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.

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.

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