Platforms, Markets, Readers: Reinventing Publishing Today, PANZ International Conference 2014, brought movers and shakers of the publishing world to address the New Zealand industry earlier this week. On both inspirational and practical levels, Kiwi publishers had the chance to see into the international future of publishing and how they can participate.
International Publishers Association president YS Chi (pictured below with CLNZ’s Paula Browning) made his first visit to this country to give the keynote: Does Publishing Matter? The Challenges of the Digital World.
Probably more used to audiences in their thousands rather than New Zealand’s hundred plus, YS immediately told his audience that publishing does matter, that it is alive and thriving, but we are about to see change on a large scale.
“Some of the challenge is digital,” he explained. “The perception is that you just press a button and it all happens. At the same time, digital gives us an unmatched opportunity for creativity – we now have more toys to play with. With the delivery of new systems, media companies must be tech companies too. There is an image that we are dinosaurs, but people are ignorant of the value publishers bring to the process of getting material in print or on-line. They think that the saving on print costs must be major, but in fact print is a small part of the costs of book production.” YS says we need to look at new ways to monetarise the content of books. As Chair of Reed Elsevier, as well as his IPA role, he is still a hands-on publisher.
He also believes that “Innovation moves faster than adoption. People ask how many still read on paper, but in fact hardback and paperback sales are relatively stable over the last two or three years.”
Copyright is a big issue in YS’ IPA presidency. The copy left lobby – ‘copy wrong’ he calls it – means publishing needs to engage with governments on digital and copyright policy.
YS quoted Winston Churchill for his final words: “This is no time for ease and comfort. It is time to dare and endure.”
Sam Elworthy Auckland University Press and PANZ President:
Presidential and personal comments in one: I walked away from the Mercure on Tuesday night revved up – by the enthusiasm and expertise of our local publishers, the vision and engagement of our great guests from across the seas, and the collegiality with which a whole lot of big ideas were being shared. We had education publishers and trade publishers, huge multinationals and one-person operations, designers and finance people all sitting in the same room and wrestling with the same problems and opportunities.
Developing and Selling New Digital Products
The Great New Zealand Songbook’s Murray Thom (right) opened the throttle and let roar a presentation on that project (and the subsequent Great
Australian Songbook – an account of persistent banging on doors and having the right ones eventually open.
Paul Cameron, Booktrack founder, described how far the music and sound effects accompanying an audio book have developed, and of the major international interest and possible involvements for the company including working with educators using Booktrack as an aid to learning. He also demonstrated the new Booktrack app that accesses 20,000 copyright free tracks and effects for those who want to create their own!
Whither the American Publishing Industry?
Education authority and publisher Dan Caton quickly assured the audience that the current situation for publishers was “Not as bad as feared – but not as good as we’d like!” He then outlined the current barriers faced by other countries in selling in the US market. His insider’s view of the hiccups in imposing a ‘common core’ educational curriculum there revealed an ever more fragmented system and little likelihood of seeing this evolve.
For publishers, Dan sees a future of slimmer margins, a decline in author advances and Amazon ‘calling the tune’, plus television and movies integrated into social studies curricula.
His recommendations for publishers hoping to break into the market: decide who you are and publish to it; target markets; be best in class in technology, product, systems marketing and data mining. “Educational publishers going forward will be efficient, nimble and slim,” Caton advises.
Melanie Laville-Moore, Allen & Unwin: A terrific couple of days, made all the more so by seeing the PANZ membership clearly engaged with, and enjoying the discussions around the big issues and challenges of the day. Local voices joined with stand-out international speakers – once again showing the many synergies and understanding that NZ publishers share of the wider global industry.
Digital distribution and related sales and marketing practice
Victoria Nash emphasised that all of the publishing steps that applied to conventional publishing apply to digital, however it takes much more time to set up and much more administration she warned.
A key graphic showing the amount of information needed for e-book discoverability versus traditional publishing was an eye opener: 250 fields of data for each e-book title.
Print books undergo about three changes of price in their life span, but e-books have a minimum 10 changes and as prices fluctuate often “Reconciliation of sales is very important,” Victoria advises. But over many currencies and exchange rates, this too is complex!
