These are challenging times for all of us, the economic downturn has left no business unscathed. Belts have been tightened, budgets have been slashed, everyone has felt the pinch to some degree. This is particularly true for the publishing field although the challenges publishers are facing are not solely restricted to the economic plunge, the rise of the internet in particular has presented publishers with a range of obstacles that they have had to navigate.
Our reading habits have changed and evolved with the internet itself, many people, myself included turn to the internet when trying to solve a problem or find a solution, after all the internet is one of the biggest resources currently at our disposal. Someone else is bound to have had the same dilemma as us sometime in the past, right? Why not learn from their experiences and use it to solve our own dilemmas? While this is great for the consumer, it has hit the publisher hard.
In times not long gone, we would have had printed literature for just such situations, whether it was gardening, cooking or some other aspect of everyday life, there were books and manuals to help us through our plight. The internet and its vast amount of instantly accessible information has presented publishers with a range of challenges which they have been struggling to overcome. It is widely believed that for an author to write a successful non-fiction book, it will have to contain information that is not accessible through the internet and it’s multitude of search engines. All is not lost though, recent signs indicate that publishers are pivoting their approach as a means of not only staving off the threat of the internet but also as a way of embracing it and combining it with their own strategy.
A pattern is beginning to develop within the publishing domain, a pattern that highlights a change in attitude towards the online world and how publishers see opportunities for themselves to be incorporated within this ever burgeoning sphere. Publishers are moving into the content creation field and lending their considerable and much suited talents to the needs of brands worldwide. Brands themselves are realizing that the creation of content can be an expensive department to fund and they might not be best positioned to create certain types of content, which, in turn the publishers are.
A great example of this is the publisher Harper Collins who made just such a pivot in their approach to their everyday business, while still retaining their publisher status, they are taking advantage of their expertise within their field and offering their services to brands who are in need of their skills and their content creation qualities in particular.
Harper Collins themselves explained their approach when they said;
“”We create bespoke content based on products and campaigns for our clients.”
“We work with content, not just books, across print, digital, mobile and more.”
“Our editorial expertise, content and creativity enable clients to communicate brand identity and values.”
Brand and publishing tie ins and the digital arena
What Harper Collins are utilizing is the skills they already have in-house; they have the content creation capabilities, design nous and audience understanding skillsets to put them at the forefront of the content creation field. They have years of experience and an in-depth understanding of their audience pertaining to what resonates with them and what doesn’t. Their in-depth knowledge of the industry positions them as natural heirs for content creation; all the tools for the job are already in place, it’s the application of them which has to change slightly.
E-Books shouldn’t be seen as a threat to publishing, rather quite the opposite. E-Books encourage more self-publishers to use the medium due to high margins and low risk. The same low risk can be applied to bigger publishers. The traditional method has inherently more risk attached due to the various costs involved from conception to delivery, printing the books (which can result in wastage due to excessive copies printed), shipping and storing all cost money and drive up the end price of the product, although it is worth pointing out that these prices may not have been as expensive as one would assume, the fact that printed books are actually only 10% of their cover cost would allude to this.
Many people assume that just because an eBook isn’t a physical printed object then it should be inherently cheaper, this isn’t always necessarily the case, production costs, conversion rates, processing fees, virtual storage fees all account for part of the cost and of course the main fee, the actual writing and production of the book remains the same. With eBooks a percentage of costs are negated, there is no risk of unused stock and the costs mentioned earlier are wiped from the profit margin but the remaining costs involving time and preparation of the book itself remain. Although there is a strong case for just why eBooks are priced to such an extent, is an answer only the publishers themselves can profer.
Kindles, iPads, smartphones and to a certain extent home PC’s have changed our reading habits in recent years. No longer are we tied to the one medium, the choice available to us has opened up possibilities to publishers that just a few years ago didn’t exist. Some publishers may view these devices and the eBooks that accompany them as a threat but in a similar fashion to how the music industry was turned on its head with the introduction of iTunes and MP4’s, publishers have to be reactive to change and have to adjust their business model to suit these ever evolving technological times.
Methods for new ways of monetization for publishers could include full exploration of avenues such as the partnerships with brands and the production of their content or by the ringfencing and development of eBooks and the transparent potential they possess. The digital age has presented publishers with new challenges but these challenges are by no means insurmountable, these challenges require forward thinking and the adjustment of the traditional business model that publishers would customarily employ. To embrace the digital age, to open up the vast corridors of opportunity that the internet offers, when channelled correctly, could herald a new dawn for authors, publishers and brands alike.