2011 has been the year of the App for publishers, no doubt about it, and there were even signs that the enhanced eBook market is worth investing in for the future. But before we get too cross-eyed about what the technology can do by adding whizzes and bangs to the printed word, we would do well to see how the same technology can serve other parts of the business. In the same way that publishers are on the look out for new ways of making money, all of us - especially now - are on the hunt for how to save money, save time and generally make life easier for all those involved in the publishing process.
The average publicity mailing for a book is between 50-75 copies, and will go to literary and magazine editors, radio and TV producers and more frequently now bloggers around the world who specialise in niche areas. At a cost of £5 per book - the price of the printed copy and the mailing - that is upwards of £250 per mailing, not to mention the time spent stuffing envelopes. And that's just the beginning. Anyone who has been at the Books Desk of any of the Nationals around 10am will have counted the sacks of review copies being delivered. Books get lost, never turn up, another copy is sent and gets left on the Tube. What should be the most straight-forward part of the process can get bogged down in red tape. And that's before the publicist has even started to chase the review/interview/feature.
At the moment there is no structure in place that allows review copies to be delivered directly to the reviewer as an eBook. Publishers rightly furrow their brow over DRM and how files can be passed around too easily, but was this not always the case? NetGalley provide a service that is most likely to give us what we want, but it is still unchartered territory in this country. And emailing files directly to reviewers' Kindles is now done more frequently, as it was for this year's Booker Prize judges, but the spectre of DRM still lurks.
My guess is that this will be one of the key areas of digital publishing to be resolved in 2012. It will throw up it's own problems for sure - file corruption, submissions overlooked, and there will be some who will have to be dragged kicking and screaming to the party. In the meantime it will free up publicists to do what they do best, and if you are publishing over 50 books a year, all of which need to be sent somewhere, that's a saving of close to £20,000 every year. As for the reviewers - my local secondhand bookshop is full of recently published books that reviewers have been off-loading into for years, so at the very least it will save them the arm-wrestle of taking piles of books home every night.
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Tweets from @thefuturebook
TheFutureBook Lively commentary at our pre-#FutureChat Douglas Preston interview: @DavidGaughran @BarryEisler @PhilipDSJones t.co/Ula4APFYpN
TheFutureBook RT @Porter_Anderson: The #altbookstore group has its 2nd day, the dropcam here: t.co/cNYdoizF0w to start at 10aET t.co/IF9k1h…
TheFutureBook "Little bit betrayed": Douglas Preston on #Authors Unlimited & #AmazonHachette: t.co/Bh7LSN3xZm @TheBookseller #FutureChat Friday