By Michael Cader
With e-books recently emerging as the single-bestselling book format in the US market according to the latest AAP data, there is no doubting the digital transformation of trade publishing underway. The UK is experiencing the first wave of serious digital takeoff with the appearance last year of a local Kindle and the impact of the ubiquitous iPad and, to a lesser degree, the iPhone and other smartphones. Germany has just launched a Kindle store and early e-book efforts are underway in other major territories, but trade e-book sales remain statistically insignificant anywhere except the US and Britain.
The US presents the rest of the world with a fascinating preview of coming attractions, but it will also be the springboard for a wave of English-language e-books about to spread around the world. American giants including Amazon, Apple and Google (with a combined market value of $600 billion) and a number of other North American companies of scale (including Kobo, OverDrive and Ingram) are ready to take their sophisticated e-book infrastructure — and aggregations of a million or more e-book titles available in English — to multiple countries.
That is why Publishers Launch Conferences is focusing our first event at BEA 2011 on helping international publishers understand what happened in the US, why it happened, how the global e-book infrastructure might look coming to their country, and what strategic opportunities make the most sense to pursue right now.
This packed event will cover a broad range of topics, but all from an international perspective. Digital heads from leading US companies will review the history of e-book growth in this market. Some of the tech heavyweights that have helped disrupt the book market here will discuss their global expansion plans. Developers of enhanced content will talk about the strategy and business decisions behind additional investment in digital products. A diverse panel will discuss the rights and business model challenges in publishing’s future and an equally diverse panel will discuss the opportunities and barriers for international publishers trying to sell other-language content in the US.
Several major executives will join an executive recruiter to discuss how the skills publishers require are changing. And international visitors contemplating working with Google eBooks will hear a panel of US booksellers who have already started working with that program talk about what they’re finding. Smaller publishers without IT departments will talk about how they handle e-book creation and distribution. For a little added topicality, author Barry Eisler — who has walked away from the biggest advance so far of any who chose self-publishing — will talk about what was behind that decision, and packager Charlie Melcher will demo the elaborate app his company built from Al Gore’s bestselling book and the new business of simple enhanced e-book authoring tools he helped create as part of that process.
The roster of over 30 speakers includes true digital veterans (Peter Balis of John Wiley; Evan Schnittman of Bloomsbury; Nina von Moltke of Random House; Ellie Hirschhorn of Simon & Schuster); publishing executives (Dominique Raccah of Sourcebooks; Joe Mangan of Perseus Books Group; Charlie Redmayne of HarperCollins); international publishing executives (Ricky Cavallero of Mondadori; Ronald Schild of Libreka); epublishing leaders (Tom Turvey of Google; Steve Potash of OverDrive; Andrew Weinstein of Ingram) and many others.
Among the counter-intuitive but very real and present opportunities we’ll explore are the ability of international companies to publish their e-books into the US now — where the market is already vibrant — and the need and opportunity for local bookselling entities all over the world to start carrying English-language e-books while they wait for their local markets to mature.
Among the “extras” we’ll offer to attendees is a 42-page program book that annotates each subject area. It pulls together 20,000 words worth of articles and analysis from Publishers Lunch, the Shatzkin Files blog, and Publishing Perspectives, along with original interviews and more to provide valuable context and detail that participants can take back to the office and share.
The one thing we know about digital transformation in publishing markets around the world is that the changes will be coming faster and in more unexpected ways. Getting ready now — through international sales and marketing strategies, clear rights acquisition and rights databasing, recruitment and development of the right skill sets, and thoughtful evaluation of the new business model possibilities and their potential return-on-investment — is essential for publishing professionals everywhere. We designed “eBooks Go Global” to deliver a crash-course that connects international visitors with the people and practical ideas to fuel their preparations.