ENTRIES TAGGED "direct sales"

Building an ebook business around analytics

What happens when a web publishing business enters the ebook space?

AskMen, “the leading online magazine for men,” has just launched an ebook publishing program, using the PressBooks Publisher Platform to manage the front-end catalog/website, and back-end ebook production. In the year-and-a-bit since PressBooks launched publicly, we’ve worked with many traditional book publishers, big and small. But what’s most interesting to us is non-traditional book publishers entering the ebook space, because they have the flexibility to approach book publishing in whole new ways.

Especially interesting to us are successful web publishers, mainly because web publishers have the most direct understanding of their readers, and reader behaviour. This skill, and approach, will be critical, we believe, as book publishing evolves. Web publishing is an analytics-driven business. In the ebook world, timely analytics are very hard to come by. And generally, analytics is not something most book publishers prioritize in their business. We believe this will change, as book publishing becomes increasingly digital.

In the interview below, I explore the issue of web vs. ebook analytics with Emma McKay, managing editor of AskMen’s online magazine, and the leader of their ebook publishing program.

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Five key takeaways from TOC NY 2013

It's still early, startups rule, and ecommerce follows community

TOC NY 2013 is a wrap and based on the feedback I’ve received so far I think it was one of our best. When Kat and I closed the event Thursday afternoon we both shared thoughts on the most important points we came away with. If you weren’t able to join us last week, here are my top five lessons learned and discussed at TOC NY 2013:

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The Holocene: TOC Startup Showcase Finalist

A direct-to-consumer multimedia micromagazine and platform

We’re giving our readers a chance to get to know our TOC Startup Showcase Finalists a little bit better before the big showdown in NYC. We’re featuring the startups with a personality profile here on our website.

Our next profile is from Kim Werker, Brett Sandusky, and Corey Pressman from The Holocene.

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Knowing when to outsource

Qbend offers an excellent ecommerce platform solution

I was on a call earlier today with John Costa of Qbend. We’re putting together the final outline for the TOC NY session called Connecting to and Engaging Your Ebook Consumers. It’s a session I’m particularly excited about because it covers an extremely important topic for publishers: Establishing a direct sales channel.

One of the themes I’m hearing consistently across the publishing industry is that revenue and internal resources are shrinking. As a result, publishers are being forced to focus on what they do best and outsource the rest.

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Becoming a community-centric content publisher

The video game world offers some valuable lessons

Following on from my last post, which began a conversation about similarities between the book publishing and gaming industries, I see the second key pivot as actually the most important one. The formats I talk about in that first post are deliverables.  They’re “Content Containers”, according to current publishing buzzword statutes. The crucial pivot for digital content industries isn’t converting to digital product – though how you handle that is undoubtedly important – it’s the power that it gives you to talk directly to consumers that will truly revolutionise the retail landscape.

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Lightning strikes twice: The first digital pivot

Or, why the games industry doesn’t always get it right

We’re often told in publishing to look to other media for inspiration for the digital transition. Indeed, I have been an often vocal and staunch supporter of bringing in skills from other industries to help us build the skillsets we need to survive the changeover and there is certainly still a talent gap.

However, other media industries don’t always get it right. Music certainly didn’t, whilst film is struggling to balance the cinema/boxed goods model against the increasing on-demand requirements of its core userbase, TV is having to deal with dramatically falling ad revenues and time-shift boxes which cut out the advertising.

Games, though – those guys are digital natives, right? If there was ever an industry built to withstand a shift to digital distribution, the game industry is it, surely?

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Extracting value from uncertain data

2013 is the year you need to embrace "big data"

At TOC NY 2012 I made a point of telling attendees they need to learn the essentials of “big data.” It was still a fairly new concept then and a completely foreign one to most of the crowd. What a difference a year makes.

At next month’s TOC NY we’ll continue the dialog about big data and how it’s a resource every publisher needs to embrace. One of those TOC NY sessions features Rich Maraschi from IBM; I’ll have the pleasure of joining Rich in this session to help take big data from concept to reality.

