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Six Decisions to Make in Digital Publishing

Tuesday, September 6, 2011   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Sheri Toomb
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It’s a Book, It’s an App, It’s ???John Wheeler
Six Decisions to Make in Digital Publishing

by John Wheeler
Vice President of Strategy and Emerging Technologies, SPi Global

With the onslaught of "digital” trends and devices, there are more questions than answers in the publishing industry today. Publishers need to acquire content, transform it across multiple formats, deliver to a number of devices/platforms, and monetize using a range of revenue models.

Content transformation, per se, is not new. Publishers, over the last decade have repurposed books into online PDFs, web pages, audio files, flash files, and many more. So what is new? Probably the speed of change and the structural shifts it can make in behavior. Facebook and Twitter, in a matter of years, have made significant changes in the way we communicate. The explosive growth in e-readers, smartphones, and tablets can have a similar, if not larger impact on the way we read.

What are some key areas that a publisher should think about? Here are six decisions every publisher needs to make before publishing content in digital form:

DECISION #1: Creating vs. Converting

The initial approach to digital products has been conversion (i.e. taking content designed for a different medium – mostly print – and adapting it). As publishers experiment with purely "e” or "e-before-p,” the approach also needs to move towards design/production of the digital product as the standalone or primary output. This calls for a radical change in existing processes/workflows.

DECISION #2: Discoverability

Consumers are buying both print books and e-books from websites and app stores. Getting a sale no longer depends upon where the book is placed in the retail store but on how it shows up in the search queries and recommendations of prospective buyers. This functionality depends upon the level of enriched metadata and tagging available.

DECISION #3: The Experience

Consumers are no longer looking at just "plain vanilla” reading. They want to interact with multimedia elements (audio/video), play around with images (expandable charts), and even look at answering a quiz/survey. However, user feedback suggests that there needs to be a fine balance between these add-on features and the pleasure of reading through a thriller without being disturbed.

DECISION #4: Format Flexibility

"Change is the only constant.” Availability of content in a format that is easy to build into the required output format can be a big differentiator. XML is a widely adopted format for this and publishers not on XML should consider making the investment.

DECISION #5: Testing

Beta testing is an important but often less-emphasized stage in the product development process. Customer acceptance and adoption primarily depends on their "first-experience” with these new products. An e-product that is well developed and extensively tested has better chances of success.

DECISION #6: Customer Support

As products move from early adopters to mainstream, what level of hand holding/support needs to be provided by the publisher to their customers? Do they rely on the device/platform provider or have their dedicated in-house/outsourced team handle customer queries? Investing in customer support can not only improve customer satisfaction, but also provide useful insights into behaviors that can be channeled into future product development.

SPi Global provides a comprehensive suite of content processing and customer support solutions for the publishing industry and has recently partnered with ECPA to develop solutions that meet the needs of its members. ECPA members are eligible for annual rebates. For more details, please visit or email and be sure to mention you are an ECPA member.

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