I went to GigaOm’s Roadmap conference last week on the 10th, and I was very impressed. Great crowd (lots of visitors from Finland), the speakers were very open and available, and I was one of the lucky winners that got a new Jawbone Up.
The talks were interesting, and one of the things that stuck with me is a discussion with Matt MacInnisand Richard Nash about the publishing industry. Obviously both of these guys have a vested interest in seeing the publishing industry change, and almost everyone knows that the publishing industry is going to change.
One of the things they said was that the publishing industry is a US$40 billion industry — their point being that the industry may change and profits may go down, but there’s a long way to go, if it happens that way. Normal retail book sales are changing thanks to e-books (although there are claims that people who use e-book readers buy more books — definitely my experience), but the college textbook publishing industry is definitely going to see some major changes ahead.
I worked at the UCF Barnes & Noble while in school, and it happened to be B&N’s most profitable college store. Seeing the cost breakdowns on textbooks is remarkable, but the used textbook industry is the most interesting.
Textbooks are bought and resold over and over. Ebooks don’t have the same resale market, so the used textbook market is going to dry up. The thing is, it is actually an advantage for publishers, even though the price per book is going down. Since used textbooks tend to be resold 2-3x, it turns out that the price of a new book can be cut 60% and still allow publishers the same profit (ignoring the fact that printing, shipping, and other costs will be removed).
Personally I’m most interested in the all-you-can-read type of thing. Yes, I know what a library is. I want an ebook library. It’s coming.
I also loved the talk from Tony Fadell about the Nest thermostat — literally the iPhone of thermostats. he was very open about a lot of the design issues involved, and I especially liked a side comment that Tony made. He joked about the manufacturing side of things, and how he got used to premium treatment at Apple, where the factories would bend over backwards to accomodate their needs. With his new gig, they started talking to him with the same “oh yeah, anything you need!” attitude, until they realized how small of a production run he was going to get — then they apparently backed off slightly. To me, there’s something there about the experience that entrepreneurs have when they have been in big companies and then make a move to the startup world — if you want it done, it’s often on you.