Book Publishing - Challenges and Predictions for 2023

James Macfarlane and Michael Johnson

December 12, 2022




Written By
James Macfarlane and Michael Johnson

James and Michael are both 25 year veterans of the Book Publishing Industry

I don't believe that anyone could argue that 2022 hasn't been a very challenging year on any level for most of us!

Geopolitical upheaval has cause global uncertainty, economic down-turn, and as a consequence rapidly rising prices for all. The events facing many has directly contributed to 2022 ending with far-less personal and fiscal optimism than when 2022 started.

The 2020/2021 COVID pandemic period had seen a mini renascence across nearly all book publishing markets with an unexpected bounce particularly for print book publishers across the spectrum. However, this year's rapid rise in oil and paper costs surrounding Russia's invasion of Ukraine compounded print supply issues, which to be fair were already rising during the pandemic due to the higher consumption of paper based packaging products due to increased home deliveries during two years of pandemic lock-downs.

Sadly, the book publishing industry is not immune to these issues and we have started to see those pressures in the recently published business numbers being seen by publishers. Although publisher's revenues have remained reasonably solid until the summer 2022 reporting quarter, rapidly rising publishing costs have eaten into operating business margins for many major publishers.

Everyone from Michael Shatzkin, to the major publishing boards around the global will be peering into their crystal balls for 2023.

I think the first and obvious conclusion we can reach is that the major challenges for 2023, will see an extension of those issues from 2022.

The fallout from tougher operating pressures within the book industry will bring an increased focus on internal operating costs, budgets and labour charges. We're already see a number of publishers "turning over every internal cost centre" to examine and query all internal costs. We know that is will be a concern for many of us across publishing industry in North America and Europe.

Publishers will be forced to examine every aspect of their business operation to find the best possible value for money as well as improving efficiencies within their businesses. There will be an increased interest and experimentation in business and workforce automation. These technologies aim to both improve productivity and reduce operating costs, whilst reducing the time to market for books and other digital products.

No a bad thing some might say, however the publishing industry is very conservative and change averse, which will bring concerns for many working in the industry. Against a backdrop of global higher inflations and personal costs.

Looking back into our crystal ball, we see one of the major impacts on the Publishing Industry in the coming year and out into 2025 will be Accessibility for digitally published content.

From June 2025, the European Accessibility Act (EAA) comes into force for all publishers in Europe selling more than €2m of digital products per year.

Accessibility is the practice of making digital information, activities and content meaningful, and usable for as many people as possible. Particularly those with disabilities.

For book publishing, Accessibility impacts digital products such as eBooks and Audio Books to ensure that those digital products are as good as they can be for the nearly 1 in 5 European and North American readers struggling with impaired sight and associated reading disabilities.

Accessibility to digital reading material represents a major technical and content challenge to eBook publishers. Although eReaders have dramatically improved since the early days of iPads and Kindles to name but two the time has come to fundamentally reconsider how accessible is the content in your eBooks and how fit-for-purpose it is to readers of eBooks who have impaired sight.

The fact that from 2025 that challenge on accessibility will be backed up by legislation in Europe and potentially fine for non-compliance needs to be a RED FLAG for all eBook publishers. Considering the timeframe to legislation for all those publishers who are unprepared this will be a "Yikes" moment for many book publishers.

Michael Johnson VP Content for Benetech stated "The future impact of the new EAA Legislation on the Book Publishing as the biggest change in digital publishing since the standardisation on the EPUB format more than a decade ago", Michael went on the comment "For those book publishers that don't embrace Accessibility this will be the biggest missed revenue opportunity and threat they've faced in years".

With more than 12m eBooks estimated on Amazon, plus >1m new eBooks being added each year improved Accessibility will only deepen access to digital content and increase the number of eBook consumers across the English speaking world. In 2022, Amazon eBook revenues were over $0.5bn which means that Amazon has a lot to gain from supporting Accessibility to increase their market share.

If that becomes a benchmark for Amazon against the backdrop of increased legislation, Publishers need to consider the question "How long will it be before Amazon insist that every new eBook meets the EAA Accessibility requirements?" Will Amazon refuse to sell Kindle eBooks which don't meet the EAA Requirements on Accessibility?

For some very large Publishers that is already a Question considered, and Answered!

During 2023, Easypress and Benetech, with others will start to debate and address what you the Publishers of eBooks need to consider and act on to be EAA Ready for June 2025.

Accessibility and Accessibility improvements will be a topic we shall return to in the next period.

We'd be happy for your to share your views for 2023, please contact me I'd welcome you having your say on 2023?

On behalf of Easypress, may I wish you and your book publishing industry a very successful and prosperous 2023. Good luck and all the best!


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