Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A year in digital publishing

Sophie Rochester
Editor, The Literary Platform
November, 2010

It’s nearly a year since the first FutureBook conference in London. To mark the year we ask those working in the digital publishing industry about the best bits of the last twelve months and their predictions for 2011!

Dan Franklin, Digital Editor, Canongate
I have been digital editor at Canongate since March last year and it’s great to have established a digital team in the company, put it in colleagues’ minds and see it really take off this year sales-wise.

I think next year on an industry level, and with the imminent arrival of Google Books, we need to try and achieve standards in pricing and ebook production to deliver readers/users what they want from digital books (or whatever you like to call the new experiences opening up).

Most importantly I hope that in the coming year we don’t get hysterical about the challenges of this necessarily turbulent stage or lose that all-important sense of adventure that is the source of innovative publishing.

On a personal note I am looking forward to the opportunities and challenges in moving to Random House and having a massive list to play with!

Robin Harvie, Commissioning Editor, 4th Estate
Pricing of eBooks and apps has been the biggest shift for us in the last 12 months. Although the majority of our eBooks are priced at parity with the HB but on the Friday Project list we have experimented with different pricing models and have shown that almost every time the price has been dropped significantly (to £2.99, for example), sales have shot up. One of HarperCollins’s biggest sellers – both in terms of units and revenue – is an unknown book called Confessions of a GP priced at £2.99. As I write it is currently outselling Keef, Fry, Chris Evans – and is No. 1 on the iBook charts.

More abstractly, there has been a significant mind shift amongst editors, who now understand the digital publishing or publishing across multiple platforms is something that they need to work with their authors to deliver material on and that digital publishing is not an extension of marketing or branding.

Challenges for the next 12 months? A) Showing that Enhanced eBooks are not the emperor’s new clothes and creating a market for them that does not undermine existing HB sales by 1) adding real value to the eBook that people actually want and will pay more for and 2) getting Apple and Amazon to promote the enhancements accordingly. B) Convince literary sections of the mainstream press that they need to have dedicated review pages for book-related apps and enhanced ebooks so that the digital products get exposure to traditional book buyers and not just technology fans, or existing kindle/iPad converts.

Michael Bhaskar, Digital Publishing Manager, Profile Books
In the next twelve months the relationship between book content, online content, marketing materials, ad campaigns and experimentation will continue to break down, seeing the development of a new style of work that exists somewhere between them all.

This is material that is at once integral to a book, central to the story or idea, but also apart from it, working as something to draw readers in. This isn’t just an abstract idea of transmedia or the like, but a hard headed marketing calculation in an environment where attention is at a premium.

Kate Wilson, Director, Nosy Crow
As a children’s publisher, much the most important development of the last year has been the launch of the iPad. It’s a family entertainment platform to a degree that no-one expected. The way that parents are using touchscreen mobile devices to entertain children on the move is another interesting development.

As a smaller publisher, I am interested to see that we have not been blown out the water by brilliant digital products from the big corporate publishers. I am sure that they all have plans, but it’s clear to me that being agile and responsive is important in this rapidly-evolving market, and that therefore to be a smaller publisher – and, indeed, to be someone without a publishing background at all – may have advantages.

In the next year, we hope and expect to see the continued growth of touchscreen mobile device and tablet sales, and the release of more apps – incluing our own – that offer really engaging and new interactive reading experiences.

More at The Literary Platform.

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