While catching up on some metrics reported by various publishers on ebook sales, I thought it would be a good idea to consolidate them in a quick list:
- Penguin ebook sales doubled in 2011---Penguin Group (USA) CEO David Shanks stated: “Our eBook sales doubled, we expanded our digital publishing programs, and we won a Pulitzer Prize for the second year in a row.”
- Association of American Publishers report ebook sales went up 72% in December---eBooks grew slightly over November 2011, closing out the year with an increase of 117% over 2010.
- Hachette Book Group reports 130% increase in ebook and audiobook sales in 2011---These digital products represented 22% of the company’s overall revenue in 2011, compared with 8% in 2010.
- Bloomsbury reported its eBook sales grew 38% in the fourth quarter of 2011 over sales during the same period last year---Chief executive Nigel Newton, stated: “We have a robust business, strongly adapted to the digital market place, that we have positioned to take full advantage of the continuing opportunities arising from growth of online sales and sales of ebooks.”
Last week's O'Reilly Tools of Change (TOC) event in New York had a theme of Change/Forward/Fast. Based on the keynote presentations, I think the publishing industry heard loud and clear that they need to change....and now! However, the other underlying theme for the conference was also articulated by the hosts as "we are confused." Needless to say, these two themes are in conflict with one another. How can you change if you are confused? Confusion generally leads to paralysis and that is what I have seen with publishers over the past few years.
While publishers heard success stories about building audiences before publishing a title and on-going interactions with that audience, what was suspiciously absent was how publishers are delivering content to the various devices. Maybe it was the wrong venue, but I suspect many of the success stories started once content was in a sellable format rather than how easily the content was created and published in their content management system.
I also suspect that many in the audience were from the business side of publishing and the TOC event makes them pause and think about their business. TOC did not, for me anyway, tackle the more difficult challanges of multi-channel publishing using home grown or antiquated technology. Sadly, that is what many publishers are wrestling with today. Once they are able to get content in ebook format, they can do really cool stuff with it. Until publishers address the content management side of the equation, I don't see how they will efficiently meet time-to-market demands. The reality is that most ebooks today are created by publishing services vendors because they are converting various flavors of legacy files. Most publishers today are not multi-channel publishing but sticking with the print paradigm and then, through various publishing services vendors, creating ebooks for distribution. Publishers who are stuck with this publishing process need to "change/forward/fast."
I will say that overall the TOC conference appears to be rejuvinated. Two years ago the conference seemed to have run its course, but I believe it is back to being an event that publishers will want to attend to learn how the newbies are doing it without the "burden" of print. Pushing the envelope is what TOC is best at and I hope they continue to push the industry's thinking along the way.
Really Strategies' employees Eliot Kimber and Christopher Hill will speak at this week's Intelligent Content Conference in Palm Springs, California. Intelligent Content is a 3-day learning experience designed to help attendees understand what is required to create intelligent content: content designed to be structurally rich and semantically categorized, automatically discoverable, reusable, reconfigurable, and adaptable to any future functionality.
Eliot Kimber, senior solutions architect at Really Strategies will present, “DITA for Publishers: Intelligent Content Starts Here.” In this session, Eliot will introduce his project DITA for publishers, and detail how DITA (Darwin Information Typing Architecture) can be the toolset that launches publishers into the XML world in a way that is affordable and easy.
Christopher Hill, vice president of product management, will take part in a software demonstration that illustrates how DocZone Book Publisher is used to automate print and ebook production, highlighting DocZone’s multilingual features as well as its ease of use. DocZone Book Publisher is also a gold sponsor of the event in Palm Springs, California.
Earlier this month I had the pleasure of hearing Ned May, vice president and lead analyst from Outsell, Inc. present at the Professional Scholarly Publishing annual meeting. Outsell helps the "world's publishers, information providers, and enterprise marketers grow revenue and deliver solutions." Outsell is my first stop to gather information and metrics I can trust about the growing ebook market.
I've been involved with STM publishing and mark-up languages for a long time. (Last night I realized that if my experience were a child, it would be old enough to drink. Ouch!) I recognize that this background is the cause of my nonobjective opinions around ebooks, digital sales, XML content management. I've long maintained that customers want digital, the tools (CMS et al.) are mature, XML is the common language, and the $$ numbers don’t lie. So hearing Ned's presentation and seeing real revenue forecasts based on Outsell's research was heartening.
The following slide set the stage for the $462B information industry with projected revenues and growth based on Outsell's industry research.
