Monday, May 17, 2010

eReader Future

A recent survey by the Boston Consulting Group concludes that that eReader sales will take off if the price comes down to $200 and the feature set is enhanced over current readers. The survey reflects the opinions of 13,000 respondents from 14 countries. The study also indicates that the respondents are willing to pay $5-$10 for books.

One surprising result from the study is that 49% of those surveyed are planning on buying a tablet device in the next 3 years. But even more stunning is that the top three countries with the greatest awareness of tablet devices are India, China and Japan. 71% of the respondents from India were aware of tablets compared with just 54% in the US.

The survey also reveals that purchasing convenience and price are the most important attributes for digital content. Marion Maneker on the "Goodnight, Gutenberg blog points out:

What this tells us is that purchasing convenience may be the secret weapon for the publishing industry. We've heard lots of statistics about Kindle owners buying more books with the device. The survey seems to confirm that. The same may be true of journalism. More devices might actually translate into more readers and more work being read.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Preservation of Digital Assets

The amount of digital content published over the past ten years has grown exponentially. In order to ensure long-term access to this content publishers, libraries and institutional repositories work together to promote digital preservation to meet the needs of tomorrow's users. A model program in the US for digital preservation is a non-profit organization, Portico.

Portico is dedicated to the preservation of scholarly digital content. They define digital preservation as the following:

Digital preservation is defined as the series of management policies and activities necessary to ensure the enduring usability, authenticity, discoverability, and accessibility of content over the very long-term.

In contrast to the above definition of digital preservation, Portico also defines what is it not; short-term backup, byte replication and system redundancy. While these are important to any digital archive, a digital preservation program implements procedures and processes that ensure usability, authenticity, discoverability and accessibility for generation to come.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Revenue Growth through Innovation

Just like any industry, publishing has not been isolated from the pressures of the economy. We have all taken necessary steps to weather the economic storm including cutting back, but many organizations have taken the opportunity to innovate that will promote revenue growth. Many in the content industry have completely revamped product development plans and are revising strategies for a new age.

At the recent SIIA conference, Mark Logic's Matt Turner made predications of what he thinks 2010 will bring:

The rapid growth in eBook technologies and evaluations of print and online strategies are happening at a rapid pace. But strategies to move away from print are not straight forward. Kent Anderson on the Scholary Kitchen discussed how magazine publishers are spending huge dollars with an advertising blitz to promote their print at the expense of digital editions. This has been prompted by a slight increase in print advertising dollars recently. Kent says:

I can’t blame magazine business people for following the money, but perhaps they’re following it too closely and with an anachronistic mindset. There’s an argument to be made that the “uptick” these major magazines are seeing in advertising is just lost money looking for a home after it was orphaned when a host of other titles closed up shop. Basically, they’re sopping up the spills and thinking it’s free drinks for everyone.

This doesn't appear to be a trend but rather as Kent points out businesses following the money. At the same time everywhere we look innovation is being used to increase revenue growth and to strengthen the content industry. This can be seen in new models for electronic newspapers, a huge increase in eBook sales, and innovative hardware technologies like Apple's iPad making all of this possible.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Custom Publishing

Early in my business career I learned that coming up with an idea for a business venture was simple according to the entrepreneur who founded the company. Just give the customer what they are asking for. In those early years it was providing bibliographic reference data to the end user by distributing the data on CD-ROM. This put the information in the users hand so that they could search and discover the information without the cost and complexities of online database searching.

Similarly, the publishing industry is based on the tenet of anticipating and providing the users needs. While it has certainly has been and continues to be a successful business model, the needs of the user will never be completely met. Recently, customer publishing has emerged as another model for providing information to users. This form of publishing varies widely and does not have to involve print at all. The Wiley Custom Select product can be considered custom publishing because the user is gathering various chapters from Wiley books and combining this content into a new electronic package for distribution.

At the most recent SIIA conference a panel discussed customer publishing and what it means for the future. Ann Michael summarized some of the discussion on her Scholarly Kitchen blog post. Here is what some of the panelist think about the future of custom publishing:

Steve Alpern: “People know what they need and what they’re willing to pay for, and the better you can serve that need, the better it will be for your business.”

Matt Turner: “More people from the top down are talking about re-monetizing content – everything is personalized. It’s the overall trend for the future. The direction is being set that there is nothing but custom publishing.”

Skip Prichard: The upcoming “entitlement generation” is going to set customization as the trend. “Content has to be targeted directly to them. They expect you to know the paper they’re working on [and this expectation] will move from the student to the professional world.”

If it truly will be as Matt Turner puts it that there will be nothing but custom publishing, then my mentor year ago was correct. We need to give the customer what they are looking for. Custom Publishing may be the answer.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Free Information?

Recently the New York Times announced that they will begin charging for access to news on Starting in 2011 users will be able to access a set number of news articles per month and there after will be charged. This announcement has created many discussions about this new policy. I believe that if the information has a value, then it should not be free. We pay for information subscriptions every month including TV cable, home internet connections, and broadband connections on our mobile devices. This pays for the infrastructure to deliver the data and there should also be a price for the actual data as well. The Times new policy will allow them to balance their advertising revenue with access fees.

All publishers have been facing the dilemma of fees for online access for a number of years. The Wall Street Journal has been providing electronic information for years now, even before the internet came along. When the internet made distribution to consumers possible they never even considered not charging for it. In an interesting interview of Gordon Crovitz, former publisher of the Wall Street Journal details this to Mark Logic CEO, Dave Kellogg.

The important distinction here is that the information has value, so it should not be free. Scholarly publishers have also been charging for access to information for years, first on CD-ROM and now the internet. Certainly the pay-for-access will remain and we will continue to pay for the valuable content that the publishers provide.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Enhanced eBooks

I am somewhat of a Techno Geek so I always look forward to news coming out of the CES (Consumer Electronics Show) each year. As expected, eBook Readers were one of the spotlights at this years' show. Clearly eBooks are catching on, due in large part to the success of the Kindle and the Sony Reader. Being the Geek I am, I was interested in a new reader from Spring Design named the Alex. Its unique design includes 2 screens; one for reading the book and the smaller one for browsing the web. The designers of the Alex are betting that authors will want to integrate the text of the book with other multimedia content and the web through hyper linking from the eBook.

I have been very tempted to order a Kindle in the past year, but have come to the conclusion that I don't need nor want yet another device to carry around. Do I really need another device that reads just like a book. Don't get me wrong, I like reading eBooks. I just don't like the idea of carrying another device. Now with the introduction of readers like the Alex, authors and publishers will have to take another look at enhanced eBooks with video, audio and web links. I only hope that these new enhanced eBooks truly add value to the book and not just multimedia bling.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

State of XML

XML has quietly established itself as the foundation of publishing content on the internet and throughout the publishing content workflow. The standard makes it possible for diverse content such as scholarly journals, newspapers and magazines to be distributed, searched, accessed, and linked over the internet. In addition to these materials the various XML schema now available make it possible to utilize XML to publish information in wide-ranging areas such as news syndication, mathematics and financial data. This wealth of unstructured content is now structured and discoverable thanks to these XML standards.

Another vast amount of unstructured data that exists today and affects each of our lives is the mountain of health record data that up until now was available in paper format only. With the leadership of the HL7 (Health Level 7, Inc.) which has created standards for health information, these XML-based markup standards are leading the way to personal health records being available online for all of us in the near future.