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Digital disruptions, how ready are you?

Digital disruptions, how ready are you?


Disruption. Things change. You can either be the artist that embraces change and strives to put your readers, listeners or viewer first, delivering quality content over a variety of mediums. Or you can be the artist who remains at a day job they hate whilst cursing an industry that appears to not appreciate their creative genius.

All entrenched industries eventually evolve.  The modern consumers of your creative talent want the content delivered in multiple formats over different platforms. Smart artists meet the consumer halfway, delivering content to all busy platforms.



Think that this does not affect you? Here is a short history lesson.

The past 20 years is littered with examples of the birth and death of technology.

The large audio LP transformed into the compact audio cassette which then morphed into the CD. The evolution of this method of distributing music did not stop there. The CD then paved the way for the DVD and has found it’s latest form in the flash memory contained in your USB drive.

The printed book, which was the only format available for hundreds of years has recently found it’s way onto our  tablets and smartphones in it’s new guise the eBook. As if the digital format of the book was not a large enough leap in imagination, the eBook has shed it’s visually anchored form and transformed itself to the audiobook suiting those who live a lifestyle spent largely on the road.

Do you think the serious artist can afford to become attached to a single method of distribution?


The evolving industries near you…


Video Rental

An easy example of disruption is the video rental industry that focused for so long on getting your feet into the friendly store around the corner.

Renting videos and then DVDs was the norm for decades (It still is here in South Africa). What these businesses have failed to consider was that their customers were getting lazier and lazier. Video stores unfortunately also have to deal with the large overheads associated brick and mortar premises. As technology moved on and the way the average household consumed this visual media changed, moving online,  the model of the movie rental business has remained largely stuck in the 80’s.

It’s comes as no surprise that the day of the video store is over. That is unless these outlets adapt their business model to suite new technologies.

Movies are now rented out (or “streamed”) online using services like SoundcloudNetflix or locally ShowMax.


Music Stores.

My childhood memories of listening to my favourite artists normally were normally preceded by excited trips to the music store to purchase their latest album. This audio-transaction has also migrated into the online space. Purchasing or streaming music online avoids the pesky-problem of scratched or lost CDs. It saves space and generally should save you money too.

The pattern of saving space, money and avoiding wear-and-tear is the commonly-recurring argument for the digital purchase of books, music and video content.

Music is now purchased online using services like Apple iTunes or locally as Simfy



Traditionally understood to mean a trip to the local casino, gambling has also made the leap online, fulfilling the gambler’s needs from the comfort of their favorite chair.



The focus of this blog, publishing has moved online in a big way. With all the figures indicating that self-publishing authors are making progress, eating away at the market share of the traditional publishing houses.

Do you think that as a writer you can afford to turn your back on the obvious path of an industry in the midst of an upheaval?


So what now?

What does the future hold for an artist that stubbornly refuses to embrace change?

One word, obscurity.


Who are the biggest losers?

Staying focused on the publishing industry, the biggest losers are those authors who write without putting the reader first.

Here are some red-flag comments I hear often from oblivious authors. (Are you guilty of any of these?)

  •  “What’s an eBook?”

  •  “I don’t care about the whole eBook thing, I am happy with only having my book in print.”

  • “An author website???  I don't need that!?”

  • “I have sent out my manuscript to publisher X and I have been waiting for y months.”

  • “I can’t afford to make an eBook and publish online.”

  • “My friend/ family member edited my book.”


The truth the digital author embraces.

  • The author needs to understand that the likelihood of landing a large traditional publishing deal is very slim.

  • Without a proven readership and historical sales figures, your voice will not carry much weight with any publisher-negotiations.

  • The largest markets the author can possibly reach are living in the US / UK and Europe. As romantic as writing for a niche audience sounds, you are committing financial suicide releasing a fiction title focusing on farm living in the Karoo. Best-selling authors know what genres are selling.


Those authors who want to be taken seriously. Respect your readers and understand that the publishing industry is evolving. Amazon might not be a big thing in your country (yet), however your readership is likely sitting around the world in other countries, is print really the quickest or the cheapest way to reach that far?



A simple poll of a publishing industry that is about to be disrupted.

Think that I might be exaggerating the issue of the impact of digital disruption?

As a small indication of disruption in the publishing industry I hope you don’t mind if I focus on my South African audience. Here is a poll I captured from our local news platform News24 earlier this evening.


ebooks poll


What should these numbers mean to you?

Over two-thirds of the South African audience polled are consumers of the printed book. Many of those who answered will be authors and writers themselves. This is a perfect indication of an industry that is ripe for disruption. Over time our bookstores will naturally be affected by declining foot traffic. Our authors will be affected by masses of readers moving online, hungry for new content within online eBook stores like Amazon. This will happen gradually over a number of years as our publishing industry starts to move in the same direction as the rest of the world.


Are our authors ready for the inevitable exodus of readers away from the printed page?


Here are some free resources essential for the success of a self-published author.



Interview with an author - Sonia Killik
Writers Groups in South Africa - The Where and Why