Over the past two decades, the publishing industry has seen disruptive changes. This change has been primarily driven by the evolution of digital books or eBooks as they are commonly called. From rocket eBook reader in 1998 to the ever-popular Amazon Kindle readers first launched in 2007, the dedicated reading devices have evolved tremendously. And so has the eBook standards from the OEB (Open eBook standard) to the current day ePUB3 and KF8.
While the eBook industry is steadily moving from ePUB2 standards to ePUB3 and from Mobi to KF8, for many publishers, digital publishing remains an alien planet. Many just wait for the technology to mature before investing, others remain confused about how they can take advantage of the rich opportunities that are available in digital publishing.
To simplify, technology in an eBook or digital publishing business can be broken down into three components – content, devices, and platforms. In order to create a successful eBook business, a publisher needs to understand and leverage all the three components simultaneously.
1. Content Is Still The King:
At FutureBook 2014, keynote speaker George Berkowski said publishers need to focus on entertainment and media companies as real competitors. To quote him: “You are not in the same industry, but the people who are reading Fifty Shades of Grey and The Hunger Games are the same people who sat on the tube reading BuzzFeed every day. You have got to figure out who your competitors are.
They are not the big five. They are not independent publishers. They are the people trying to get people’s attention and doing it in a flashy way, with whizzbang and candy floating over your screen.” And this is not something a publisher can put on the back-burner.
The education publishing market is changing rapidly, with a lot of emphasis on dynamic content. Kids now have more access to digital devices and resources and they demand content that is more interactive. In fact, 74% of teachers say, education technology is a student motivator. Teachers are ready to embrace learning technologies to boost student learning outcomes. They already supplement educational books with digital content including podcasts, YouTube videos and much more.
Technology, while it enables amalgamation of all the aspects of digital publishing, it still misses out on many fronts. While large vendors like Hurix, Aptara, Manipal can enable trade publishers with anything from typesetting to XML tagging to book apps, most of the publishers use the services only for page conversions. For interactive and illustrated eBooks, current standards lack depth. While ePUB3 is still not fully evolved, most of the current standards are not fully suited for fixed layout illustrated eBooks.
Digital content forms an integral part of the eBook future, the evolving technology slows down the acceptance pace. The role of the vendor and platform such as KITABOO becomes crucial in this case, as they not only allow the creation of rich and interactive content but also keep the publisher future-safe, in terms of technological format changes.
2. Support for Maximum Devices:
Mobile device usage is literally exploding. According to Gartner, global sales of smartphones to end users totals to 408.4 million units in 2018. According to Edison Research, 74% of the 12-17 year olds own a smartphone.
They are the target audience who consume content on their devices. The change in technological landscape is also triggered by the rise of tablets. Apple dominates smartphone usage in the United States and Amazon leads the eReader’s race.
But these statistics create a curious problem for publishers. Which all devices to support? Some 24093 distinct Android devices and handful of iOS devices. Above that what versions of operating systems to support?
Publishers have a huge opportunity to leverage all the available mobile devices to deliver rich and interactive content to their user base. The users, on the other hand, are technology savvy and easily embrace digital content.
The challenge that the publisher faces is to deliver to a maximum range of devices. This can include omnichannel distribution of delivering on your own apps as well as utilizing the existing users of eReaders such as Kindle, Kobo, and Nook to drive sales.
Publishers must choose their distribution channels and devices that they intend to support and work with their technology partner to achieve their goals. KITABOO for instance, not only allows distribution through a publisher’s own app, it also allows the creation of Fixed Layout ePUB3 eBooks, which can be distributed on third-party marketplaces such as Google Play Books, iBooks and even Amazon Kindle.
Also read: How to Distribute eBooks on Online Platforms
3. The Important Role of Technology Platforms in Digital Publishing:
A technology platform that a publisher chooses is essentially the crux of his digital publishing strategy. Not only does it allow the publisher to create interactive eBooks and distribute them, it essentially defines their go-to-market strategy.
Whether a publisher wishes to distribute to institutions and libraries, or directly sell to end users through a web store or sell using a third-party marketplace, it is all defined by the capabilities of the platform.
While the above strategies are important for selecting the technology platform, in the ever-changing publishing landscape the publisher also needs to know which of his content is performing better.
As a publisher uses more and more additional elements, such as interactivities, HTML elements, audios, videos and more, they need to know the performance of these multimedia assets. Platforms such as KITABOO allow publishers to gather these data along with how the end users are using the content. The feedback is then used to create better versions of the eBooks.
4. Why eBooks Would Go a Long Way:
With so much technology going into creating an eBook, the end user experience that an eBook offers is simply great. Apart from the usual benefits that an eBook offers, like being available anywhere and any time, the learning experience that an eBook provides can’t be matched by its print edition counterparts.
- Content in Context: The beauty of an eBook lies in its ability to provide curated content with the textual matter. They can be videos, audios and literally anything that provides the reader a better learning and reading experience.
- Search and Indexing: While indexing is more or less similar in both print and digital books, search feature makes an eBook more attractive. Not only are the results contextual, these results can take way more time if done on print book.
- Cloud Notes: eBooks allow users to create notes, highlight text, bookmark pages on their devices, and these notes and other user generated content gets saved on the cloud. The user can access them anywhere and on all devices, something which a print book was never able to achieve.
- Collaboration: What if as a reader you can share and collaborate with other users, from within the eBook. What if you can share comments and reviews about a topic in eBook with your social media friends, or with other students in the classroom? This is where collaboration is heading, powered by the rise of eBooks.
Also read: Best Formats for Publishing eBooks
Since the launch of Kindle in 2007, eBooks have had a meteoric rise in usage share. In 2014, about a third of the total sales were accounted for by eBooks in the United States. While the growth may have slowed down a bit, in academic publishing eBooks is still going strong.
While many publishers are wary of the technological requirements for creating an interactive eBook, they should not refrain from diving into the eBook business. Publishers can easily leverage the advancements in technology and adoption of mobile devices, by choosing the right technology partner and vendor. Publishers should scale upon the still-profitable print business and invest in a digital publishing business which offers better profits.
The eBook industry would continue to run in a hybrid state at least for few more years, and publishers should look to maximize their revenues by using both the mediums.
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