It’s that time of year! Everyone from fellow bloggers to publishers themselves are coming out with predictions for what the coming year will bring the e-book world. So what do we at TeleRead predict? Here are some trends to keep an eye on.

1. The international market will rise significantly

Amazon and Barnes & Noble may dominate the U.S. market, but Kobo is the market share leader in Canada, and is gaining ground in other markets where it is partnering with major retail chains and often being the first on the scene.

Amazon is taking notice and beginning to localize its popular Kindle store. First, they launched with a splash in Japan, and then just this week they finally unveiled a Canadian storefront. Retailers and publishers are finally catching on that the world wide Web truly is worldwide. With all the competition springing up for peoples’ entertainment dollars, the last thing anyone should want to do is turn away a paying customer just because of geography.

I expect these localized storefronts to become ever more robust and seamless in the coming year. Customers should be able to log on and find the same titles their neighbors in other countries can find—and to discover and purchase local authors, too.

2. The reading app experience will become highly sophisticated   

Not everyone has the budget—or need for—a dedicated reading device. But I’m seeing tablets and smartphones in the hands of people I never thought would’ve had one, and that’s a good thing. You can even buy sub-$200 tablets branded by a bookstore (Nook, Kobo, Kindle) with a reading app built in!

Reading on tablets and smartphones is going to grow, big time. So I expect to see the reading apps beef up as well. Features such as collections, multi-language support, cross-device syncing and so on will be added if they aren’t there already. Slicked-up interfaces will become ever more polished. The app will no longer be an after-thought for the smart e-vendor!

3. “Interoperability” will be the new buzzword

With the passage of Bill C-11 in Canada, which criminalizes the circumvention of DRM even for personal reasons, the format issue has entered the popular discourse here for the first time. People are suddenly concerned about DRM, vendor lock-in and the portability of their growing libraries. Meanwhile, the rise of the indie author, led by vocal DRM foes like Konrath and Doctorow, is spreading the dialogue even further.

A relatively big publisher—Tor—has long been forgoing DRM and using that as a selling point; I expect to see more press about this, and I expect the average customer to start noticing. I think we’ll see at least a few more publishers drop DRM, and we’ll see the rise of the platform-agnostic vendor.

4. Prices will go up

Now that the agency pricing model has been discontinued, I expect to see some fiddling on price, and unfortunately, not in a way most of us will celebrate.

I checked the new releases page at Kobo yesterday, and found the prices uniformly higher than they were when the Kobo store first launched—up to $16.99 in some cases! Why? Well, when e-books were still a niche product, there was a universal hue and cry from the publishers that $9.99 (Amazon’s standard) was too low, and that if customers became accustomed to it, it would devalue books. So now that e-books aren’t a niche product any longer, publishers want to see if they can raise that ‘value.’ They’ll tweak the prices and see how high they can go before they start losing sales, and that’s what the new standard price will be.

5. ‘Netflix for books’ will finally happen, and it will be huge

I am predicting that Kindle’s FreeTime Unlimited is going to be a big hit. People will be drawn to it in part for the books, but the app and movie fans will join too (it’s a lot of content for a low price!), and there’s going to be big money made. Those non-reading app and movie people will contribute money that will grow the pot that publishers will be sharing in. And with the monthly subscription model, that money will be there every month. How could it not be an irresistible proposition?

I think Amazon will lead the charge on this, but I expect that within short order, we’ll see competing services from Nook, Kobo, Apple—anyone with both a product and a store to pair it with.

So … those are my predictions for the coming year. Any big trends I missed? Share your comments below.

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  1. Perhaps book launches will be increasingly built around the ebook release rather than the bound paper version. Why not have a virtual book launch (e.g. releasing a Tolkien biography within the Lord of the Rings online game)? Or perhaps the author sat in the bookshop could take a break from signing books and instead add a personal message to an ebook before downloading it to the ereader a fan has brought with them.

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