Digital publishing? Let's just call it publishing

One of the more interesting things I took from the London Book Fair Digital Conference a month or so ago was how publishers treat digital publishing within their own companies. Sitting in Earls Court on a day filled with sun, nothing screaming across the sky, just an airborne toxic event hanging over us, there was good conversation and several excellent presentations. In the cab that took me to the HarperCollins party where "real" publishing was being talked about, I wondered what was different about digital publishing?

I am hardly a digital geek. I have an iPhone and that’s about it. I’d never read a submission or a book on any ‘device’ and doubt I ever will. I prefer scribbling on a page, as many editors do. I read news, reviews, features, Twitter stuff and web pages on my phone. I might think of reading a story: I would probably even pay for reading a story or an extract. Over the last year I’ve realized I have, as an agent, really to engage with the digital world, and I hope I have. As Vicky Barnsley said this week we should stop talking about a digital future as we’re in the digital now.

But: what’s different about digital publishing? The answer should be: nothing. It’s a fact that we talk about digital and traditional publishing and we need to stop that now. One of my frustrations is that many publishers seem to keep editors away from digital discussions, leaving contracts and "digital" departments to take things on. I met a writer at the Book Fair who had talked to a corporate digital supremo. The hint had come that "digital" publishing would be better without editors. Many of the editors I’ve worked with in the last twenty years roll their eyes at the digital bollocks they now have to consider.  From an agent’s perspective, I want a publisher to have a view as to how to publish a book, and the editor should be intrinsic to those discussions.

From where I sit, digital provides the publishing industry with a new platform, creates new formats. Just as Allen Lane created the paperback in 1936, we now have digital editions. On e-readers, phones, Kindles, iPads, you name it. It’s here, and more is coming. But it’s not the future of the book, it is another future. Anyone who thinks the book is going to die is cuckoo.

Publishing is being driven to a new evolution through technological revolution where the consumer of other products will demand new things from our industry, will seek to read writers and their words (and let’s not call that ‘content’). In these blogs I want to touch on a few ideas, developments, stuff I’ve noticed in the industry. But to begin with I thought I’d lay down some three statements I’ve read in the last month - to get the conversation going – with thoughts of my own.

- “In the digital world, it is possible for authors to publish without publishers. It is therefore incumbent on us to prove our worth to authors every day.”  Carolyn Reidy, CEO of Simon & Schuster, quoted in The New Yorker last month.  Discuss. I’d suggest one of the ways was for publishers to show authors they take digital publishing seriously. Contractually promise them e-copies of their book.  Give the ISBN for the digital editions.

- “Nothing is stopping publishers from putting apps for books on iPhones. There are fifty million iPhones in the world. That’s a great customer base.” Andrew Savikas, O’Reilly Media’s vice-president for digital initiatives, again quoted in The New Yorker.  Again, discuss. I'd suggest we grasp these opportunities and use them to engage the consumer—perhaps advertise, as Canongate did with the Pullmann novel, that the fact the book is a hardback, an audio book, an e-book, an app.

- “Make an e-book and publish it in iBooks. Do you think you need a publisher for this? where is the value they create?” A blogger called conlad on bnet.com (who, presumably, sees even less value in a literary agent).  I’d like to say Ignore, but Discuss as we will have to do again. One of our friend conlad’s comments included this: “In the Kindle case, or in iBooks (in the hyphotetical [sic] case you get approved), will a writer still need a publisher to get the book out?” 

Which only goes to show that, hypothetically, writers may still need spelling lessons, or even copy-editors. Even agents and publishers.

No?

Comments

articles, and the development of digital

articles, and the development of digital libraries and catalogues. It’s like comparing the two technologies in the world of custom T-shirt printing: Screen printing and digital printing. Screen printing uses screens as stencils in order to directly imprint ink onto the fabric of the shirt while digital printing prints directly onto a t-shirt.

I think it's called digital

I think it's called digital publishing because it's more advance compared with traditional publisihng. It's also an implication that publishing has evolved throughout the time. I'm a marketer and I use SimplePrint's digital printing services and I don't mind calling it digital printing.

Digital publishing

It would definitely be awesome if I could learn more about how publishers treat digital publishing within their own companies. I also like to write in my spare time, so I do appreciate this specific information. Moreover, I also enjoy cooking small dishes in the kitchen, like burgers that were seared on those user friendly electric grills or even pancakes that were cooked on the electric griddle that has a nonstick surface and therefore makes it easy for me to cook quickly. I've just recently got the iPad for myself and I'm trying to get used to all the features and the things you can do with it, so it's quite amazing in my opinion.

Re:

digital publishing

Digital and print publishing have some similarities but are not the same, here are some differences between the two are:

digital publishing has the 'immediacy' element in it - for example, blogging.

digital publishing is very much about building a relationship with your customers (not just pushing a product to them) - comments, social networking...

digital publishing is fast and lean, author can be an editor and publisher in one… the production chain is shorter…

digital publishing has a different distribution and promotional structure from print - for example there is no need for distribution companies as 'publishers' can make their products available directly through digital platforms and market it directly to consumers through social networking platforms...

in digital publishing editor is more of moderator rather than a ‘gate keeper’…

Digital publishing is lighter and more inclusive...

 

 

digital publishing

Digital and print publishing have some similarities but are not the same, here are some differences between the two are:

digital publishing has the 'immediacy' element in it - for example, blogging.

digital publishing is very much about building a relationship with your customers (not just pushing a product to them) - comments, social networking...

digital publishing is fast and lean, author can be an editor and publisher in one… the production chain is shorter…

digital publishing has a different distribution and promotional structure from print - for example there is no need for distribution companies as 'publishers' can make their products available directly through digital platforms and market it directly to consumers through social networking platforms...

in digital publishing editor is more of moderator rather than a ‘gate keeper’…

Digital publishing is lighter and more inclusive...

 

 

Digital Publishing

David, 

 

I couldn't agree more and have been saying for sometime that everyone would be better off if we thought of digital publishing in the same terms as publishing. The workflow and structure are identical - from the writing through the contract to the need for production and distribution right down to marketing and publicity. The difference is that you have a file not some paper. That's it basically. Of course there are a load of new opportunities and products etc. But at its most simple ebook publishing is identical to print. 

As for the point about editors, I would argue that if we don't need editors then we don't need publishing houses full stop, so anyone in digital publishing should probably keep quiet. That of course is a whole different question and, in short, I believe both editors and publishers have a future. 

 

Michael 

What's different? --Customer rights

The main difference between digital publishing & print publishing is the amount of control publishers try to insist they have after the sale. Many publishers claim, or imply, that they're only "licencing" digital ebooks, not selling them--they claim the ebooks can't be given away or resold later. (Never mind the practicalities of giving away the original rather than a copy; if I download it to a flash drive to read it, I can sell *that,* for more than I could without ebooks on it. Transferable originals are a tech problem; we could find solutions.)

If they start treating digital publishing like print publishing, they'll have to give up on their attempts to institute 1 purchase = 1 reader policies. That's not the way print books have ever worked, and it's a big part of why pretty much everyone treats ebooks as different.

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