Marthie Markstein, Random House:
Publishing is being reinvented daily, and the new world can at times feel confusing. I loved the way the speakers managed to encapsulate the current state of publishing so clearly, while giving us great hope for the future. YS Chi was inspirational: Who would not believe that we actually have a healthy future for the world of books after listening to him? Special thanks to Victoria Nash who managed to make the digital process interesting. So many good speakers, such a great insight into the world of books – thanks to all!
Selling and delivering more to schools
Biozone International is a specialist Biology publisher. Logistics and Website Co-ordinator, Tim Lind, showed how a one topic publishing company can still have a big reach. The company actually maintains a UK sales office for its e-books, presentation media, course notes and student review material, and has good sales of foreign rights for their publications.
Tim would like to see educators agree on a common platform for e-learning.
Mark Sayes, ESA Publications:
A marvellous range of well received presenters all with a great variety of experiences, observations and thought provoking comments.
How to compete with FREE
CLNZ’s Paula Browning asked publishers: Will your content get shared before you can sell it? “It is an inefficient process – it can cost more than it is worth to get something protected after it is out of the bag, and to sue companies or individuals who breach copyright is long and expensive.”
Chris Hocquard, media and entertainment lawyer talked about “free” as a valid marketing tool, much used by the music industry. “Early adopters of new trends won’t pay – to get to the market you have to give stuff away,” – as Lorde did, he explains – “Unless you are Beyoncé!”
Kirsty Melville, Book Division President at Andrews McMeel, (right) talked about the power of content and that consumers want to access product on many different levels, from a coffee table book to an on-line excerpt from the same book.
Also on the panel was YS Chi: “I’m a real believer that there is no such thing as a free lunch,” he said, noting that on many channels of discovery such as Google, the person putting up the content doesn’t pay… but the advertiser does.
At Elsevier, YS says, they break e-content in pieces; to the extent you can rent a scientific article, available for 24 hours for 99 cents. In e-education there’s a need to teach that piracy is stealing; with e-enforcement YS believes you need to pick your fights and prosecute egregious violators – “even if it costs $60,000.”
His thoughts: “You need to adapt, add value, and explore new business models,” and his apt summary “The more on-line content is available, the less people want to pay for it.”
Neale Pitches, South Pacific Press:
Reflections on the PANZ Conference. Off to a brilliant start with YS Chi. “Publishing is thriving … depending on who you talk to”. That, for me was essential theme of the conference. A few other YS memorables: “uncertainty creates opportunity”, “fail often and fail early”, “protect copyright to protect culture”, and perhaps the one that rang most true to me, “we have an image problem”. From a great start then, it’s hard not to go downhill but Murray Thom was a gem. His upbeat presentation about the need for a big idea and a ton of resilience had me well enthralled. And his catchy phrase, “give that idea a passport”. Hey Murray, The Beach Boys walk into a bar. One says to the other “Round? Round? Get a round? I get a round?” That segues me briefly to the social side of things. It’s hard to beat being crammed into a tiny bar with a decent glass of kiwi wine and an eclectic mix of your fellow publishers.
What is it about small spaces that gets collegiality flowing? For me the conference was a good mix of international, local, tried and tested and new. I was taken with the similarities that trade, children’s and educational publishers face in ‘The 21st Century’. I enjoyed all the speakers but one … if I hear another hackneyed story about how the education system is not yet ‘post-industrial’ I really will go like the Dutch lady with the inflatable shoes – pop my clogs! OK very briefly … I also liked Dan Caton’s market stats (sorry Fergus), Fergus’s Ellie story – “it was exceptional and unexceptional” – talk to Fergus for the full story. Victoria’s metadata, Claire’s tweets, and Brett’s incredibly open, clear and detailed exposition on digital marketing. Paul Cameron’s user-driven growth, the chance to catch up with Paula Browning on matters vital to educational publishing and finally the chance to hear Prof Stuart McNaughton, an old friend with some new ideas … thanks to Melanie, Anne and the crew who put it all together and finally, Hot Topics: Metadata; Dashboards; Deep diving; Planning; Digital with everything; Telling our stories.