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Five Digital Publishing Predictions for 2014

As the calendar year comes to a close, many pundits have turned to prognostication and published lists of predictions for 2014. Here’s my list:

  1. Some things will change. Some things won’t change.
  2. New fads will replace old fads.
  3. One in four of 2013’s rumors will turn out to be true, while the rest will be forgotten.
  4. 10% of the rumors which first circulated in 2012 will come true. The rest have already been forgotten.
  5. Everything that happens in 2014 will become 2015 predictions.  (h\t to @willentrekin)

Snarkyness aside, I can’t actually make many predictions that wouldn’t be obvious as soon as I wrote them down. (Mark Coker, on the other hand, did a fairly good job on identifying how current trends will be reinforced.)

Here are the three of my predictions that I think are worth repeating:

One: Amazon will announce a program, buy a startup, or launch a product that will surprise everyone at the time but will be an obvious expansion on what they have done before.

Sunday deliveries, buying Goodreads, and Kindle Matchbook all could have been predicted had someone phrased the right question. Launch a smartphone / set-top-box? This will almost certainly happen; it makes too much sense for Amazon not to follow through.

My (un)surprising prediction for Amazon for 2014 is that they will buy an indie ebookstore/platform. I don’t know the name, but this store will probably outsell Amazon in certain markets or with certain types of content. The company will be acqui-hired less for its market share and more for its technical skills. (This prediction is not a surprise because I already made a similar prediction months ago.)

My other (un)surprising prediction is that Amazon will buy a startup that is working on clear solar panels (if they don’t already own one). Again, this prediction should not come as a surprise. Amazon will want to put the panel on a Kindle’s screen, but the tech will probably have too many engineering issues.

Two: The hot buzz word for 2014 will be the global ebook market.

Lots of people spent the last 6 months of 2013 pointing at the AAP statistics and bemoaning the flattening ebook market.  Starting some time in May or June 2014, those same folks are finally going to notice that the ebook markets in much of the world are actually on the rise.  You can expect to read a lot of buzzworthy stories about how this market or that market is the next great opportunity. DBW 2015 will focus an entire track on international expansion.

Three: The US ebook market will also increase in terms of dollar value, unit sales, and market share.

This is a pretty safe bet to make; the US ebook market was down in 2013 in part because of the 2012 market bubble and because of increased price competition from the majors. Christmas gadget sales and new lower prices for big name titles will combine to boost the US ebook market above the reported AAP figures for 2013.

Will the US ebook market in 2014 match the high point reached in 2012? Maybe, but probably not unless there is a surprise blockbuster hit. The next Hunger Games movie isn’t due out until November 2014, and while it will have a positive effect the sales bump won’t be quite as large as when the first movie was released in 2012.


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Jamie December 31, 2013 um 6:31 am

If Amazon want to launch a successful phone they are going to need a design ethic they don’t currently have (no Kindle or Kindle Fire is what you would call a truly desirable object in it’s own right). I think they will, or should, buy HTC – who certainly do have that ethic. They also have a trusted brand in smartphones that they can leverage. HTC just need to escape all the press coverage saying they are slowly going down the pan, as that puts doubt in consumer’s minds and makes them buy Samsung. Amazon investment could solve that.

But to make that a success, Amazon need to give up on this idea that people automatically spend more from a smartphone or tablet than then do from a computer, and that this is what they really want to be doing – so hey lets just make the whole device for shopping! It’s much more nuanced than that. People need a device that helps them with their lives, and only one small part of that is shopping.

On a wider point, Wall Street needs to stop propping up an online retailer that’s made a loss 19 years in a row but charging unprofitably low prices. Anyone can run a loss-making business. But that’s another story.

Greg Strandberg December 31, 2013 um 6:56 am

I got paid from 6 Amazon retailers this month and I want to make that more next year. I also want those earnings to be steady now that the cap is removed and I want to see them gain. I want month-long brown lines for obscure countries to be a thing of the past. I sure hope new ways are discovered to market and sell eBooks in other countries, and that people write about it.

