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5 Publishing Opportunities: Digital Book World 2015

POSTED 01/27/2015
By Lee Bob Black

For years, the publishing industry has been bridging the gap between print and digital. For years, many literary agents have dabbled with publishing. For years, many authors have forgone traditional publishing for self-publishing.

So what new opportunities exist in the publishing industry? What creative business models are just around the corner?

At this year’s Digital Book World, SkilledUp learned about several opportunities that are affecting the future of publishing today.1

1. Back to Community and Collaboration

A website that depends on advertising is self-defeating, said Walter Isaacson during his Digital Book World talk, “Innovators, Collaborators, and Change Agents.” The entire theme of innovation in the digital age is collaboration, he added.

Isaacson is president and CEO of the Aspen Institute and the author of the biography “Steve Jobs.” An opportunity for book publishing professionals that he seemed particularly excited about was collaboratively-created books. Think movies, music, and images — all within a book. He also talked about the importance of each contributor getting a portion of the revenue. He even said that he’d like to curate a multimedia book version of his bestseller, “The Innovators.”

2. Netflix for Books

Perhaps one of the largest disruptions faced by e-book retail models — which typically sell one book at a time — are subscriptions.

Subscriptions play a big role in numerous businesses, including film, TV, music, and newspapers. Books are just the next subscription model, said Russ Grandinetti, senior vice president of Kindle Amazon.

Nowadays, Grandinetti said, it’s uncontroversial that most books will have at least two formats: hardcover and paperback. In the future, he said, subscriptions will be just one more choice that publishers and authors will consider during the life of a book.

3. Industry Cross-Pollination

In a presentation on strategy, Brian Murray, president and CEO of HarperCollins, talked about hiring a chief technology officer (CTO) and a chief digital officer (CDO), both of whom had previously not worked in publishing. Murray said that publishing was previously an apprenticeship model, but now people are more open to learning about how things work in other industries.

4. A Few Million Might Do

In a session about finding and building an audience, Andrew Rhomberg, founder of Jellybooks, said that many people think they should be on Facebook because it’s the biggest social media network. Yet it can be beneficial to be a big player in a smaller game, rather than vice versa. With that I’m mind, he invited authors to consider joining new social media websites that only have a few million users.

5. Discovery Vs Search

Publishers, agents, and authors shouldn’t just focus on selling books, said Andrew Rhomberg, they should focus on how readers interact with them.

One way of starting to do this, he said, is to realize that discovering something isn’t the same thing as searching for it. When you search for something, by definition you’ve already discovered it. Keep that in mind when you’re crafting your digital content in a way to increase the likelihood of connecting with potential readers.2

(Editor’s note: Read more about publishing industry lessons and innovations from this year’s Digital Book World.)

  1. The 2015 Digital Book World Conference and Expo was held in NYC, January 13 to 15. It featured 100+ speakers and 35+ exhibitors. Produced by F+W and Publishers Launch Conferences, it was attended by 1,500+ professionals from the global book community.[]
  2. The author attended Digital Book World Conference and Expo 2015 (DBW 2015). The following sessions that he attended relate to this article:

    * Andrew Rhomberg, “Finding and Building an Audience: Discovery and Discoverability in 2015,” Digital Book World, January 13, 2015. Andrew Rhomberg’s bio for DBW 2015.

    * Brian Murray, “A Strategy for the Future: Brian Murray on Taking HarperCollins into the Digital Age.” Brian Murray’s bio for DBW 2015.

    * Russ Grandinetti, “Amazon and the Book Business: A Candid Conversation with Kindle’s Russ Grandinetti.”.

    * Walter Isaacson, “Innovators, Collaborators, and Change Agents: Walter Isaacson on Transformation and the Digital Revolution.”


    * HarperCollins chief technology officer (CTO) is Angela Tribelli.

    * HarperCollins chief digital officer (CDO) is Chantal Restivo-Alessi; she previously worked in the finance industry. []

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