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Reader survey results

We asked readers how they discover and purchase books

When Joe Wikert and I first began talking about doing a survey of readers’ book-buying habits, I had something specific in mind. While every day brings news of another publisher starting up or perhaps of a new online community for readers or authors–and sometimes several in a single day–most of these new entities will disappear in time, some to be swallowed up by a larger entity, others to simply turn out the lights. A small number–two or three in any given category–might manage to stick around for the long term.

And, yes, only two or three: as the hard economics of the Internet makes clear, the Internet is not for wusses. It’s an undemocratic medium with a small number of companies lording it over the thousands of champions of the Long Tail. A safe prediction is that the multitude of book-related sites will be winnowed down to a small number in time. But what will those sites be and what will characterize a successful book-oriented service in the coming years?

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Author and publisher relationships

Schilling's report sheds light on hotspots and opportunities

I had the pleasure of meeting with representatives from Schilling earlier this year as they prepared a white paper called “Author and publisher relations — how publishers stay competitive in digital publishing.” You can download the free report here.

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Direct channels and new tools bring freedom and flexibility

It's time to build a direct channel and bring your content development platform up to date

Earlier this week I wrote about why I’m bullish on publishing’s future. I talked about two areas that are ripe for change: ebook prices and formats. In the second and final part of this discussion I share the other two reasons why the future is bright for smart publishers: direct channels and new toolsets.

Direct Channels

As we’re creating those rich, HTML5-based products, we should also start thinking about the opportunity to sell direct to our customers. I’ve heard some publishers say that they see no need to create a direct sales channel because (a) the existing retailers do a great job and (b) they don’t want to compete with their retail partners. Perhaps these publishers haven’t noticed that some of their retail partners have no problem competing with them as publishers. Even if they aren’t concerned about that, they should be focused on establishing a direct relationship with their customers.

Direct channels provide outlets for products, and they also provide customer insights that are almost impossible to get anywhere else. For example, you can keep a close eye on what formats customers prefer (EPUB, mobi or PDF) and make adjustments as necessary. Good luck getting your retail partners to provide you with that kind of information.

Creating a successful direct sales channel isn’t easy. There’s much more to it than simply offering your catalog on your website.

You need to give your customers a reason to buy from you rather than buying somewhere else. Publishers who take the time to do this will be richly rewarded, though, not just in sales revenue, but customer intelligence. Publishers need to re-evaluate what value they can bring to the process. Building communities and creating experiences around your books will play a huge part in this development. This is especially relevant for smaller publishers who don’t have the muscle to compete with Amazon and other industry giants in attracting large numbers of consumers. By offering a more narrow but deep and focused range of books and expertise to a smaller number of specialized consumers, publishers might just be able to carve out an area that they can fill and manage.

Evolving Tools

Publishers have spent small fortunes enabling their production systems to output all those formats covered in the first part of this discussion. Despite those investments, most publishers still work with the same content creation tools they used in the pre-ebook era. It’s time to bring our authoring tools in line with the capabilities of today’s powerful e-reading devices and apps.

More and more books are being written by multiple authors these days. Even if it’s a single-author project, there are still editors and reviewers who need to get into the manuscript, often working on it simultaneously with the author or each other. Tools like Microsoft Word don’t really lend themselves to collaboration like this.

Another issue we’re going to face in the future is more frequent updates to content as well as short-form content that can grow over time.

This leads to the need for version control capabilities that haven’t been a major consideration in the past. And even if a publisher’s content isn’t updated frequently, there are still version control considerations for the collaboration requirement noted earlier. For example, if a freelance editor accidentally wipes out a batch of changes the publisher will want the ability to roll back to an earlier version of the content.

Booktype, Sourcefabric’s tool for writing and publishing books and ebooks, already responds to those needs and anticipates the demand for collaborative tools very well. At O’Reilly, we also realize the need for these collaboration and version control capabilities, and have made the investment to bring our authoring tools in line with today’s content management requirements. We’re currently using a new authoring and development platform we developed for our books, and we plan to make it available to other publishers soon, so stay tuned for more details right here on the TOC community site.

This content is taken from an article I wrote for a magazine Sourcefabric published called The Future of the Book. You can learn more about the Sourcefabric magazine here and you can download the free PDF of The Future of the Book here.
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