By Erin L. Cox
When the digital revolution in publishing began, publishers moved quickly to digitize their content in order to take advantage of this new, growing audience. But, in most cases, the text and layout of print books were merely digitized — what some call “print-under-glass.” At the time, it was enough that publishers had to create multiple formats for the different ebook vendors. But when it came to enriching the content, they were faced with the challenge of not yet knowing how to proceed and how deep to go—whether to provide illustrations, segment out text for other editions, add video and audio—in order to engage the changing demand of the digital reader.
Today, with technological advancements and a better sense of what readers want from digital content, many publishers still create “print-under-glass” digital editions and are loathe to upset the legacy print production schedules they have used for decades in order to create unique digital content. As ebook sales level off and, in some categories, decline, now is the time for the second wave of the digital revolution to take hold.
Dan Nigloschy, Client Solutions Architect: Publishing Technology for codeMantra, sees the challenges publishers face when looking at this changing face of reading. Until recently, publishers have approached digital enrichment as “post production,” not factoring these details early enough into the production schedule, and ultimately limiting what they can do. But that is changing. Now, publishers need to integrate digital into every cycle of the publishing timeline, from the initial acquisition of a title, to its launch into the market, and ultimately, to its life on the all-important backlist.
As a tech-enabled services company, codeMantra allows publishers to transform content and gives them much-needed agility. “The solution is to transform with sufficiently granular and enriched XML, which is at the heart of all we do. codeMantra brings content — Microsoft Word, InDesign — into XML and guides that through the production process,” said Nigloschy. “Instead of offering a rigid single-point transformation, we are an XML anytime solution provider.” All formats may launch from a single source, but as they are adapted for their particular channel or niche, content is easily added or subtracted and exchanged. This process is the key to parallel delivery of print and ebook editions, by identifying components that are unique to each and common to each.
This is extremely useful to publishers, as it allows publishers to act fast so that they take advantage of new opportunities or reader demands the very moment they surface. As Carolyn Reidy said last month at the Book Industry Study Group (BISG) annual meeting, “backlist is frontlist for a reader who hasn’t read it yet.” Backlist has traditionally been ignored in the terms of sales and publicity promotion, but now publishers have the chance to repackage, revisit, revise in order to take advantage of current events, the success of an author’s frontlist title, or any unexpected promotion — such as a celebrity endorsement (Reidy specifically cited a post by Reese Witherspoon) that might spark sales of a backlist title.
In his predictions for the future of publishing, Nigloschy concurs, “We will see changes in content that used to be tied to a publication date. Content will exist on a continuum.” codeMantra allows publishers the ability to update or add supplementary content as needed.
In addition to working with trade publishers, codeMantra works with professional, educational publishing, and even NGOs, which also demand the ability to modify content up to the last moment. codeMantra’s flexible solutions provide these publishers with the ability to control the authoring process up to the final stage of production. For publishing timely news and research, this power is essential.
ebook performance aside, there is growing demand for digital content on all fronts, and now is the time for publishers to streamline their production, delivery and marketing effort. Print publishers need to meet that demand with better and more expedient digital content, if they don’t want to lose ground to the ever-expanding universe of digital-only publishers and media providers.
Next week, Dan Nigloschy will speak about publishing innovation in the U.S. at The Markets: Global Publishing Summit at The Frankfurt Book Fair on Tuesday, October 13, 2015.