Summary: Th(ink) E-reader Summit (pt 2)

Th(ink) E-readers Summit 2010
Aggressive Publishing & its E-reader Impact

Folks, I'm having some trouble with my internet connection today, so the other part part of yesterday's conference will be posted later. This post is a limited transcript of the first session, and the audio is available on request. It was a Q&A with 3 veterans of digital publishing. The panel included:

Bob Sacks - panel moderator
Mike Robinson - Ebook Sales & Marketing Manager, Oxford University Press
Ana Maria Allessi - VP/Publisher HarperMedia
John Paris - Director, Mobile Poducts, Time Inc

Q. What role do you envision for ereader as part of your company's future?

John - I think it's a huge part of our future. Any print organization really needs to be thinking of these devices as another printing press. ... Ask yourself the question why haven't we been putting books and magazines on web? The answer is desktop PC and even laptops are a lean forward experience, and consequently the web is a lean forward experience. ...books are lean back experience.
Ana Maria - ...We are at the point of distinguishing between dedicated devices and all purpose devices, we know how popular the Kindle is with the core reader..., but we're very interested in seeing what the next year will bring with the iPad to reach the more casual reader. There are a lot more of them as you can imagine. ...The big question for us, and what we're trying to anticipate closely is how much incremental reading will be done.
Mike - I happen to have a slightly different perspective becuase I'm from Oxford University Press. We publish trade books, academic books, textbooks, professional books.. and so the way that we are looking at the growth of these devices as wonderful opportunities in a lot of different new market segments. While the trade ereaders (Kindle, Nooks, etc) have been a fantastic opportunity for our trade content, those devices have not been the perfect devices for some of our other markets. One of the things we are expecting, we are planning for, is for devices in other markets to really gain traction in the next couple of years. ... So we're thinking about corporate, industrial, especially textbooks and the higher education market; I think that market's really ready to go. It's jsut waiting for that moment, that device, that tipping point to move. ...

Q. Where do you see your company's evolving role in media landscape that is about to be: are you watching from the sidelines, or is your company in aggressive pursuit of the evolving yet still somewhat illusive revenue producing future of e-publishing?

Mike - We're very aggressively moving on ... the academic market really is shifting towards electronic means of adjusting content ... which gave us our first initiative in getting into electronic publishing (this is maybe 2004, 2005, 2006) both as online products we produce at Oxford and with ebooks we produce at Oxford. ...That set the stage for the trade revolution, which we were able to leverage in terms of supply chain. ...
Ana - Yes, aggressive. We've been publishing ebooks since 2001. ... We're trying to lead the change vs follow the change, and we have a sense that 2010 is very likely to be the year that the business model is fairly well established. ...

John - We are moving forward aggressively. I will say that until now we have not been aggressive in terms of the devices that have been available such as the Kindle. ... To be completely honest, the B&W experience hasn't been terribly interesting to us as a magazine publisher, so going forward now we are becoming very aggressive, very excited over the new color ereader technology...

If you can divulge it, what is your 5 year business plan for your company in regards to the ereader platforms.

John - I would say at this point we don't have a firm 5y plan, I thnik right now at this point in time it's better to be very open. I don't think we have a full understanding yet of all the use cases scenarios for these devices. ... I think it's going to rapidly evolve. We're going to be waiting to see how consumer behavior revolves around these devices. ...

Ana Maria - We get asked that question everyday, and we try to answer it every day but unfortunately it changes so quickly. the answer changes almost every day. ... It's a lot about testing, learning what you should or should not do. I used to say for a long time that my job was to test, and go back and report to my CEO: these are the 8 things we never want to do again, ... and bring forward the 2 things (that work) and try to build on that. ...

Mike - Our 5y plan is a series of different 1y plans with a kind of built in review at end of it. One of the things that I would say is absolutely huge is to rethink the way we do our marketing. ...Electronic also provides us with so much more information, not just about how many units did we sell, but how many did we sell to whom, and who accessed how much of that unit. ...

Can you discuss any revenue solutions you are working on for books, magazines, newspapers? Will ereaders help publishers charge for their digital content?

Mike - ...I think different segments will have very different business models, probably more going forward than we do now. A lot of our business models are built on something that likes very much like print books sales. A lot of that has to do with comfort levels throughout the industry. ...

Ana - I spend a lot of time contemplating and trying to solve this issue ...of our relationship with our authors, time spent bringing them along, enticing them to move to new models. ...But it can be very slow in doing so.

John - I sure hope so, for us as a magazine publisher I guess we have a little bit of a different challenge than the book publishers in that we have this little problem about having been giving away content on websites for some time. ... So we're very hopeful that the tablets, ereaders in giving us this form factor will give us a mode whereby we can move to a paid content model. ...

Do you think the sleek, portable, new ereader devices will rival the intimacy and perceived relevance of the printed product?

john - Absolutely... I put this question to my wife last night ... I was thinking about the panel today, and I realized that I had never asked my wife (We've got a coffee table with stacks of magazines and books) ..I said, well do yo think the iPad will be able to replace all these, and her answer was interesting. "Well, if the magazines that I have on my iPad are permanent, if I can hold on to them becuase that National Geographic... I want to save those things, I want to have those  to look at again and again." So that's something we definitely need to keep in mind when looking at the new products.

Ana - There are the folks that we refer to as book strokers, who swear that they could never give up the smell, taste, and everything else. And I say yeah, you haven't tried it because by and large every person that I know who swears that they will not read digitally, once they try it they love it.

Mike  - I definitely agree. ...There are always going to be people who are going to want some formats, some types of things in print. ... But it reminds me of what a friend of mine had said that when automobiles came in, people said I'm never going to get one of these things, I'm always going to ride my horse, I'm sticking to the horse no matter what. And then all those people died.

About Nate Hoffelder (11215 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader:"I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

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