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ECPA Wire: Industry Issues

Is the eBooks “tidal wave” really just a small swell?

Thursday, August 4, 2011   (0 Comments)
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Lori Silverstein, Chief Sales Officer, Digital Divide Data


Many of us who’ve been around awhile can get quite cynical about fads. (I’m sure I’ve got a Beanie Baby in the closet next to my Cabbage Patch Doll).  But when does a fad become a trend that we need to pay attention to?  Are the speakers at this year’s ECPA Executive Leadership Conference right to declare eBooks a "tidal wave” we MUST deal with now?  How many more times does the book need to be declared dead before the presses should stop rolling?


At the ECPA conference a third of attendees responding to a survey said they thought half their book sales would be in a digital format within three years.  OK, we get it, a lot of people are worried and think eBooks are going to be big.  Right now sales of Religious Publications are strong; for the first four months of this year they’re up 10% year-over-year for the industry.  And only 12% of American adults currently own an eReader. If you include iPads, that figure goes up to a whopping 14%. Compare that to almost anyone in the country who can buy a book without a $150+ device and I’m not convinced.


But let’s look closely at that 14% number again; it is not insignificant.  That’s 1 out of every 7 American adults.  What makes it really impressive is that this number has DOUBLED in the last six months.  In fact, this past May Amazon marked the fourth anniversary of the Kindle--and simultaneously announced that their eBook sales surpassed sales of soft and hardcover books combined. Barnes & Noble expects to reach that tipping point in the next 18 months. Year-over-year sales of eBooks for the first four months of 2011 are up 160%!  Remember that 10% increase in sales for religious texts? It is largely attributed to eBook sales.


I hate to be the one to break it to you, but they’re right.  You do need to worry about an eBook strategy.  That does not mean you should rush out tomorrow, sending all your content at the first vendor out of India that tops your search engine.  Not all eBook conversion companies are created equal.  What you need now is a cost-effective, skilled and reliable partner who shares your values, can meet your demands for quality and delivers on their promises. 


Content conversion specialists take books stored in almost any digital format (such as PDF, InDesign, Quark or other) and convert them into eBook standard formats (such as ePub, Kindle, eReader, iPhone and others).  The better firms employ a high quality conversion process using both software and humans. Hand-processed conversion produces a superior product with better layout of complex elements like tables and non-standard characters. Some content specialists can also start with physical books and do high fidelity scanning from hardcover or soft-cover editions. Economical approaches can be used for non-fragile books, while more careful non-destructive approaches are appropriate for fragile or rare materials. 


You’ll want to be sure your conversion experts can provide all of the components necessary so your eBooks are easily navigable and display beautifully on whichever device your customer is using, including hyperlinked table of contents, a stylesheet, XML tags, tables, footnotes, illustrations, chapters, sections, special characters and the appropriate metadata.


Most eBook conversion is occurring overseas.  This can pose a number of moral challenges for evangelical publishers.  You want to be sure to look for a vendor who shares your values, treats their employees fairly and meets fair labor standards.  When selecting a vendor ask them about their retention rates for employees (the industry average is only 12-months), the conditions of employee housing, health care and opportunities for growth for employees such as promotions, bonuses and training. These are not only moral issues, but happy, healthy workers produce a better product.


Whether or not eBooks take over 50% of the market or remain at 14%, the technology is here to stay.  Find a partner who shares your values while also delivering your eBooks quickly, accurately and cost effectively.  Who knows, a company like that may be setting the next trend!




Lori Silverstein ( is Chief Sales Officer for Digital Divide Data (DDD), a social enterprise that creates jobs for poor youth in Cambodia, Kenya and Laos by delivering high-quality content business process outsourcing services to clients like you. DDD has been converting content into digital formats for over a decade.  They have successfully completed thousands of projects and converted millions of pages. Their staff are highly motivated – a retention rate of 3+ years far exceeds the industry average, they invest heavily in training, provide university scholarships to and opportunities for advancement to management. DDD’s motto is, "When our business grows, so does our impact.”


ECPA recently welcomed DDD as a new partner so that members "can get access to quality eBook services from an organization that prides itself on both its ability to produce quality work while maintaining a focus on and commitment to eradicating poverty in developing parts of the world."  Choosing DDD provides one more way for evangelical Christians and companies who sell to the evangelical market to alleviate suffering around the world.

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