Guest lecturers from Lion Hudson and Oxfam offer digital insights

Today Brookes saw host to two guest lecturers from the publishing industry.

Suzanne Wilson-Higgins’s (UK Sales and Marketing Director for Lion Hudson plc) lecture, “New Product Development: Using print on-demand & ebook digital workflows to execute publishing strategies” (what a mouth full!), was one of the most enlightening to-date, especially in the topic of print on-demand (POD). I’ve got about three pages of hastily scribbled notes on the changes that publishers have had to make in order to accommodate these changes in technology. Wilson-Higgins emphasized the use of POD technology to minimise the amount invested in stock. However, it was her views on e-books as a platform for publicity that interested me most. Specifically, she spoke of using the price of e-books to draw attention to the products. Many companies will offer the first book of a series for free (or at a heavily discounted price) in order to gain readers and attention. If the book makes it onto the bestseller list you’re golden. If the e-book creates a buzz about the rest of the series, you’ve also got a recipe for success. It’s all about maximizing what you do with the attention of a free product.

Another benefit of e-books is the speed with which you are able to get them to into the hands and minds of the public. Coinciding a book with the release of a new television programme, but don’t know when the programme will air? E-books, Wilson-Higgins claims, are a great solution to this. They can be added to the market place as soon as possible, so long as they’re edited and ready for publication. This fills the gap between printing (what Amazon apparently calls “In stock protection”) and allows the product to be available when it is needed. Print products will, of course, be to follow.

Wilson-Higgins also draws attention to the fact that such “GAP printing” can be done with POD as well. A use I hadn’t yet thought of or been drawn attention to until today. There’s still a question of whether the quality of the digital POD product will match that of one printed using traditional printing press techniques, but in 12 months that might not even be a problem! Technology is changing rapidly, and changing the way publishers think about their inventories.

Which brings me to the second guest lecturer of the day: Robert Cornford, Marketing and Promotions Manager for Oxfam Publishing.

Cornford’s presentation was enlightening in its facts about non-profit non-publishing organisations. These, such as Oxfam’s publishing arm, can be either mission driven or profit driven. Oxfam’s mission is to put a stop to poverty. While a few years ago they did actually publish books (for a little bit of profit), the impact of digital products hit hard and strong. It became clear to those at Oxfam that the message was more important than making a profit. Thus, when they realised they could reach more people through an online platform such as Google Books, they jumped on the chance. Licensing 154 books to Google Books they were able to gain more than 1.25 million views of their content, raising awareness around the globe.

This realization of a new channel of communication became paramount to their new vision or becoming a leader in using digital technology to give voice to the unheard voices of the world. They have since set up the Oxfam iLibrary, which interested parties can use to access information about research and issues around the world, and while they still offer a select few print products, most of their material can be accessed online. They make full use of the new digital workflows that are available to publishers.

Overall, today was a great day to learn about the impact of digital products on publishers big and small, commercial and non-profit. In the end it really is all about who you want to reach with your material and how you can best use digital channels to do so. Whether you are using the e-book market to gain attention for a new product or series or using Google Books to get a message across to millions more than you would have done otherwise, one cannot ignore the power of the e-book in all of its formats!

I think I may have just sold myself on the idea that digital publishing and e-books are not going to be the end of the world.

Podcasts of today’s speakers should soon be available at the OICPS website.


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