A version of this blog post first appeared on the Digital Book World site. Bradley Metrock produced the iBooks Author Conference from 2015 through 2017, before Score Publishing acquired Digital Book World, and has authored many articles on the state of the publishing industry and recent trends.
As I described in an interview with Len Edgerly last week on his longstanding Kindle Chronicles podcast, the convergence within the publishing world of audiobooks and podcasts, with voice assistants and smart speakers, and the interplay that sits on top of the very primitive AI and machine learning we as a human race have developed thus far, is not widely understood.
Yet, nothing is more important to the future of book discoverability.
Think about how we discover new books today:
– someone tells us, in person, about a new book
– someone tells us, via social media, about a new book
– a media outlet tells us about a new book (product placement, or endorsement)
– an advertisement tells us about a new book
– an algorithm tells us about a new book, within the context of an existing purchase (“buyers of this book often bought this other one here”; “an author you purchased from previously has other titles available, which you haven’t purchased – here they are”)
In the not-too-distant future – less than one year from now – we can add another important method of book discovery to the mix:
Voice assistants will tell us what books we’ll like.
The basic queries people make today to Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Assistant, Apple’s Siri, and others – turn off the lights, set an alarm, show me a recipe, play me a song – will evolve, in what will seem like the blink of an eye, into much more conversational, extended dialogues.
We will trust these assistants, despite all the noise about privacy and security. We will trust them deeply, with very personal information, which will give them unprecedented context they will use to answer questions we ask and provide information.
If you wonder how that’s possible, consider how many people still use Facebook, a demonstrably untrustworthy company, simply because they provide a service that adds value to many people’s lives in a way you can’t get anywhere else. We talk a good game on privacy, but we trade it away without hesitation – humans always have, and always will, for the sake of both convenience and belonging.