Digital publishing's steady growth is represented in the following slide. The point at which publishers' print vs digital revenue flip resembles our findings last October when we polled a number of RSuite customers. Clearly, some publishers have already made this transition to greater digital revenue while others lag.
The following slide illustrates the "R" in your digital publishing ROI. STM and educational publishers have a projected compound annual growth rate of 5.2% and 5%.
So what to make of all these projections? Recognize that digital publishing is not simply a final workflow step in your publishing process. Converting printed books to epub is nice. (Just like that box of candy or flowers for valentines day is, uh, "nice.") Real value and substance comes from the effort that is put in every day---effort to transform the people, processes, and techology.
Ned's closing slide nails it:
The 2012 Professional Scholarly Publishing annual conference is coming to an end on a positive note for academic and scholarly publishers. The conference itself had a large turnout this year with literally 5 no-shows (unheard of!). Congratulations to all the organizers.
I am heartened by the state of academic publishing and I think the industry shares this feeling judging by the comments of the presenters, the record turnout, and the Q&A sessions. Following are just some of the highlights. Stay tuned as I gather some of the slides from presenters like Ned May from Outsell that detail ebook statistics and anticipated trends moving into 2012 and beyond.
Ebooks, ebooks, ebooks
Naturally, ebook conversations came up in all presentations. With the ongoing increase in tablet sales, STM/academic publishers are (finally) hearing the siren song of XML loud and clear and seeing how it translates into profits. Clark Morrell, president of Rittenhouse Book Distributors, shared an interesting story about a health professions publisher who recently purchased an e-product that was outside of its HP curriculum because they were finally able to take advantage of an unbundled piece of digital content that was relevant to HP. By unbundling the bundled content (ie, books), publishers have real growth opportunities. As Clark stated, "there's no need to sell by the bottle when people want just a glass."
Organizations that could revolutionize scholarly publishing
This presentation highlighted four companies that are opening up untapped content distribution channels, innovating around established business models and enhancing the end-user experience.
Pubget: the search engine for life-science PDFs. Recently acquired by the Copyright Clearance Center, this organization makes scientific research easier by simplifying the process of finding, managing and analyzing scientific papers.
TEMIS: a provider of semantic content enrichment solutions for enterprises. Its Luxid 6 software enables publishers to semantically tag content, which in turn facilitates discovery, faceted search results, product sandboxing, and a slew of additional benefits.
DeepDyve: the largest online rental service for scientific, technical and medical research. I'm most excited about this service for academic and scholarly publishers. I had the pleasure of sitting with CEO Bill Park at lunch who went into detail about the service. The basic idea is that users can rent PDF versions of published journal content. Partnering with a number of STM publishers and growing daily, users can search, find, and read journal abstracts and opt to rent the PDF for as little as 0.99 cents. Publishers need not fear the cannibalization of subscriptions because DeepDyve's audience comprises businesses outside the publishers core market (eg, pharma, device manufacturers, etc). In other words, untapped revenue for STM publishers. Win-win.
Mendeley: a reference manager and academic social network. The company was founded by two German PhD students who were frustrated with the lack of tools to organize their growing content collections and share information with other researchers. What's in it for publishers is that it offers a new (and social) approach to the impact factor. There's much more and Mendeley's overview video does a much better explanation than I can do here.
2011 PROSE Awards
Personally, the PROSE awards are my favorite part of this conference. People outside of scholarly publishing don't recognize the talent, effort, money, and time that goes into producing quality works. This year the R.R. Hawkins Award was presented to The Diffusion Handbook: Applied Solutions for Engineers by R.K. Michael Thambynayagam, published by McGraw-Hill. It was an honor to hear the back story of how this book was lovingly made over 18 years. The author provides 1,000 solutions to a well known diffusion equation. The senior editor of the book liked to call it a picture book of the diffusion coefficient.
It was also a treat to see many RSuite customers on the winner list:
- Oxford University Press
- Cengage Learning
- CQ Press
Congratulations to all the publishers, authors, and editors who were involved.
Though the terms metadata and content management were implied throughout the conference, it wasn't until the last day that the actual term content management system was uttered. Like any transformative power, infrastructure is key. Without the proper landscape, people and processes will not achieve the desired goals. Roger Kasunic, VP of editing, design, and production at McGraw-Hill stated that "the customer expects access to content on their terms. CMS infrastructure must change from the old ways."
Just so happens, we can recommend a great content management system for publishers!