I had an enforced sabbatical from my ePub and XML blogs from October 2010 until present due to work commitments. The two old blogs are technically oriented and have ended their natural life. Using ePub and Publishing with XML are now put out to the bottom pasture, and they will be sent to the Knacker's yard later this year.
So assuming the publishing industry is getting its head around the coarse weaving of ePubs and Kindle e-books for device limitations, and starting to play with the embroidery of enhanced ePubs; the publisher problem for 2011 is what next? Is digital publishing just sending these "digital assets" to some e-retailer?
For me the subject for 2011 is digital publishing strategies; with the focus on practical implementation of the digital content fulfilment strategies the visionaries espouse. That means getting digital content under control and delivered to consumers with the required business model; whether it is selling, lending, subscribing or some other permission map. In the context of this blog, it also means doing that with the IGP digital publishing products.
2010 was the year that digital publishing became a painful reality for trade publishers. Sales volumes are big enough to matter, and like all things IT, confusion, opinions, options and maybe opportunities, are everywhere. Digital content is old hat in academic and education publishing in various forms, but going through a revival.
The publishing noise of 2010 was definitely about trade books, ePub and devices.2011 is shaping up as the year publishers need to get real digital content business strategies up and running. That means more than just shipping an e-book to Amazon or Google books where all content of any quality is relegated to the $9.99 e-book proletariat.
Currently there are very few usable and affordable digital business strategy options available for publishers, especially Small and Medium size publishers. Digital publishing choices, options and strategies is the focus of this blog. It just so happens to be the exact point of the plot where Infogrid Pacific rides in on a white horse.
The publishing supply chain
With the growth of digital publishing, publishers are going to be more important. Excluding the self-publishing industry which will continue to "do its mediocre thing", high quality content will always be in demand. In education and training the quality requirement will never go away. The same is true in nearly every other publishing genre except trade fiction.
With the advent of the latest generation of high speed colour printers that are cheaper than offset up to 2-3,000 copies, the print book business will sustain itself very nicely and even expand, and the print book supply chain will move towards:
publisher ► printer ► consumer
With digital content products there is no reason for the supply chain to be anything else other than:
publisher ► consumer
Elimination of the middle man improves revenue for the publisher and earnings for the author. Tablet devices will help this to become a reality; particularly Android in the first instance.
If the above is true then any reasonable publisher will need: 1) methods to sell digital content in various delivery packages; 2) a direct connection to the printer who is nearest the buying consumer (around the world); 3) the ability to group e-books together for special interest groups; and 4) a rights management system for the secure deliver of content to various devices.
There are a lot of business strategies available to the digital content publisher which cannot be fulfilled through third-party retailers and do not require the consolidation of digital assets in a third-party digital bookstore such as Amazon or Google et al..
There is no one concept digital publishing
The publishing industry of the past is fragmented into many smaller industries which converge only at the distribution and retail part of the print book supply chain. This is discussed in Eric Hellman's article... worth a read to understand the fact that books are purchased for many different reasons, and digital business models can be widely different for different publishers of different genres and in different countries for a lot of reasons.
This is an important consideration for Infogrid Pacific as we develop software applications with a focus on Small and Medium (SM) publishers. We need a clear digital fulfilment product strategy and must be able to state exactly the value it delivers.
We strongly believe that SM publishers and Languages Other Than English (LOTE) publishers need alternative business models to the AABBCG (Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Baker & Taylor, Content Reserve and Google) device tied retailers. 2011 will be the year with more digital content delivery options, where devices stop mattering and e-reader software does matter. That is a very good thing.
Becoming a digital publisher is a lot more than just making an ePub. The whole digital continuum continues to change and develop. In 2011 the disruptive technologies will be —cloud, mobile devices and apps, broadband connectivity, social networking, and analytics. These can all impact publishers, their content, and their fulfilment business.
Our focus remains on giving Small and Medium publishers the tools to do the job. That includes doability and affordability. We have engaged with a lot of publishers with different digital fulfilment problems during the last year. Just some of the issues we have had to address for digital content fulfilment in the last 3-6 months:
- The education publisher who needs to delivery multiple terabytes of audio books monthly into developing countries with high levels of content security and anonymous user registration.
- End-to-end digital publishing service providers in LOTE for a specific language. That means production tools, distribution tools, bookstores and fulfilment tools.
- Organizations that want to provide specialized vertical content solutions for closed readerships.
- Legal publisher with databases of legal case notes sold on subscription to educational institutions.
- Developing country publishers selling e-books to developed countries.
- Enhanced highly interactive trade books and educational material that is easily, created at sensible costs.
- Trade publishers with society agreements that mean they cannot sell their books in Amazon or any other e-retailer, unless they can sell them from their own site with DRM.
To make this real and affordable we have to mitigate risks. Publishers are by nature a conservative lot. It is one thing to have a big digital strategy, another to role it out, and another to make it work as business. We have modified our licensing to match the risk expectations of publishers wanting to put their toes into some form of digital business strategy that they see as to hard and too expensive.
And in conclusion
This was the new year warm-up blog. Less waffle and more details and facts from here on.
The next posts I have in preparation are: a new take on digital rights management; and how an SM publisher can take advantage of "the cloud" to project a significant but affordable digital content presence.