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Publishing News: Survey says publishers continue to miss out on digital opportunities

Aptara’s latest survey is out, news organizations as ebook publishers, and a recipe site that works like Instapaper.

Here’s what caught my attention this week in publishing news.

Digital publishing opportunities continue to elude publishers

Aptara’s Third Annual eBook Survey of Publishers was released this week. Overall, the study showed that publishers aren’t yet making the most of digital opportunities. The survey revealed that “one out of five ebook publishers generates more than 10% of their sales from ebooks” — a pretty good number for this stage of the game — but that there are far more market opportunities yet untapped, “particularly for the majority of publishers that are still eluded by production efficiencies and meaningful revenues.”

Some interesting highlights from the report include:

  • Publishers’ awareness of EPUB 3 and pursuit of enhanced ebooks is limited. EPUB 3 is the next edition of the EPUB ebook format standard and includes significant support for enhancements. There is a general lack of awareness of it and its benefits across all publisher types. While there has been a sizeable increase in enhanced ebook production in the past year, 60% of publishers are either still investigating or have no plans to produce enhanced ebooks.
  • pubwirGraphic.PNG
    Results for survey question 16: Do you have a strategy for moving to the EPUB3 standard once it is finalized?

  • Two out of three ebook publishers have not converted the majority of their backlist (legacy) titles to ebooks. With higher profit margins than frontlist titles, these digital assets hold significant untapped revenue potential.
  • The question of “digital or print?” has been answered. The answer is both: “digital and print.” The vast majority of book publishers (85%), across all market segments, are producing print and ebook versions of their titles. For the time being, print publishing’s legacy cost structure and business and production models are living alongside newer ebook-inspired practices.
  • Most ebook production still follows outdated print production models at the expense of significant operational efficiencies. Though publishers are pursuing multiple-output production (print and ebooks), they are slow to transition from a traditional print-based production to more flexible and scalable digital workflows that produce output for mobile devices, PCs, and print-all from a single content source.

The full report can be downloaded here.

News organizations continue to venture into ebook publishing

ArsTechnicaEbookReview.pngThe idea of newspapers, magazines and other news organizations publishing ebooks isn’t new, but as newspapers and magazines continue to struggle to find their way (and their revenue) in the new digital landscape, the practice is becoming a lot more common. A post this week in the New York Times took a look at this burgeoning market and how it’s affecting ebook publishing:

Swiftly and at little cost, newspapers, magazines and sites like The Huffington Post are hunting for revenue by publishing their own version of ebooks, either using brand-new content or repurposing material that they may have given away free in the past.

And by making e-books that are usually shorter, cheaper to buy and more quickly produced than the typical book, they are redefining what an ebook is — and who gets to publish it.

The practice extends to technology manuals as well — take a look at the Ars Technica Mac OS X Lion review that the company turned into an ebook (here’s its page on Goodreads).

Taking into consideration the nimble nature of ebook publishing and the high ROI for news organizations, this blossoming new rivalry for traditional publishers is likely to continue.

Finally, a recipe organization site that really gets it

Recipe sites and apps are popping up all over the place, but for recipe hunter/gatherers like myself, the modus operandi of emailing recipe links and storing them in inbox folders continued to be a better (though messy) solution. Until now. KeepRecipes — reviewed this week in Mashable — provides a solution that really works.

As Sarah Kessler explains in the Mashable post, the site works like Instapaper — users install a bookmarklet they can click while on a recipe page they want to save. Kessler’s rundown of how it works is great, but she gives one important tip that ultimately makes a big difference:

Due to copyright issues, the bookmarklet can only auto-populate the ingredient list of the recipe. But if the user highlights instructions before clicking the bookmarklet, those are also saved with the ingredient list.

While playing with the app, I found a couple instances where the ingredient list didn’t auto-populate as well, but the highlighting trick worked for that, too. Other useful features include an auto-population of the recipe source link, and the site coordinates with an iPhone app, so you can easily access ingredient lists while at the grocery store.

One of the more exciting aspects of this site is that it’s looking to partner with publishers to sell digital editions of cookbooks that users can buy and download directly into their KeepRecipes folders. Kessler noted that the “Not Your Mother’s” series, A. J. Rathbun’s cocktail book “Dark Sprits” and cookbooks from the “A Baker’s Field Guide” series are on deck for a Thanksgiving release. This not only offers potential revenue for publishers, it’s very useful for consumers. It also could set the stage for selling individual recipes from cookbooks as one-offs.

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