COVER STORY: Inside the Ebook Test Kitchen
"We're seeing publishers put teams together for analytics," he says. "That's an area where we're doing more and more reports. … What are people doing as they consume this content? What pages [are they reading]? What are they searching for? What is the trail through the content?"
It's part of what Shariff sees as a trend of "publishers becoming content companies and learning companies." As such, they'll become much more invested in how that content performs, how their customers learn from it, rather than focusing primarily on sales. "How does it connect back to a learning system or a back office?" asks Shariff. "How do you manage a student's learning process throughout a book?"
A book's "back end," the interface where a publisher will collect and analyze reader performance, is a big area of opportunity, says Shariff. "Imagine if you could get the trail of a student reading a book, how they move through the assessments. You could get the trail of the top 10 percent of students and analyze that data and turn it into relevant information for business decisions."
Shariff also sees opportunity in social media integration and analytics. "We do portals and delivery systems for societies, groups like pediatricians," says Shariff. "It's amazing, we've got some books that thousands and tens of thousands of pediatricians are reading, and answering certain questions about their practice. Why don't we connect all of these 10,000 readers and connect them in discussion via ZIP code?"
In this scenario, the book becomes not just a conduit of information, but a tool to organize communities. As technology gets more sophisticated, it's clear that the book's possibilities are endless.
Endless possibility, while great for the consumer, is a challenge for your business. Keeping abreast of a landscape that could, at any moment, morph into something completely different is the stuff of production managers' night terrors.