Digital Book World (DBW) is an annual conference that, according to its website, “offers trade publishers hard data on the state of the book business as well as actionable, proven strategies for taking immediate advantage of opportunities as they develop in today’s publishing industry.”
I was able to attend one day for free, in exchange for helping my entrepreneur friend run her booth for her company, BiblioCrunch, at the conference.
The day began with opening remarks from Mike Shatzkin, founder and CEO of The Idea Logical Company. The main takeaway was that technology is rapidly changing how to approach the publishing industry. We can learn a lot from Amazon, which uses technology it made for itself and sells it to others.
Other points Mike Shatzkin made:
- Metadata is important. Metadata is a resource that promotes a book. Keywords, reviews, and anything that points back to your book matters. Companies such as Cookstr have built a powerful, complicated tagging system that organizes large amounts of metadata.
- eBook prices can make or break sales. Because ebooks are not tangible and because it is easy to change their price, doing research, analysis, and price adjustment will help increase sales.
- Use XML workflows. XML is a good base to use to sort links to sources and resources, as well as an easy way to use the same data to make ebooks in multiple formats. This can also help both print and digital workflows.
- Consider using SaaS (software as a service). Then you can access your information via the web and can work from anywhere.
- Manage in-house resources. This includes storage and bandwidth.
- Apps can be more than a book or product. They can also be a store, platform, and a proprietary growth channel that gives publishers an advantage.
- Direct sales are now more important than ever. “Customers are increasingly the coin of the realm for publishers.” Knowing the names or consumers and understanding them will help keep publishers relevant.
- Non-fiction has a lot of B2B opportunities, such as licensing content.
- In terms of marketing, verticalization is important and publishers need to be audience-centric.
- Take advantage of social marketing. Tap into influencer databases and relationships. This means reach out to influencers in a relevant category and have them spread the word to their followers about you/your product. Also help authors be effective in this sphere.
- Think of the sale of a book as only the beginning of you engagement with the consumer. Inviting the reader to connect with you in the book will lead to more sales.
- Quality control of vanilla ebooks. Vanilla ebooks are regular ebooks with only text. To ensure people will continue buying your ebooks, make sure the ebooks you have have links that work, no funny characters, and that maps and charts render as intended.
- Illustrated books are still a challenge. Be cautious unless you’re sure of a “slam dunk for print sales.”
- EPUB3 narrows the gap between enhanced ebooks and apps.
- The market will decide whether audio should be separate or part of an ebook. (This doesn’t include children’s books, which already use the read aloud function of the iPad).
- ISBNs beget ISBNs. “Books can be sliced and diced,” meaning non-fiction book chapters can stand alone. “Publishers should think hard of all ways to sell.”
- Events are products too.
- The barriers to entry are low in the ebook world. There are many new competitors/collaborators, and although scale still helps, it’s not the prerequisite it once was. Also, non-book publishers can do ebooks (such as NBC, retailers like Amazon, and games, TV and movie creators). Any site with content and traffic can be a competitor/collaborator as well.
Publishing Industry Forecast 2012
James McQuivey, Vice President & Principal Analyst of Forrester Research next presented his company’s analysis of the publishing industry. Some interesting findings:
- 25 million Americans own an ereader (Nook is giving away ereaders)
- 34 million Americans own tablets (5+ million of those are Kindle Fires)
- For the top publishers, more than 15% of theirs sales are digital
- 40 million Americans will have ereaders and 61 Americans will have tablets by the end of 2012
- Tablet owners in the U.S. will be like their own country in terms of size and influence
- According to a survey, the ideal reading devices are eink readers (35%), then tablets (31%), then reading tablets, such as the Nook and Fire (30%)
- “The love affair with apps is officially over.” It costs too much to produce. 75% of publishers produce apps, and on average generate 26.5 apps each. Only 15% say it’s a revenue opportunity.