Today's Retail Scene: Are You Prepared to Compete?
Part of NBN’s job, she says, is helping publishers understand that they should be considering these options, as many are still in the “print 5,000 copies and see how it does” mind-set.
From Book Publisher to Content Provider
Increasingly, however, book publishers are beginning to follow magazine publishers’ lead and think of themselves as content providers. “We try to get away from the concept of the book,” says Jim Donohue, managing director of Science & Technology (S&T) Books at Elsevier. “I stress to my editors that what we really do is create content, and then we put it on the platform in which our customers want it.
“I do think all publishers are going to have to think about what is the content that they are going to produce and what’s the best way to present it,” he says. “In some cases it will be video, in some cases it’s still going to be a PDF, in others an XML feed that allows you to search across a wide variety of books. Some are going to be things like Kindle, where you want a uniform experience of a narrative group of content.”
For Donohue, this has meant paying attention to customers—and overturning some previous assumptions. He says the best-selling book on Amazon’s Kindle for Elsevier’s Focal Press imprint (which publishes media-technology books) is on lighting techniques—a big surprise for a device not yet able to accommodate color graphics. “[It’s] astounding to me,” he says, “yet it sells enormously well on Kindle [because] people want the information in a portable, quick way, and the media-tech market is quite comfortable with that type of technology.”
In some ways, Elsevier’s S&T Books division might be considered a bellwether for the industry in terms of distribution strategy. Its approach is informed both by being part of an STM publisher on the leading edge of digital-product implementation, and by the fact that it caters largely to the end-user (in this case, the consumer as opposed to the institutional market) via Focal Press.