Why do publishers innovate so slowly?

Polare the large book chain temporarily closes its doors to secure its future. Other bookstores and publishers are also struggling, while E-Reading hardly gets off the ground.


Barely 2% of all titles are available for E-Readers. Many of these titles are also easily available for free. Collaboration between publishers is slow and the application and further development of DRM [digital right management] is slow. There are too many backdoors in the system that allow malicious parties to easily bypass security.

Many publishers indicate that they have a gloomy view of the future of the printed book. Curiously enough, they mainly point to the competition. A typical phenomenon for an industry is unable to deal with the disruption caused by the digitization of the world.


One of the problems is that publishers don’t really know who their end customers are. They are only aware of their middlemen, the bookshop. Digitization in particular offers plenty of opportunities to get to know the end customer, making customization possible. Some organizations such as Reed Business are working on this, but traditional book publishers are hopelessly behind. The publishers have learned little from the hard lessons of the music industry, which itself also struggles with the new reality.


The enormous diversity of [social] media channels offers excellent opportunities to bind publisher, writer and end customer. Social media is not a threat to publishers, but a unique opportunity. Social media are not so much concerned with creating knowledge and news, but with spreading it. It is therefore a business model problem and not a lack of interest from end customers for knowledge, books and all kinds of news.

There are plenty of examples that show that paid news distribution and information sharing can indeed be successful. The Correspondent, recently established, appears to be successful. Het Financieel Dagblad has found a beautiful niche.


The publishing world only survives if it accepts that the rules have been changed permanently. Major media empires have probably had their longest time. The digital world offers smaller players to break open certain market segments. [Correspondent – FD]

Organizations should investigate all possibilities and stimulate innovation. Not only a link with social media, but also with developers of E-Readers, tablets, smartphones. This includes improving reading quality, developing apps, security such as an improved DRM.

Publishers must get to know their end customers and give them the opportunity to participate in the creation process. They should give more the possibility of content sharing. Young people do nothing but sharing. If the end customer contributes to content, it is more willing to share and even pay.
Diversification or niche search can be a successful strategy. Specific economic news, a specific genre in which authors interact with the reading public.

Fight the biggest enemy, your own organization. Publishers have competed for decades, but will now have to work together. Jointly develop business models, agree on content sharing platforms. Whatever the choice the publishers make, they have to hurry up because the world doesn’t wait.