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Digital decisions: What book publishers should know about ebooks

‘Digital decisions’ is a day-long course for publishing staff. We paint a picture of the digital publishing landscape, and take the unfamiliarity out of key digital-publishing concepts. We range from big concepts to workflow nitty-gritty.

An overview of the digital publishing industry worldwide

The ebook industry is growing at around 200% every year (according to APA/IDFP stats). It’s a very important part of the publishing landscape right now, especially as publishers try to recover a share of people’s attention from digital devices currently used mostly for music, video and games. … Read more

What is an ebook?

This is easy to answer, until you really think about it. So, first, let’s not think too hard about it: an ebook is a book you read on a screen rather than paper. The author and publisher have developed that book as if it were going to be on paper, and have then distributed it digitally. … Read more

Exercise: What do you sell when copies are free?

Imagine that you run a business that makes things: hosepipes, spectacles, car tyres, roof tiles, toys, and so on – pick one, and picture the business in your mind. It’s likely that your business sells a product. That product was once a prototype, and now you sell copies of it over and over again. … Read more

Technology decisions

Bluntly put: it’s time to get the IT department out of the basement and into a big open-plan office with your designers and editors. Where printed books required book-printing specialists to talk to editors and designers, ebooks require those editors and designers to work alongside technical specialists. Here are some of the key issues they’ll be talking about. … Read more

Rights and royalty decisions

If I asked you whether you had electronic rights to your books, I know that in your mind you probably have an image of bulging filing cabinets of paper. You can hear the voice of an irate author on the phone, and despair at the cost of the lawyers you’ll need to draft new contract amendments. And if you’re one of the lucky publishers who, for most of the last ten years, has included sweeping claims to your authors’ electronic rights, you have a gnawing suspicion that the only contracts that don’t include such claims are the ones with difficult authors who made you take them out. Precisely the ones you don’t want to annoy. And the only way you’re going to know who they are is go through every contract, one by one. … Read more

Product decisions

Once you’ve made technical and rights decisions, you have to decide what to sell. Which books? And are they books at all? … Read more

Administrative decisions

The administrative changes ebooks require will vary from company to company, but most often they involve ISBNs, and how sales are tracked and reported. … Read more

Workflow decisions

Okay, so you’ve decided how you’re going to store and manage your ebooks. The IT staff are getting some natural light spending time with the production staff, and it’s time to make some ebooks. … Read more

Sales and marketing decisions

If your marketing team still develops separate plans for ‘marketing’ and ’emarketing’ then you have a lot of work to do. Marketing products online is an integrated part of any marketing campaign. However, if your marketing team already promotes your print books online and is comfortable doing so, there is very little different about marketing ebooks. … Read more

Survey: What are you thinking?

This is an anonymous questionnaire on key issues. The idea is to see what people here are thinking right now, and to share those ideas with the group without worrying what your peers might be thinking. Take five minutes to note down quick ideas in response to each question. …
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Conclusion

If much of what we covered today was familiar to you, then you are well on your way already. Hopefully we helped you firm up your views on the way forward, or provided some ideas for refining the systems you’re already putting in place. … Read more

Arthur Attwell 16 February 2010
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