With between 15 % to 25% of book sales shifting to digital format by 2015, the book industry is having to adapt to a whole new digital environment. The digital transition has forced authors, publishers, distributors and retailers to re-evaluate business models and relationships with one another. Several significant challenges will have to continue to be addressed such as pricing policies that secure the changing sources of profit and the redefined networks of distribution that maintain format diversity. More readers demand material which will provide an interactive experience. The Times and Sunday Times pioneered digital subscriptions and since February 2012 the number of people who receive a digital version of the newspaper has risen by 20%. Scholastic recently published findings of a study carried out which found that since 2010 the percentage of children aged 9 to 17 who have read an e-book almost doubled while the number who say they’ll continue to read books in print instead of electronically declined from 66% to 58%.
So, I thought that I would share some thoughts on what the current publishing picture looks like, what changes have been demanded from the industry and the trends that were highlighted in 2013.
- Printed content love affair
There were many of us who thought that the start of the digital age heralded the end of the printed copy. In the same way that valedictories for the radio were proved to be somewhat premature with radio now continuing to thrive in the age of new media, publishers have responded with more and more experimenting with innovative cover designs and layouts in a bid to encourage readers to buy print over digital. Penguin have reproduced classic texts in a range of collectible books which feature designs from Jessica Hische and which include the work of authors whose surnames begin with a beautifully illustrated letter.
In addition, the fact that an e-book cannot be given away or sold once it has been read may also reduce the perceived value of the product. I think that what has become increasingly evident however is that for a publication to be viable, printed content needs to also be available online.
- Metadata and consumer data
It has become very important for publishers to make effective use of data detailing readership and consumption as unless they can identify who is reading the content, it is difficult to tailor specific marketing campaigns. Data analysis serves as a tool for gaining insight into consumer behaviour and preference. Without data, publishers will be uninformed as to the wants and requirements of the market as we shift towards a digital retail environment.
The bookshop has traditionally been the primary means of book discovery but in view of the fact that sales are increasingly being made online, bookshops will come to have a much reduced role in the way in which books are sold and marketed with search optimisation and social media taking precedence. In the online scenario, a reader is confronted with an limitless selection of books. Results are based on recommendation and search algorithms driven by keywords and the metadata of a book which consists of author biography, sample chapters and reviews.
- Reader Interaction and Social Media
Amazon has forced publishers to raise their game in their relentless engagement with readers. Publishers do not have access to the same levels of data and consumer information as Amazon and are now having to fully utilize social media for content marketing, search visibility (e.g. on Twitter) and development of relationships between the deliverers of content and the readers themselves.
Arguably the most significant trend in 2013, it will be interesting to see how this new platform for publishing work is factored into the landscape of 2014. At once a funding platform and a publishers, Unbound has placed books “in the hands of” the readers. The founders of Unbound say that it “democratises the book commissioning process by enabling authors and readers to make the decisions about what gets published”.