and I don't mean "Random House"--I mean Chelsea-Greeen, Shambhala, North Atlantic Books, Tauton, SourceBooks, and the like.
+2 # Tom Woll 2010-12-29 16:06
Dom, I totally agree with your assessment. As we all get over the raw newness of the digital frontier and come to grips with it, as we now are, the business possibilities are endless, the audience infinite. The "publisher as director" analogy is apt, as we'll all be juggling content in every conceivable format and container, trying to get the clearest shot, the most revenue and the greatest profit. Publishers have always been among the most creative and visionary people. Forget timidity now. Lights! Cameras! Action! Happy New Year back at you.
+2 # Deborah Schneider 2010-12-30 15:05
I actually could see the ebook evolving, and nearly 10 years ago I attended a presentation by a Microsoft employee who showed us (Library staff) a prototype for an eReader. He said something very interesting. "In 10 years do you think we'll still be cutting down trees to make books?" It's taking a bit longer, but we will get there. Digital, audio and physical books will live long and prosper.

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