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- From the Tech Desk
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Indie Groundbreaking Book
Mobile Strategies for Digital Publishing
New Book Gives Independent Publishers and Authors a Roadmap to Mobile Devices
While this month's "From the Tech Desk" column tackles whether or not readers are ready to abandon print books for their digital alternatives, there is no question that mobile technologies have changed the publishing world forever. In many ways, this revolution—of e-readers, tablets, smartphones, eBooks, apps, and digital bookstores—has given independent publishers and self-published authors the opportunity they needed to get their books out there. But "mobile" and "digital" are such huge concepts—with so many different possibilities—that many of us have yet to realize or understand their full potential.
That's the concept of this month's Indie Groundbreaking Book, a thoughtful and informative instructional manual of sorts called Mobile Strategies for Digital Publishing: A Practical Guide to the Evolving Landscape. The book, written by electronic publishing analyst Thad McIlroy, and published in partnership Digital Book World and Integra, challenges our working definitions of "mobile," and helps us to understand the many ways in which this technology can be used to advance the missions of digital publishing.
First, though, we have to understand the inherent challenges of getting anywhere with mobile publishing.
"In the modern era, book publishing has always competed for attention with other print and audio/visual media," McIlroy writes in the introduction to Mobile Strategies for Digital Publishing. "Newspapers and magazines; recorded music; radio; television; and feature films. But never has book publishing competed with these media on the exact same devices. The battle for attention, eyeballs and dollars has never been so intense."
McIlroy is right: we can no longer just count on a consumer to reach for a book when they are sitting out by the pool on summer afternoon and looking for a bit of leisurely entertainment. Mobile technology has changed the game entirely, and it leaves publishers—both large and small—needing to become more clever and aggressive about how they are getting audiences to focus on books.
The question, of course, is how publishers can, as McIlroy writes, "reimagine their role in an all-mobile, all digital world." Based on recent studies and surveys, it will be a long time before print is dead enough for publishers to truly worry about going all digital. However, considering the prospect of an increasingly mobile-dominated publishing world should inspire indie publishers and self-published authors to at least think about how they can bend new technologies to their will.
In Mobile Strategies for Digital Publishing, McIlroy seems to favor the idea of enhanced eBooks as the route to publishing success in a digital world. His logic is that basic eBooks, while simple and reliable enough to be the publishing industry's digital standard for now, can't quite hold the attention of the average mobile user. That's because smartphones are used mostly for texting, social networking, and app gaming, while tablets are perfect for or watching movies or playing games. With all of these colorful, noisy distractions, it's easy to see why a simple black and white text document might not enjoy a lot of real estate on the average mobile user's screen.
McIlroy thinks that enhanced eBooks could shift the status quo more in favor of mobile reading. His line of thinking is sound, since enhanced eBooks take many of the things that mobile users love—colorful images, audio and video clips, interactive features—and incorporate them right into the reading experience. Logically, these elements should help publishers compete with the louder and shinier forms of media that so often dominate the mobile experience. Some publishers or authors might even consider going one step further and turning their books into fully interactive apps—a concept that has already been tried, particularly for children's picture books.
Of course, neither of those product models are proven sources of revenue just yet. The issue here is that publishers and authors are just facing a disadvantage when it comes to winning the battle for mobile user attention. Filmmakers, musicians, and game developers may have slightly tweaked the formats of their mediums in order to cater to mobile audiences, but they didn't have to change the essence of what they were doing. Moving toward enhanced eBooks or book apps would be a major transition for the publishing community to go through, and it's a risky one too, since there's no evidence that passionate readers even have interest in those kinds of products.
What makes Mobile Strategies for Digital Publishing a great read, though, is not that McIlroy tries to pretend he has all the answers. He knows there are more than a few question marks in the publishing industry's future, and he doesn't act like publishers will become extinct if they don't start steering away from the tried and true eBook format. Rather, this guide seeks to offer a full, unbiased view of the shifting technological landscape, and to start a discussion about how the publishing industry may need to evolve to fit the changing times. It's a thought-provoking, must-read piece for people working in the industry.
Interested in giving Mobile Strategies for Digital Publishing: A Practical Guide to the Evolving Landscape a read? The book can be purchased directly from Digital Book World, as well as through Amazon.com.
Craig Manning is currently studying English and Music at Western Michigan University. In addition to writing for IndependentPublisher.com, he maintains a pair of entertainment blogs, interns at the Traverse City Business News, and writes for Rockfreaks.net and his college newspaper. He welcomes comments or questions concerning his articles via email, at firstname.lastname@example.org.