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2020 Visions: 13 Guesses About the Future of Writing and Publishing


  1. Ebooks are the dominant worldwide platform for books. Updating ebooks and integrating all media into them is easy. Readers judge authors by their ability to tell a story so compellingly that awareness of medium and technique disappears.
  2. Foreign book sales are greater than domestic sales. Fifteen billion Web-enabled devices, most mobile, give everyone access to a global village square that is the center of culture. This empowers a worldwide community of writers and publishers that unleashes an accelerating explosion of communication, creativity, collaboration and commerce.
  3. The human family uses smartphones with expandable screens for interactive information and entertainment as well as communication, so books will have apps.
  4. People remember what they read in print more than what they read on screens. Sustainably produced books with enduring value, more beautiful than ever, continue to provide the physical and literary pleasures only they can. In a machine-made, high-tech but visual culture, books are more needed and treasured than ever.
  5. The big conglomerates are fewer and smaller. They publish more of their authors’ work than just books, and thrive by empowering their writers and devoting themselves to what they can do best: editing, design, and marketing.
  6. The distinction between traditional publishing and self-publishing is gone. Writers have a greater range of options than ever, and they choose the right ones for each project.
  7. Traditional and self-publishers have disrupted Amazon with a nonprofit, cooperative, online bookstore on which they list books and fulfill orders.
  8. The disruption of superstores inspired the American Booksellers Association of Booksellers and the American Association of Publishers to collaborate on creating the biggest book chain: a community of 3,500—to 4,000 square-foot independent stores that thrive because:

    * They use the business model that works in their communities, including being co-ops, a combination of businesses, and community-supported nonprofits like other cultural institutions.

    * They have Espresso Book Machines. All books are formatted so they can be printed on EBMs that print a book with illustrations in a minute. Booksellers never run out of books, and EBMs solve the problem of returns so writers receive royalties monthly.

    * They are community centers and a respite from staring at screens. They respond to their community’s needs and tastes, provide events and classes, and are meeting places for reading and writing groups and community organizations.

    * Readers buy local, because 68 cents of every dollar spent in a chain store leaves the community; with indies, only 43 cents leaves the community.
  9. New writers self-publish, and build their platform and community of fans until they’re successful enough or have proven their potential, and agents and publishers find them.
  10. Successful writers are the most powerful people in publishing. They are CEOs of one-person, multimedia, multinational conglomerates--contentpreneurs who use craft, creativity, innovation and social media to create and sell their work, and who crowdsource their needs by serving a worldwide community of fans and collaborators.
  11. Writers and publishers surf the swelling tsunami of content by with their brand: they maximize their discoverability by integrating their content and communications to build their brand.
  12. Agents are mentors and collaborators who help clients maximize their creativity, visibility and income.
  13. Fifty billion sensors are integrated into a global neural network that increases productivity and lessens the need to work while a sharing economy helps liberate writers and publishers to pursue their goals.