Bookbuilders of Boston is a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing together people involved in book publishing and manufacturing throughout New England. Our blog describes industry events that we sponsor or attend.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Snow's Coming: DBW, Final Day

The second full day of programming at DBW further emphasized the importance of consumer data for publishers. In a morning presentation, BISG (Book Industry Study Group, Angela Bole) and Bowker (Kelly Gallagher) revealed some demographic features of the e-book consumer. Firstly, according to Bowker, "power buyers" are apparent and very important. Constituting about 20% of buyers overall, these avid readers are most often women, aged 30-44, and they purchase e-books weekly. They are urban or suburban, and their overall profile is similar to that of the print buyer (i.e., not a new category of book consumers). They purchase books on impulse, as one often does in a bookstore.

An enthusiastic presentation on consumer sales data followed, kicked off by Bob Kohn of Royalty Share, Inc. (RoyaltyShare's Digital Advantage product was adopted by Faber and Faber to consolidate e-book sales reporting from over thirty resellers, as announced Tuesday). Kohn encouraged publishers to seek and acquire consumer demographic information from retail partners, including zip code and customer ID. The ID would allow publishers to deploy promotions to specific customers based on their past purchases without the need for their names and email addresses. 

Michael Tamblyn from Kobo, speaking on the same panel, described his company's passion for data and the need to act quickly on weekly, daily, or even hourly trends. Kobo portrays an openness to sharing data with publishers, undoubtedly a point in their favor when publishers consider resource allocation. Tamblyn described a "steady heartbeat" of core sales data received by publisher partners, as well as Kobo's willingness to research trends for publishers, "across weeks and days, frontlist versus backlist."

Even a breakout session on metadata, one of the more practical, less "social" aspects of publishing, referenced the importance of user (reader) experience. Comparing the unrestrained inclusivity of enhanced metadata to the Wild West, presenters agreed that reader comments on Facebook et al. should be reviewed and perhaps harnessed by publishers as part of the overall "consumer facing" data package for books. The appearance of linked publisher content on these sites is also a metadata concern: the tagging of appropriate images, blurbs, reviews, etc. is critical to increasing discoverability.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Digital Book World, Day One

In today's program, several themes emerged consistently. The first two of these are related to one basic concept: discoverability. That is, while cost and time to market are shrinking, and the number of titles available increases exponentially, how does a publisher ensure that the audience for a book is aware of its arrival? 

In the past, serendipitous discovery on the bookstore shelf led readers to books that interested them. In particular, independent bookstores were, in Malcolm Gladwell's terms, "mavens," recommending titles for their community. While the decline of the traditional bookstore is considered inevitable, publishers still embrace the power of a bookseller's influence. Michael Cader of Publishers Marketplace described a new potential category of the un-bookstore--a space to hold author events, host a live community of readers, and perhaps sell reader hardware in conjunction with an online e-book storefront.

Taking the concept of discoverability a step further, several presenters discussed the importance of publishers connecting DIRECTLY with readers. Social media makes such connections possible, especially if authors have an online following prior to publication. Jane Friedman from Open Road Integrated Media discussed that identification of actual readers ("having the names") is not as important as knowing where and how to reach the appropriate audience over time. Contact with readers is thought to be critical in identifying desired platforms and levels of interactivity (technological sophistication), and experimenting with pricing or marketing of digital content. Presentation pictured is "Content First, Format Second."
Mike Shatzkin and Cristina Mussinelli.

A separate but persistent point today concerned international sales. The number of English language speakers worldwide is large, and the portability of the electronic format may open new opportunities for US publishers who have world rights. There are barriers to entry based on country, however, and intermediaries are most likely needed to partner with local resellers. The European market was discussed in most detail: while online purchasing in general has lagged in Europe as compared to the US, it is on the rise. Smartphones are the dominant platform abroad, as adoption of dedicated e-reader technology has been slow.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Opening Ceremonies, DBW 2011

Braving some cold temps, Bookbuilders of Boston was represented at Digital Book World's opening ceremonies in NYC tonight. The program included the conference's Publishing Innovation Awards, a 7x20x21 variety presentation, and Name that Audiobook (sponsored by Audible.Com). Some highlights:

The Innovation Awards was an inaugural event, with selections made in Fiction, Nonfiction, Children's, Reference, and Comics. One standout was the Children's winner, A Story Before Bed. More a concept than a particular title, A Story Before Bed works with publishers to make available select children's books with the ability for friends and family to read aloud to the recipient (both audio and video accompaniment). The company has given away over 75,000 stories to military parents spending time away from their children, a natural application of the technology that is also memorable.

The 7x20x21 presentation (7 speakers, 20 slides each, 21 seconds per slide) guaranteed diversity of thought, and speakers included authors, publishers, and readers. The first speaker was the most timely: Evan Ratliff from The Atavist, with iPhone and iPad apps launching Wednesday. This is a journalistic venture with a multi-platform app supporting long-form nonfiction at $2.99 per story.

The Atavist was striking to me in light of some recent personal reading--namely, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr. Carr develops the hypothesis that our ability to comprehend and retain information decreases as hyperlinks and supplemental related info are introduced in the main content stream. The Atavist app blows this concept up in some respects: though stories can be read "clean," the attraction of the experience is access to video, maps, music, etc. connected with the story, all linked at the contextually relevant moments (shown in markup at right). The idea of having access to more of the journalist's reference and fact-checking material is intriguing, though even Ratliff acknowledged the challenge in absorbing it all.

The evening ended with Name That Audiobook, a game-show themed contest featuring two very recognizable audiobook narrators. I don't know their names, but I'm certain they've ridden in my car many times! Attendees were also pretty jazzed to receive two free audiobook downloads from Audible.Com. Giveaways have become very scarce in recent years, so we appreciated this one.