The time has come for many of those publishers who earlier decided not to develop or acquire ecommerce capability to reassess their decisions. Many will find that after five to ten years, previous assumptions about ecommerce are no longer true. The cost and complexity of implementing online transaction capability have been lowered substantially for publishers over the past ten years, driven by a number of factors:
Publishing news in the first half of 2014 was dominated by one word: subscription. Subscription-based digital trade book delivery models were announced with much fanfare from Oyster, Entitle, and many others. Such services put book publishing squarely in the digital "subscription economy" along with Netflix, Pandora, and Hulu.
There are three factors at work that has driven this focus of interest on subscriptions. First, the launch of a number of high-profile initiatives, such as the consumer-oriented Oyster service, has gotten the attention of the industry since the beginning of the year. Second, there is increased clarity among publishers as to the level of revenue they can expect from ebook sales.
When new communications media emerge, the typical pattern has been to simply put old content into the new format. I would argue that the most effective use of any medium is achieved only once the unique characteristics of that medium are fully grasped.
The overarching question all publishers must ask, the existential über-question trumping all others, is: Where will revenue and earnings come from in the future?
The advent of digital media has presented educational publishers with opportunities not only for the delivery of effective teaching and learning solutions, but also with significant challenges that are well known by readers of this column. These challenges include the need to acquire new competencies within the organizations, the creation of new partnerships with service providers and the need to sort through a range of technical issues.
The year 2013 will be known as that in which the current cycle of digital transformation will draw to a close. Those organizations that will execute significant changes to core business functions in order to realize new digital opportunities have already done so, or at least begun. Those that have not begun these changes are unlikely ever to do so.
The era of the monolithic print textbook is coming to a close. The Kirtsaeng decision is the latest indication that it is not sustainable.
When a person interacts with a computer—whether browsing the web or using an ATM—the computer typically maintains some kind of record of the actions the person took with the system. This is sometimes referred to as "data exhaust": information that is the natural byproduct of the human-machine interaction.
Sometimes the analysis of this data exhaust reveals behavioral patterns through a process known as "user analytics." These analytics can provide insights into how people behave, as individuals or in aggregate, and by implication how they think and feel. Businesses can use these insights, and consequently increase their effectiveness in the marketplace by being responsive to the pulse of the customer.
Technology folks have for decades gotten more than their share of ribbing. Much of the hilarity comes from the cultural friction between technical and the non-technical. This cultural divide was perhaps most cuttingly portrayed in the hilarious UK sitcom The IT Crowd, in which an IT staffer routinely answered the phone with the greeting, "Have you tried turning it off and on again?" Another IT support guy I work with in the past manned his post beneath a large sign that read "Lack of planning on your part does not constitute a crisis on my part."
When publishing teams wax enthusiastic about their vision for digital media and technology, director
Ironically enough, success in digital publishing has more to do with people than machines. Digital publishing requires publishing houses and their partners to work in materially different ways. Digital publishing is not merely delivering an EPUB file along with a print-ready PDF. Successful initiatives require the development of new skills, processes and business practices. Publishers that successfully execute these changes will be able to take advantage of the unique characteristics of digital, and bring new value to the marketplace.
In many cases, outsourced service providers connect directly with one another to create an externalized production flow. For example, an external compositor may send the final PDF files used for print to an ebook conversion service provider. The publishing staff therefore assumes the role of an orchestrator of vendors, never actually directly performing the tasks involved in creating digital products. And therein lies the danger. If publishing organizations remain outside the direct creative process, they have a limited ability to impact product innovation.
About 17 years ago or so, digital media folk were asking an important question: Would consumers buy online? Would consumers take the leap and actually enter their credit card information on a seller's website? More specific questions also arose about the growth rate of online commerce.
For a while there were two accepted methods of producing, conferting and delivering content across multiple devices—"XML First" and "Print First."
However, over the past year, a number of cross-platform publishing success stories have emerged that indicate a third practical approach. It is, in some ways, a cross between the first two. This third approach, which might be named "Manuscript First," involves the creation of a manuscript that conforms to specific conventions or standards as defined by the publisher. This is most often implemented in Microsoft Word by the use of standard Word style names to create a "well-formed" manuscript.