Publishing News: Consumers say the future of storytelling is all about interaction

How audiences want to experience stories, B&N's price of admission, and ebook bumping.

Here are a few stories that caught my attention in the publishing space this week.

Audiences want to be part of the story

Martin Bryant at The Next Web took a look this week at the first phase of research company Latitude’s new project, The Future of Storytelling. The group interviewed 158 pioneers in the media space to find out just how audiences want to experience stories in the future. Bryant reports that respondents’ “key demands are summarized in Latitude’s report as ‘The 4 I’s’: Immersion, Interactivity, Integration and Impact.”

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Significant data from the study includes consumer desire to have an effect on story direction (think soap operas or serial TV dramas and deciding what happens to a character, for instance); to have stories told on multiple platforms and to cross over platforms; and to actually participate in the story in the real world. One respondent is quoted in the study report (PDF):

“I’d love to be a part of a real-world game, whereby, citywide, everyone is reading the same book. We are told a date by when we should have read to a certain point in the book; for example, we’d be told to read to the first ball held at the Wilkes’ plantation. Players would have received a formal invitation to the ball along with costume suggestions. Then the players would get to engage with that real-world party as the action from the actual story plays out. Not only would the players buy the book — they would pay for each experience with which they’d like to participate.”

The report also stresses that when designing content to shift from one device to the next — pausing a Netflix movie on a tablet and continuing it on a phone, for instance — creators need to enhance the experience across platforms, not just duplicate it, by “by leveraging each environment’s strengths (think: interactivity on tablets).”

The full report is well worth the read (PDF) — the study results can be applied to the book publishing industry as readily as they are to the media space.

B&N’s price of admission may be too high

Barnes & Noble released its 2013 Q1 earnings this week, and though losses were better than expected, Nook news was on the dismal side. As Laura Hazard Owen reports at PaidContent, “Nook sales were flat, despite the launch of the Nook Tablet and front-lit Nook e-reader during the year.”

Joe Arico at Mobiledia says the device battle is one that B&N can’t afford to lose, pointing out that “e-readers and tablets are not just a way to generate revenue; they’re the retail stores of the future.” He writes that B&N should look at customers who purchase Kindles or other non-Nook ereading devices as customers they’ll never get back, given that a commitment to a device is also a commitment to the device’s bookstore — Amazon, Apple iBooks, Google Play, etc. The solution, Arico says, lies in B&N’s Nook pricing strategy going forward:

“Barnes & Noble should strongly consider slashing the price of Nook devices dramatically and taking a loss to steal customers away from Amazon and Google. The results of high Nook sales won’t show up in the company’s bottom line in this quarter or the next, but it will pay dividends down the line … A customer who purchases an e-reader is paying for admission into a store they may never leave … [B&N] can only recover by making its price of admission cheaper than competitors.”

In related news, O’Reilly GM and publisher Joe Wikert fashioned a solution for B&N as well: the Nook Membership Program.

Ebook lending becomes ebook bumping?

Jeff Bercovici at Forbes took a look this week at the ebook lending problem. He notes that nobody likes the current lending system: customers don’t like the excessive restrictions, and publishers and authors don’t like readers being able to lend books to people they’ve never met (something they couldn’t do with physical books). Bercovici writes: “Digital swap-meets like Lendle and LendInk match up supply and demand, making it possible to go ‘shopping’ for a certain title to borrow. That’s just the sort of focused intent that might otherwise lead to a sale.”

But Bercovici has a working solution to the problem. To make consumers happy, he proposes:

“Every e-book sold would exist as a single, fully transferable copy. If I lend you a book, it’s yours until you give it back to me, or until you give it to someone else. You can sell it, too.”

To appease the publishers and authors, he adds this caveat:

“You can only lend an e-book the way you lend a physical book — in person. A loan would be effected by ‘bumping’ your Kindle, Nook, iPad, iPhone, or whatever device you use against that of the person you’re giving it to.”

The technology to do this already exists, but Bercovici acknowledges one of the the biggest problems in the solution is that it will require an ebook format that will work on all devices. Weighing in, Small Demons’ VP of content and community Richard Nash, said for the post: “It’s not a complete solution, [b]ut it’s a nice addition to the armory of tools that we have.”

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