Open Enrollment | Subscribe to Book Business HERE
Follow us on
Associate/Digital Editor

The Learning Curve

By Ellen Harvey

About Ellen

Hired in August of 2013, Ellen Harvey is the one of the newest members of the Publishing Group. She provides original content and editing for Publishing Executive, Book Business, and the daily newsletter Publishing Business Today and is eager to track the latest trends of the transformed publishing industry.

Ellen previously worked as a web content writer and social media manager for a lead generation company based outside of Philadelphia, PA. She has a B.A. in English with a focus in creative writing and graduated Summa Cum Laude from Hobart and William Smith Colleges in 2012.


Joe Wikert's Digital Content Strategies

Joe Wikert
How Curation Automation Is Going to Disrupt Content Consumption
May 19, 2015

The best content curators have extensive topic knowledge and a knack for reader interests and preferences. That sounds like something...

Brian Jud's Beyond the Bookstore

Brian Jud
How to Plan for the Future of Publishing
May 14, 2015

As publishers, we make decisions every day that impact the future of our business. And as small-business people we tend...

Leading Thoughts

Forward-Thinking Industry Professionals
6 Ways to Modernize Book Marketing with Social Media
May 13, 2015

Traditional book-marketing strategies are dying. The placement of a book in a bookstore window doesn't have the same impact it...

The Futurists

Publishing Pioneers
Electric Yarn Believes The Future of Reading is Channel-Agnostic
Nov 13, 2014

Over the past decade, publishers have admirably pivoted toward digital content production, creating ebooks, apps, and even video to accompany...

Publishers Must Embrace Data-First Thinking


I've always viewed direct-to-consumer strategies through the lens of revenue. Direct selling is a moneymaking strategy meant to bypass revenue-draining middlemen like Baker & Talyer and Amazon.

It hadn't occurred to me, though, that with any direct-to-consumer sale or online interaction, publishers gain something equally as valuable as revenue—consumer data.

Much of the publishing industry is not in a data-first mindset asserts Tom Davenport in a recent article dubbed "Book Publishing's Big Data Future".  Although Davenport criticizes the publishing industry as a big data underachiever, he admits that's in part because publishers have traditionally worked through intermediaries to reach consumers. But that dynamic is changing.

The intermediaries, like Amazon and Scribd, are becoming the content creators with their own publishing platforms and even, in Amazon's case, original series. These companies can do this because they began as retail channels, tracking data that built a base for future business development. It's time that publishers create their own channels and do the same.

Though slow to adapt, there are signs of change among Big Five publishers. Simon & Schuster recently announced the launch of its book recommendation platform, Off the Shelf. The site recommends previously published works (from all publishers) and allows users to build a "Shelf" of must-reads. Users can then buy the work through the online retail channel of their choosing. Not only can Simon & Schuster pocket a portion of those sales, but the publisher can also track what books and book lists are most popular among readers.

HarperCollins has also dabbled in creating channels for consumers with its launch of and in 2013, both of which sell direct the works of C.S. Lewis. Though still very much an experiment, the sites provide an opportunity for HarperCollins to track reader consumption through a partnership with Bluefire, and gather data that may influence the creation of future direct sale sites.

In the education sector, variations of the direct-to-consumer approach have proliferated much more rapidly than in the trade sector. Higher education publishers like John Wiley & Sons have launched their own e-learning platforms, such as WileyPlus, to distribute their content directly to students and professors. Just yesterday, News Corp announced the launch of Amplify, an all-digital English curriculum for middle schools. Not far behind, McGraw Hill recently partnered with StudySync to provide its own middle school curriculum. These companies are embracing new startups and technology to create their own channels and work directly with consumers.

Although these experiments are encouraging, publishers still have a long way to go in harnessing big data. Like tech giants Google, Facebook, and yes, Amazon, publishers need to create workflows in which big data informs product development. No longer should books be created on hunches or on memories of what has sold before. Big data is a crucial foundation for development and imperative for building meaningful consumer relationships. Information is key for publishers, and right now retailers have a monopoly.



Click here to leave a comment...
Comment *
Most Recent Comments: