The Evolution of Electronic Publishing: Michael Smith on his new role as executive director of the IDPF
Last month, the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF), a trade and standards organization for the digital publishing industry, announced Michael Smith as its new executive director. Smith, who replaces Nick Bogaty, is charged with directing the IDPF’s efforts to promote the newly adopted Open Publication Structure 2.0 and .epub file format, which the organization approved as the official digital publishing industry standard in September. In October, Hachette Book Group USA was the first publisher to announce that it had adopted the new standard.
Smith, who previously managed e-book and book production for Harlequin Enterprises Ltd. for its North American, U.K. and Australian markets, spoke with Book Business Extra about his thoughts on assuming his new role at a time when digital publishing is rapidly advancing and grabbing headlines.
Book Business Extra: What do you feel are the biggest challenges you’ll face as the new executive director of the IDPF?
Michael Smith: … My challenges are to keep up with all the vast opportunity now coming to bear for IDPF and the community. … I’ve stepped into an opportunity to affect the way people read, and the way books and literature [are] enjoyed and consumed. Wow, it’s almost too much opportunity.
Extra: What are your goals in this new role?
Smith: My goals are to serve the membership and all the communities we serve, and to help facilitate the kind of growth we expect in digital books. …
Extra: What does Hachette adopting the new .epub standard mean for the IDPF?
Smith: Hachette’s adoption of .epub is an excellent signal that validates our technical and practical work product. Having a major global trade publisher like Hachette Book Group USA adopt .epub is an endorsement we feel will be followed by many.
Extra: How did Hachette come to adopt the new standard, and how will you draw on their participation to bring other publishers on-board?
Smith: [Hachette] was a member of the .epub standards team, and they felt, as a member of the team, it was important to actually implement and help [others] implement the standard. Hachette’s participation should help publishers make their own decision once they study the .epub structure and recognize its benefits.
Extra: What is your game plan for getting other publishers on board?
Smith: Our game plan is education. We intend to create a [“Frequently Asked Questions”] surrounding .epub best practices.
Extra: How long do you predict it will take to win over a majority of the industry?
Smith: We believe we have momentum now, and in some markets, we expect it will happen sooner. As you know, publishing is segmented; we have trade, education and many specialty markets. We expect in a market such as consumer trade, where Hachette does business, this will happen quickly.
Extra: Why should publishers be concerned with adopting these standards?
Smith: … Markets are built on industry standards. This is not an end-user standard yet, although .epub is used by Adobe Digital Editions, and we understand others may support it. The .epub standard is already demonstrating efficiencies, and publishers should be concerned and get more information. A good place to start is by joining or following the activities of IDPF.
Extra: What did you learn from your time with Harlequin that you plan to bring to your new role?
Smith: “Knowing your customer” is definitely my biggest takeaway I will utilize as executive director. I will reach out to IDPF membership and industry stakeholders, who should be reaching out to their customers, to better understand which “wins” are needed and what concerns need to be addressed.