I don't believe that anyone could argue that 2022 has been an easy year!
Geopolitical upheaval has caused global uncertainty, economic down-turn, and as a consequence, rapidly rising prices for all. 2022 has ended with far less personal and fiscal optimism than when the year started.
The 2020/2021 COVID pandemic period provided a renaissance across nearly all book publishing markets. However, this year's rapid rise in oil and paper costs following Russia's invasion of Ukraine compounded print supply issues. Of course, prices were already rising during the pandemic due to the higher consumption of paper-based packaging products – as a result of the increase in home deliveries during the lockdowns.
Sadly, the book industry is not immune to these issues. Although revenues remained reasonably solid until the summer 2022 reporting quarter, rapidly rising production costs have eaten into operating margins for many major publishers.
Everyone from Michael Shatzkin to the major publishing boards around the globe will be peering anxiously into their crystal balls for 2023.
I think the first and obvious conclusion we can reach is that the major challenges of 2022 will continue in 2023.
The fallout from tougher operating pressures within the book industry will bring an increased focus on internal production costs, budgets and labour charges. We're already seeing a number of publishers "turning over every internal cost centre". We know this will be a particular concern for many of us across North America and Europe.
Publishers will be forced to examine every aspect of their business to find the best possible value for money as well as improving their overall efficiency. As a consequence, there will be greater interest and experimentation in business and workforce automation technologies. These technologies aim to both improve productivity and reduce operating costs, whilst reducing the time it takes for books and other digital products to reach the market.
Not a bad thing some might say. However, the publishing industry is conservative and change-averse – automation will bring concerns for many working in the industry.
Looking back into our crystal ball, we see that digital accessibility will be a major issue in the publishing industry, and is likely to remain so for several years.
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.
The accessibility drive will impact digital products such as eBooks and audiobooks, which need to be as good as they can be for the nearly 1 in 5 European and North American readers struggling with impaired sight and other 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, the time has come for publishers to fundamentally reconsider how accessible their digital content is.
From 2025, accessibility will be backed up by legislation in Europe, with penalties for non-compliance. This short timeframe must serve as a call to action for book publishers.
Michael Johnson, VP, Content for Benetech, stated "The future impact of the new EAA Legislation on book publishing as the biggest change in digital publishing since the standardisation of the EPUB format more than a decade ago". Michael went on to 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 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 the company has a lot to gain from supporting the drive.
Given that Amazon will need to comply with the EAA, publishers need to consider how long will it be before they insist that every new eBook meets the accessibility requirements. Will Amazon refuse to sell eBooks that don't comply with the new legislation?
Many large publishers have already considered that question, and during 2023, Easypress and Benetech, with others, will start to debate and address what publishers need to do to be ready for June 2025.
We'd be happy for your to share your views for 2023. Please contact me if you would like to discuss what's in store.
On behalf of Easypress, may I wish everybody in the book publishing industry a very successful and prosperous 2023. Good luck and all the best!
Try our print and digital publishing platform for free today.
Contact us and we will provide the best solution to suit your digital publishing needs.
Get all the latest blogs straight to your inbox!