Among major points made by speakers at yesterday's Making Information
Pay seminar, held by the Book Industry Study Group, which focused on
"using emerging technology to improve your bottom line":
Although e-books are nowhere near achieving their potential, there are
many other digital opportunities, mostly on the Web and cell phones and
iPods, that continue to grow and evolve. Publishers who aren't ready
for those and unforeseen opportunities--such as by not digitizing their books, for example--will
lose out. As Mike Shatzkin of the Idea Logical Co., put it: "The day
will come when you should have done it last week."
Consumers are reading more and more online and want pieces of
information, not full texts. As a result, making chapters and other
parts of traditional books available is more important. "Consumers
don't want to read a whole finance book when they're only concerned
with mortgages," Nicole Poindexter of Hachette Group said. "New media
is radically changing content. In the past, readers just took content
as it was presented." Now, she added, "consumers create content."
Poindexter pointed out, too, that the next generation of readers are
digital natives and to an extent will bypass books. "We'll have no
chance to control our content unless we take action now to digitize it
and be proactive."
Publishers need to be online to sell traditional books, too. More and more
marketing is done online to reach niches and establish relationships
with readers. In the same vein, consumers are creating communities and
publishers need to involve themselves in those communities.
The digital revolution is "not happening as outlined a few years ago,"
Allen Noren of O'Reilly Media said. "But is has started, and O'Reilly
is making significant money from digital products."
Mike Shatzkin, founder and CEO of the Idea Logical Co., predicted that
this year publishers will seek out companies that can handle digital
asset distribution, which he affectionately called DADs, because
"digital content opportunities will proliferate." Content distribution
on the Web promotes sales, he said, and "a party with revenue might
start at any time."
Shatzkin has identified about a dozen companies that qualify as DADs,
including Accenture, Donnelly, Bibliovault, CodeMantra, CPI,
LibreDigital (part of HarperCollin's NewsStand), the BookStore part of
Holtzbrinck/Macmillan, the Ingram Digital Group, Random House and Value
Chain International (Gardners).
The consolidation of digital distribution will be "inexorable," he
continued, and when there are fewer DADs, it will be "easier to spread
opportunities across the marketplace."
Shatzkin noted "big shifts in reaching consumers," saying that
marketing needs to move "from large scale to niche." Today maybe 50
websites will reach what one show reached in the past. He said
publishers should consider such marketing efforts as an investment
rather than an expense, in part because the money will be spent for
ongoing ventures, such as building lists. "Marketing has to be less
about pontificating and more about conversing," Shatzkin continued.
The next speaker represented a DAD: he was Chris Hart, v-p of
publishing and sales applications at Random House. Hart outlined the
development of Random's Insight service, which has roots in
Random's decision 10 years ago to begin digitizing some information
about its books, starting with covers, then including text descriptions and author
biographies, expanding over time so that "now basically the whole book
is online," he said.
Insight is something that "sits on the Net and allows the syndication
or broader use of Random House material." As a result, "we have more
content in front of more people than ever. This has made us part of the
Internet conversation." He noted that Insight also "levels the playing
field for retailers" by allowing a search-inside-the-book type of
function for all booksellers and nontraditional retailers, too.
Hart said that "it's very important to think differently inhouse. We
have to start talking about new products online." Already Insight has
allowed Random to test new business models, such as possibly a
subscription service just for science fiction or a cookbook newsletter
associated with a book. Random is also encouraging authors to look at ways
to disseminate information beyond the traditional book.
Hart noted that "reverse publishing is getting big." This involves more
than just blog-to-book publishing, but allowing consumers to take their
own material and wrap it with the publisher's and "make their own
Allen Noren, director of online marketing at O'Reilly Media, offered
anecdotes illustrating how books have lost their traditional appeal for
many people. One honors computer student said to him, for example,
"Books? You mean those things you older people use?"
A graduate of Yale's MBA program noted that during the whole program he
didn't use books. "If it wasn't on Google," he said, "it didn't exist."
the CFO of a publishing company, when helping her daughter with a
paper, said that most of the research they did was online, commenting,
"Books are so inconvenient."
The business is "competing against new and creative ways of
distributing information," Noren went on. "We're competing against the
immediacy and convenience of the Internet. We're competing with the
concept of 'good enough.' [The idea that maybe the quality of some
information online isn't the best but is adequate.] We're competing
Like other speakers, Noren emphasized the importance of providing
consumers easy access and requiring as few clicks as possible.
Noren outlined several O'Reilly programs that have aimed to reach
consumers on the Web. Safari U. "liberated content from the book
cover," allowing people to take material in a variety of ways and
combine it with their own material. Safari X, a joint venture with
Pearson, enables students to get digital versions of texts at lower
costs. Short Cuts presents short form pdfs of longer content as it is
being developed, which "also lets us do rapid publishing," he said.
"These are living documents, updated many times. We're not constrained
by having printed a book that can't be changed until we get through the
Not surprisingly, O'Reilly has found that using "static text and images to
describe dramatic processes are not fully optimal online," as Noren put
it. He highly recommended new Adobe Acrobat products that allow
multimedia files to be embedded in text, which he called "ideal for
cookbooks, travel books, historical titles besides technology titles."
Noren said that selling pdfs of O'Reilly books online has led
international sales to jump from 4% to 43% of sales. The company has
added a rights link to this, making it easy for customers to buy
reprint rights. It's also started selling chapters.
"Content ubiquity" is important, he continued. "We need to get content out there as far and wide as we can."
Providing an overview of Hachette Group's experiences in digital
publishing, Nicole Poindexter, v-p of strategic planning and publishing
operations, said that "mistakes happen in this arena, but can we afford
not to try?"
She pointed to broad changes in reading and online usage that make it
imperative for any publisher to have a presence online. One study shows
that there are 211 million Americans Internet users. People
are becoming ever more comfortable buying--and even doing their
taxes--on the Web. As more and more content appears on the Web, filters
searching abilities become necessary. "Search can be a powerful
marketing tool," Poindexter commented. "It has the ability to allow
people to find your content." In addition, books and publishers offer
E-books still have problems: files need to work across hardware
platforms and handle graphics, there should be a critical mass of
titles available, readers should be multifunctional, easy to use and
competitively priced. "We've made progress but we're not there yet,"
Digital publishing is not like traditional publishing, Poindexter
emphasized. "We have to think about publishing in a very different
way," from acquisitions and contracts and management to editing, sales
and marketing. A major issue for the company is whether to "own" or
outsource various capabilities.
John Rubin, founder and CEO of Above the Treeline, described the retail
sales data analysis company, which has just added Borders to its stable
of clients. Above the Treeline has helped
booksellers increase turns and helped publishers sell smarter, he said.
A major problem in sales analysis in the industry has been that the
book world has "unparalleled complexity in terms of the numbers and
types of SKUs" and that "algorithms go only so far when it comes to
books." But technology is catching up with the industry, Rubin said,
and booksellers and publishers are beginning to overcome longtime
hurdles. For years, publishers feared booksellers would hoard books and
booksellers have feared not being able to get books they've wanted.
More and more publishers and retailers are recognizing that "they both
have vested interests in getting the right books into the right stores"
and are "looking at inventory as a shared asset even when it goes into
stores." Rubin predicted that vendor managed inventories "maybe will
work" in the book business.
Ted Treanor, president of Rosetta Solutions and Seattle Book Co.,
discussed the company's newest product, Net Galley, which will be
launched at BEA and aims to make the process of getting galleys to
reviewers more efficient and less costly.--John Mutter