Nate Hoffelder December 31, 2013 um 7:42 am

And here’s another off the wall prediction:

If Amazon opens a retail store: they won’t own it. Instead it will be a franchise or affiliate operation with someone else putting in the capital.

Jussi Keinonen December 31, 2013 um 8:52 am

"acqui-hired" Good word play.

Your fourth prediction, in the comments, looks interesting. Digital sales will still need "physical showrooms".

Paul December 31, 2013 um 9:56 am

and no prediction for Barnes and Noble? 🙂

Nate Hoffelder December 31, 2013 um 10:12 am

B&N’s next several steps are pretty obvious, and have been obvious for the past 18 months. But will they take that next step or will they continue to sit on their but? Your guess is as good as mine.

Paul December 31, 2013 um 10:18 am

If you had a "like" button I would "like" that comment

Nate Hoffelder December 31, 2013 um 10:43 am


BTW, one prediction I could have made is that B&N will come out of the current holiday season in better shape than last year. But I think we already knew that from the lack of an SEC filing.

William Ockham December 31, 2013 um 11:14 am

Not exactly a prediction, but Amazon is planning on "extending Amazon’s value proposition (price, selection, and convenience) from e-commerce to commerce in general. "

They "are building products and services which will delight billions of customers as they buy and sell things in the real world (as opposed to online). "

Those are quotes from a job description on Amazon’s site right now. The hiring manager is ex-Microsoftie Charlie Kindel (with that name working for Amazon was inevitable). You can read the job description here:

Nate Hoffelder December 31, 2013 um 11:31 am

This came up on The Passive Voice:

I have to agree with the commenter who thought this was probably app related, not retail.

William Ockham December 31, 2013 um 11:57 am

Yeah, I tipped it over there too. It’s definitely app related. They have a very credible project lead, 9 current job openings (some in Seattle, some in San Francisco), and a global goal (billions of customers). It’s clearly related to payments processing, but what are they doing? I think this is one of those "swing for the fences" projects that Bezos is fond of.

Publerati December 31, 2013 um 11:56 am

One of the more interesting embarrassments in smartphone development were the first two Garmin attempts (made with Acer), released in 2007 or 2008. The NY Times wrote: "Had this been released in 1999 it would have been only a minor embarrassment…" or something to that effect. I would think that getting into the smartphone biz is the hardest strategic decision for Amazon to make. They are mightier than Garmin, but the Garmin lesson is worth paying attention to. (Garmin focused too much on navigation with their phone and missed some obvious smartphone essentials.)

Nate Hoffelder December 31, 2013 um 12:34 pm


Amazon’s first tablet was a stinker, and that’s not a mistake they can repeat with a smartphone.

Robert Nagle December 31, 2013 um 2:22 pm

Here’s my prediction: Amazon will take significant market share in the US from Netflix streaming, with the result that Prime memberships will increase. Amazon offers not only a catalog of free streaming titles, but also sells instant videos — something Netflix hasn’t tried to do. This will increase Amazon’s market power in all fields. This affects publishing and ebooks only indirectly, but the strategy of a basic all-you-can-eat product plus a la carte items for sale seems to be a winning one…

flyingtoastr December 31, 2013 um 3:36 pm

My hunch: Amazon’s bubble is going to pop.

My personal bet is that if Amazon launches a smartphone it will flop – since they can’t compete on the only thing they do well with in the US (prices) – and the massive losses such a failure would result in an evaporation of their stock price. But it could be something else – look at the blowback on the stock when it was revealed that Amazon’s order fulfillment is starting to be throttled by UPS’s capacity. Or maybe Congress gets their act together and pushes through national internet sales taxation.

Doesn’t matter how, but eventually that 1400 P/E ratio is going to come crashing down, and given how little COH and FCF Amazon has, the drastically reduced ability to fund their operations with stock sales would have wide-reaching implications in their expansion.

Last Day of 2013 Roundup (Part 1): Killing a Writing Career, Or Not, Apple Feuds (Again) With Monitor | Teleread August 24, 2015 um 5:38 am

[…] Five Digital Publishing Predictions for 2014 (The Digital Reader) As the calendar year comes to a close, many pundits have turned to prognostication and published lists of predictions for 2014. *** […]

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