Look at the publishing news these days and you'll read as much about devices as you do about books. There are new families of Kindles, Kobos and Nooks on the block; Google's Nexus 7 is outselling the Kindle Fire; Microsoft is betting big on its Surface tablet; oh, and maybe you've heard about an iPad mini coming 'round the bend? And let's not even get into the wild world of smartphones. Point is, while the printed book was once a platform unto itself, now the ways people read "books," and the devices they read on, are expanding.
It used to be you really only had one distribution platform: The print version. In fact, back then it would have been redundant to call it "the print version." There was only one version. Now that we're living in the much ballyhooed four-screen world—TV, computer, smart phone, tablet/ereader—it's really no longer efficient or feasible to create for print and then backtrack to get your products into digital streams.
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While only the most severe of futurists predict print's total demise, most publishers have accepted that digital products need to be a slice of their revenue mix, and a growing slice at that.
Yet it's one thing to recognize that change must happen; it's quite another to enact that change, especially when you can't exactly hit pause on your business while you reconfigure your workflow, to say nothing of tackling that massive backlist.
That's why many publishers are turning to the wide world of service providers who make it their business to help publishers solve digital content and digital transition issues.