A Day in the Life
Nash insisted that reference publishers are making money producing e-content right now in an industry that has been second-guessing the success rate of e-books in general. "Instead of trying to read tea leaves," added Nash, "it's best to look at e-publishing from the supply side." In other words, conversion control, PDF archiving and secure content distribution are important issues already being addressed by technology providers and printers as a way to digitize and supplement print.
Hensel explained that St. Martin's Press (www.stmartins.com) set up a Web site, wherein users can download sample chapters from e-books either to supplement review galley books or to preview a potential print book to buy. "So much of publishing is to build buzz," said Hensel. "E-books are a great way because you have no variable cost."
He said that St. Martins experienced much higher increase in reads by supplementing print copies with e-books in the short-term.
But does this mean print copies will become obsolete?
Alexander agreed that as technology evolves, "content that's popular will sell in any format—print or electronic." He said that the sheer ability to print from e-format makes books popular for e-download or to manufacture on-demand.
X marks the content
Gurvinder Batra, executive vice president and CTO of TechBooks (www.techbooks.com), further unwound the XML conundrum. He said that XML is one of the most fruitive means toward using content in multiple formats. "Vendors should absorb the technical transition," suggested Batra, saying that by initiating the more mainstream use of the cross-media publishing format, publishers will be more apt to implement it from the IT point of view.
"It requires minimal in-house changes in the production process, moving more tasks to the front-end of the process, like revisions of text," he explained. By developing an XML repository, Batra was confident that elements for repurposing will be readied for launch regardless of the destination—e-books, Web and print.