Special Report: Publishing Business Conference and Expo 2012: Hachette Book Group: Publishing Innovator of the Year, 2012
As the digital deluge continues, book publishers will either embrace data and technology, or drown in it. Organizations must either chart a course or get swept up in the current.
It is for this reason that Book Business magazine named as 2012's Publishing Innovator of the Year in book publishing the Hachette Book Group.
The honor was presented at a VIP reception (sponsored by CoEnterprise and Balance Software) held in conjunction with the 2012 Publishing Business Conference and Expo at the Marriot Marquis, Times Square.
Hachette Book Group's CIO Ralph Munsen accepted the award from Book Business' Brian Howard for the company's work in developing "great processes" for publishing "at a time when the very nature of the publishing process is in all-out flux."
Hachette was recognized for a pioneering attitude toward digital production, data collection and data analysis. The specific initiatives our advisory board considered were:
● Hachette's groundbreaking work in eliminating Moiré Patterns—essentially phased interference—that crop up often when converting print images for digital reading devices.
● The development of digital templates that speed and ease the delivery of content in apps and mobile channels, and minimize the amount of original programming needed to bring any title to market.
● The Hachette Digital Platform, an internal dashboard of sorts that Munsen describes as "the hub in the wheel, the switchboard in the old telephone analogy" that helps the publisher gauge the information generated by all that mobile and app content. In addition to using the system internally, Hachette is making it available to its imprints as well as third-party partners through a software-as-service arrangement.
● Hachette's move to an internal infrastructure that allows the company's operations to run 100 percent virtually on a private cloud platform.
At a time when the answer to the question "what is a book?" changes title by title, Hachette is embracing this turbulence in the nature of content.
"Unlike a traditional book where you print once and forget," explains Munsen in a follow-up phone call, "these apps are really an opportunity for you to have a relationship with a consumer.
"You can take some of this content and make a piece of entertainment, you can make interactive games out of it," he continues. "Some of this content has great opportunity for social media and interaction. You could have a discussion around a recipe in a cookbook. Some content lends itself to being a website—we're doing a lot, for example, around Bartlett's quotations."
The company's embrace of mobile provides it with valuable insights into consumer behavior.
"One of the things we learned from the metrics is, there used to be some discussion internally with ebooks as to whether you needed the introductory pages of a book—the title, the ISBN, the copyright—or can you just jump right to the first chapter," explains Munsen. "We learned that you do need that stuff, but you can put it at the end because sometimes readers don't get past it [otherwise]."
What's key in all of this is, as Munsen puts it, "this consumer data helped us make the consumer experience better."
Another key in recognizing Hachette was the company's willingness to share what it had learned. It's made its digital platform available as a service and, according to Munsen, is in the process of deciding how it might make its Moiré-elimination technology available to other publishers, either for a fee or free of charge.
At the same VIP reception, Flipboard was named Publishing Innovator of the year for magazine publishers. BB
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