Best Sound Bites From IDPF Digital Book 2015
This year's IDPF Digital Book Conference theme marks a significant shift in book publishing strategy. "Put the reader first," was a phrase mentioned throughout the day's sessions, urging attendees to give their consumers greater agency and in a sense catch up to other entertainment industries that are already empowering their audience. By utilizing digital content channels, publishers can interact with readers more easily than ever before and measure that interaction. This shift is steadily gaining momentum in the industry and leading publishers, including HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster, shared strategies and technology they have employed to understand who their audiences are and how to get them reading.
I wanted to share a few of my favorite quotes from Wednesday's programming that encapsulate this emerging D2C theme.
"Marketing has been the division most impacted by the need to change. There has been the change from analog to digital, but also the need to transform from trade marketing to relationship marketing." - Chantal Restivo-Alessi, Chief Digital Officer, SVP of International Business, HarperCollins
In the "Executive Panel: Taking It to the Reader," Restivo-Alessi emphasized that becoming reader-centric requires a significant shift across divisions within a publishing house. Having great content and technology to serve readers is important, but Restivo-Alessi added that change must be managed well. "Clarity is key," she said. "You must communicate to all divisions why processes are changing and what you expect from them."
"We're making books less important by separating them from the conversations around those books." - Molly Barton, Digital Strategist
Barton said this during a panel entitled "What Can Publishers Do Better to Put Readers First?" Her point was that opening up the digital reading environment, beyond the walled gardens of proprietary readers, can enable collaborative discussions. It is this type of interaction that makes platforms like Youtube, Wikipedia, and Medium so popular. Allowing readers to comment on stories and interact with the authors is the next evolution of the ebook, she argued.
"Generally speaking when we talk about data in the publishing industry, we talk about helping publishers and authors. We should be providing data to help readers." - Richard Nash, Publishing Entrepreneur
In the same panel, Nash argued that readers want data as much as authors and publishers do. Nash compared it to the fitness apps the Apple Watch provides which give intricate data about a person's daily steps, running time, heart rate, etc. He envisions one day a similar feedback loop for readers that is helpful to them, but also encourages even more reading. Publishing is a long way from this vision, Nash admitted, as reading behavior data is difficult to get from most ereader companies.
"Books create a lot of the same powerful emotions video games incite in gamers. And there are opportunities here ripe for publishers." - Jane McGonical, Author of Broken Reality
McGonigal researches video game habits and their impacts on society. She noted in her talk that video games are at their height of popularity, and still growing. There are over 1 billion gamers worldwide who spend at least an hour a day playing digital games. The reason behind their success, argues McGonigal, is that they spur emotional reactions that people aren't getting from their work or social life. Gamers feel love, curiosity, awe, and creativity when they play, which actually makes them happier and more resilient people.
The crux of McGonigal's argument was that books also create these emotions in their readers, but publishers aren't maximizing those opportunities. Some questions McGonigal raised: How can publishers make reading more cooperative and create a social community akin to a video game community? How can publishers give readers a greater sense of achievement? Can books connect readers to something bigger than themselves, like games do?
"It's us versus Candy Crush." - Nathan Maharaj, Director of Merchandising, Kobo
Maharaj echoed McGonigal's point during the panel "How Mobile Phones Present Publishers With New Opportunities and New Readers." He added that publishers need to continue to find interesting and valuable ways to engage readers on mobile -- a platform that continues to grow as readers' preferred device. Whether it's creating an enjoyable UX or offering greater social interaction through mobile sites and apps, publishers need to make sure that their digital products are as satisfying as other forms of mobile entertainment.
- Simon and Schuster Inc.
Ellen Harvey is a freelance writer and editor who covers the latest technologies and strategies reshaping the publishing landscape. She previously served as the Senior Editor at Publishing Executive and Book Business.