Discoverability Is The Biggest Hurdle for Publishers in 2014
The future of book publishing is changing rapidly and now, more than ever, book publishers are asking, "What's next?" This question was top-of-mind in day two of the Digital Book World Conference and Expo. Yesterday's headline event, the CEO Roundtable, explored the great impact that the issue of book discovery will have on the health of the industry.
New media, whether it is Twitter, Buzzfeed, or Netflix, dominates the attention of consumers because of its constantly-updated and instantaneous content. Tim O'Reilly, CEO of O'Reilly Media said, "We're increasingly trying to build a set of tools to keep our products up to date at all times. That is a critical challenge on the information end of the publishing business."
While keeping up with rapidly changing technology and staying current, Carolyn Reidy, president and CEO of Simon & Schuster, thinks publishers need to protect the places where book discovery occurs. With the close of Borders and many dedicated bookstores, publishers are becoming reliant on big box outlets like Walmart and Target. Reidy warned caution here because in the future these partnership may not exist as such outlets do not need to sell books to survive.
With lost shelf-space due to shuttered bookstores, the reliance on social media and web platforms to promote authors and their work has never been stronger. David Nussbaum, CEO of F+W Media and owner of Digital Book World, puts a large amount of the onus of discoverability on the authors. "We only work with authors who already have their own established platforms." In that way, F+W can tap into and sell to an audience already eager for its information.
Of course, this raises a number of questions, such as whether or not an author has the time to build up social media platforms along with writing new books or, as Sourcebooks CEO Dominique Raccah pointed out, why an author with established platforms needs a publisher. "You have to think about providing services to your authors but also being that platform. If we are only thinking of authors that have platforms, then why do they need us?"
It was clear that part of the discovery process is incumbent upon publishers and authors working more closely together-a relationship which has at times been one-sided. "You shouldn't be afraid of authors," said O'Reilly. "You should help them to explore the discoverability space and take what one author learned and transfer it to the others. A superstar social media author can help your other authors excel." O'Reilly sited John Green, author of The Fault In Our Stars and one half of the Youtube sensation vlogbrothers, as one such superstar.
What's next for publishers in 2014? A struggle to update technology and match the growing pace of change in the new media landscape. A growing push for book discovery on an increasing number of platforms and devices. Greater collaboration with authors and consumers to create content that can compete with other media. 2014 is a time for innovation, and publishers are looking wherever they can to find it.