Consultancy for the publishing industry
As the landscape alters dramatically for the commercial publishing sector Magus Digital is able to support publishers in the development and implementation of forward looking publishing strategies and help them engage with change management processes, in order to take account of the opportunities offered by the digital revolution and overcome its challenges.
Magus Digital has a wide knowledge of digital publishing solutions including Print on Demand (POD) and eBook production, so is able to help professional publishers and their teams transform to make best use of the digital environment.
Survival of the fitest
We are in a gap in the evolutionary cycle between the introduction of the technology that has enabled self-publishing and the emergence of the skillsets and tools that will fully transform the publishing industry and redefine what professional publishing is. And, not all of the traditional publishing sector has yet fully grasped the extent to which it has the wrong emphasis on tasks, is relying on outdated or overvalued skills; and uses workflows and business models that are no longer fit for purpose. As a consequence it has not properly established the points of differentiation between the quality product and the amateur effort in the new product areas and routes to market that have become available.
That position is unsustainable. Not least because the authors and content creators on which is relies are also becoming alienated. What follows will not be the same as what went before; however, a separation will inevitably re-emerge as the bar is raised on what is expected of a digital publication, whether it be delivered as an eBook, an 'app', or as Print on Demand, in terms of the user-experience and value proposition, which only access to a certain level of talent and expertise will be able to provide.
The demise of the printed edition
For centuries ink based print technologies have lent themselves to the production of editions, where the most cost effective outcome is a sizable print run. Whilst the printing of the work is only a factor in the overall investment a publisher makes, the set up costs and practicalities of traditional print have created conditions that substantially determine the product and the underlying economics of commercial publishing.
Since the 1980s new digital technologies have challenged and changed the nature of printing; and indeed publishing. How published materials are 'consumed' is no longer the same either. There are now many more choices available, mostly facilitated by the Internet, the variety of media it can carry in digital form (text, images, video and audio, as well as dynamic and interactive content) and the range of devices that this may be delivered to.
How published materials are distributed has been effected as well. High street book stores have declined rapidly in the face of online competition from Amazon, for example; and the 'cherry picking' of popular titles by supermarkets and other retailers. The wastage of overprinting, transport and storage costs, as well as environmental and carbon footprint considerations also have to be taken into account.
Whilst the physical qualities of a printed work are beloved by many, it is by current standards an inflexible and limited product. For the time being it still has a place in publishing and long may that continue. However, as the ways of experiencing content multiply, the time has come to rethink the place of the printed edition, perhaps as simply one of several alternative publication channels; and to redefine what it does and perhaps even what commercial publishing is.
The rise of the eBook
With the introduction of ePUB 3 it becomes clear that an eBook is not a poor relation of a printed work, nor is its conversion from a print parent a sustainable model for the future. There are many additional advantages to developing the eBook format directly, which go beyond what a traditional book can do: the document becomes navigable in more complex ways; how it presents to the reader or how they interact with it may be varied; and since it may contain a variety of media not just text, it becomes possible to embed features that would not be encountered in a printed work.
New skills and production processes
The realities of the current position are being clouded to some extent by the industry sector's immediate reactions to the rapid decline of print publishing and the associated changes in book sales or advertising revenues, in the face of digital alternatives. The decline or rather repositioning of the distribution market towards online sales is also affecting thinking; and there remains a somewhat myopic view of what an eBook or e-publication is. Many publishers are still wedded to the idea that they should produce for print and that a token conversion afterwards for the digital market will suffice. This presumes quite wrongly that the end point of one production process is a suitable starting point for another—and certainly the relatively narrow concept of a print deliverable is not an adequate beginning for something that could be so much more complex and variable as an eBook.
Digital technologies are convergent and have become progressively integrated—processes that will no doubt continue. Although print remains a desirable outcome it now represents only one output channel for content. So, the truth is that print dominated publication workflows are becoming redundant, as are several of the roles that feed into them or that they support. These need to be put aside and replaced by a more multi-channel project management approach that is supported by creative skillsets with more technical depth and range across the entire digital environment. There is also a need for publishing strategies that begin with a convertible resource rather than a fixed end product, which is what current print production workflows produce.