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From the Tech Desk
DBW Releases White Paper Examining Tech Advancements in Publishing
The monopolistic business strategies of Google and Amazon, and how they are decimating the publishing industry; tips to help mid-sized websites and independent publishers compete against far bigger companies; the growing importance of personalized content in book publishing. These are just a few of the topics tackled in Digital Book World's Viewpoints on Publishing's Digital Transformation, a new white paper published online ahead of DBW's 2016 Conference + Expo. That event will take place from March 7th to 9th at the Hilton New York Midtown Hotel, but Viewpoints on Publishing's Digital Transformation provides a free opportunity to read insight from the conference speakers more than a month in advance.
Browsing through the DBW white paper is like taking a journey through the best and worst effects that technology has had on publishing. On one end, several authorities think major tech companies like Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Apple—referred to here as the "Four Horsemen" of the digital era—are leaving little space for smaller companies to compete or for anyone to make a living in publishing. In a brief but stark essay titled "Sleeping Through a Revolution," USC professor Jonathan Taplin talks about the consequences that Amazon and Google's unprosecuted monopolies have had—or will have—on the publishing industry. "In Amazon's view," he writes, "as long as the customer gets lower prices, society should not care that writers cannot make a living, that independent bookstores go out of business, and publishers die."
Taplin's recommendation is that writers and publishers alike "push the government" for better antitrust enforcement. But are companies like Amazon.com too big to take down? Is there really anything that publishers—particularly smaller indies—can do to change the status quo or shuffle the deck that is currently stacked in favor of tech powerhouses? Scott Galloway, a professor at the NYU Stern School of Business and another DBW Expo speaker, doesn't seem to think so. In a Q&A also featured in the DBW white paper, Galloway's top recommendation is for publishing companies to "identify exclusive content that readers are willing to pay for."
Such has been the secret to success for Dominique Raccah—founder of Naperville, Illinois-based indie publisher Sourcebooks. In her Q&A for Viewpoints on Publishing's Digital Transformation, Raccah talks about how personalized content has helped her company move into the 21st century of book publishing in a new and exciting way. Raccah says that Sourcebooks has stayed profitable and continued to grow by discovering new streams of revenue that weren't there before, and many of those are outside of the book market entirely. Contrary to popular belief, personalization in publishing isn't all about personalized books, but also ties into the gift market. Sourcebooks has found that, by "personalizing bestselling author content for new product lines"—including placemats, wall art, mugs, growth charts, lunchboxes, and more—they've been able to "add revenue beyond the book itself."
Raccah isn't the only Digital Book World speaker who has found ways to create new revenue streams. Erica Lazzaro of Overdrive, Inc. will be on hand to speak about the growing market for digital audiobooks, while John Ingram—CEO of the Ingram Content Group—believes that continued vigilance in transformation and diversification are the reasons behind his company's ongoing success. Both publishing industry figures are featured in brief but informative Q&As in the pages of Viewpoints on Publishing's Digital Transformation.
Sometimes, though, learning to be profitable in the digital age of the publishing industry is as much about pure business strategy as it is about new products and revenues streams. One of the most engaging segments of the Digital Book World white paper—and what will surely be a highlight of this year's DBW Conference + Expo—is Nathan Maharaji's viewpoint on elastic eBook pricing. Maharaji, a key figure in the development of the Kobo platform, believes that many publishers are effectively shooting themselves in the foot because they don't know how to price eBooks.
"Setting the agency price for an eBook at $10 when the paperback is widely online for $9 is a common sort of mistake," Maharaji says. Publishers simply have no idea what customers are willing to pay for a digital file. His advice is to think like the customer. "Envision what they're spending on entertainment—not just books, but apps, music, Netflix," and other mediums. "Books are still a very good value proposition, in terms of dollars per hour of entertainment," he continues. "But they don't live in isolation."
You can click here to download a free PDF of Viewpoints on Publishing's Digital Transformation from Digital Book World. If you wish to attend DBW's 2016 Conference + Expo, you can find registration information here.
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.