by Joseph T. Sinclair
On November 22, 2015, 60 Minutes on CBS did some ground-breaking reporting, as is its modus operandi. The report was on the successful M-Pesa system in Kenya that enables everyone to pay and save via their cell phone (smart phone not required). It is in essence a secondary currency system; almost every adult in Kenya has a cell phone or smart phone. The only force that has kept M-Pesa-like systems from spreading to others countries (including the US) is the banking lobby. But M-Pesa has been so successful for business in Kenya that the banking lobby cannot keep it out of other countries forever.
I hate to brag, but I covered the M-Pesa System in my blog post of February 2, 2014 (almost two years ago) entitled A Billion Reasons to Publish Digitally. Although handling money is only tangentially related to publishing, the M-Pesa system dramatically illustrates (1) how ubiquitous the cell phone has become worldwide and (2) the revolution in commerce and culture it produces.
Apparently about 70% of ebook reading in the US is done on phones. And about 45% of Amazon’s sales are now ebooks rather than printed books. Amazon has a market share of about one-third of all the books sold in the US. Thus, ebooks are not necessarily a backwater industry any longer.
Although it has been estimated that about five billion people will have cell phones in 2016, less than two billion will be smart phones. But that’s still a lot of smart phones for people to use for reading. And by the end of the decade the proportion of smart phones to cell phones will increase dramatically.
Consider the fact that a major portion of the How-To and informational publishing is no longer done primarily in printed books but rather in Web tutorials, blog posts, Wikipedia articles, self-published digital books, YouTube videos, and portal webpage articles. It’s easy to conclude that the publishing realm looks even more digital already than has been reported.
But reading on digital devices is certainly not limited to nonfiction ebooks. Indeed, fiction (entertainment) ebooks have simpler typesetting and are easier to read on a phone than nonfiction, and one would expect such books to migrate more rapidly from print to digital formats. Yet somehow that has not happened as fast for fiction as it has for non-fiction. But the potential remains, and the tipping point is near.
As no one keeps track of book app (phone apps that are ebooks) sales, we don’t really know what percentage of reading is really now done on phones. But one can start to imagine a near future of publishing that is overwhelmingly digital.
And that’s quite the point. The future of publishing is the smart phone.
The author of this article, Joseph T. Sinclair, is the author of twenty How To books published by national publishers.
For low-cost non-exclusive reprints rights for this article, contact sales@AuthorsAndPublishersDigitalReview.
©2015 Joseph T. Sinclair. All rights reserved.