Amazon Kindle: what can it teach B2B marketers?
I was intrigued by a snippet of news this morning which stated that, for the first time, a significant book release had sold more in ebook than in print. HarperCollins announced that "I'd Know You Anywhere" by Laura Lippman has sold 4,739 ebooks, but just 4,000 in the print edition.
All very interesting, but what does this mean? Has the moment really arrived? Are we at the beginning of the end for paper-based publishing?
Before publishers start to sell off their printing presses, I think we should note that this is more a sign of growing consumer sophistication than it is proof of the 'superiority' of one medium. What I mean is, the world is never going to go completely ebook; it is just another form of information delivery that, in some cases, happens to suit some people, in this case a majority. Let's not get too excited about it.
This is relevant to us in the B2B marketing world because we are all publishers these days. Some of us do it because it is our core business [thank you B2B Marketing], some of us do it because we feel we can strengthen our relationships with our customers and, of course, the online publishing phenomenon has made it cheap and easy.
But the way we choose to publish information depends on how we think it will be consumed. Blogs and emails are read online. Video-based information, of course, can only be consumed direct from the online device. And no one is ever going to print out a tweet before reading it.
But when we move onto longer forms of communication – I'm talking whitepapers, brochures, annual reports, research documents and the like – there will always be a proportion of people who prefer to read it in print. There are benefits of legibility, portability and disposability that the on-screen equivalent cannot match – until Kindles come down to $5 that is. And even then, in the same way the tech community rushed to embrace e-readers before the technology became properly usable, there will be business people who still just prefer it in print. The numbers of print readers to online readers will vary, but it will reach a point of balance and pretty much stay there.
We are not moving inexorably towards an on-screen future. It's just that now have more options. And I think we would all do well to realise that we need to weigh up these options instead of assuming that electronic is good.
For the record, Ms Lippman's latest work is described as "taut, mesmerising and utterly compelling". But while I accept the need for fast, up-to-date information gathering via my laptop or iphone screen, I'd rather be mesmerised on paper, thank you.