2014 in Digital Publishing: A View from the UK

In News by Dennis Abrams

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By Dennis Abrams

The Guardian recently asked some of the biggest names in British publishing to look at what’s ahead in digital publishing. Some highlights:

Anna Rafferty, Penguin digital managing director:

“I predict more digital for publishers in 2014. I’m not being (completely facetious, I mean more digitalness in all parts of the industry, not just in eBook product. We’re going to be using all of the creepy/fun/incredibly clever targeted and personalized marketing opportunities that our connected lives now afford to the smart marketer to reach, and then truly delight, relevant readers.

“I’m fascinated by the explosion of the Quantified Self, enabled by digital technology, and love the idea of a personal Quantified Self reading-tracker-and-recommendation app – like a cross between Fitbit and Foursquare but with books. That would be fun.”

Dan Franklin, Random House UK digital publisher

“I just read that you have to do something six times before you start know what it is (point three of this post), which is useful because I’m going into my six year working in digital publishing. The key question of 2014 is: what do we do when digital publishing starts reaching maturity? And the answer must be, more of it: more experimenting, more risk-taking, and doing what we know works well again and again. Ebooks work well, as does short-form fiction and non-fiction, so let’s do m ore of that. What’s been challenging? Anything involving location-based storytelling, intrinsic and overt gamelike interactivity, augmented reality, and ‘born digital’ fiction. Although there are encouraging signs that when published well these experiments can be successful commercially – apps like DEVICE 6 and The Walk showed this at the end of last year. As such, 2014 has already seen the notion of ‘wearable technology’ creep into publishing conversations – expect it to remain at least talked-about for the remaining as months.

“This year I’m focusing on taking things away rather than adding them, stripped-down reading experiences: pure reading. We keep being told discoverability is a publisher problem, not a reader problem, but great publishing is predicated on the inner belief that no one knows what they really want until they’re introduced to it, so more than ever we need to develop strategies to do that. We’re on it…”

Henry Volans, head of Faber Digital

“I predict a move into the games arena from publishers in 2014. I’ll be watching two companies who sit across the fence. First up, Plain Vanilla is the Icelandic maker of the trivia phenomenon QuizUp. It will be fascinating to see who takes best advantage of the huge audience the app is building around a series of niches: who from the book world will best provide content and freed the fan’s conversations? Second, Simogo is a small Swedish games developer that works well with text; what it does should inspire imaginative publishers.”

Kate Wilson, Nosy Crow managing director

“The eBook market for children has been slow to grow, but eBooks aren’t the only way that children can read on-screen…we are particularly interested in the opportunities to use digital devices to blur the edges between storytelling and games…

“We think that educational use of tables will increase: more than 40% of primary schools in the UK are using iPads now, with many adopting a ‘one-iPad-per-child’ approach. Several apps encourage children as creators too, and personalization is one of the trends that we’d expect to see…So far we haven’t yet seen an eBook subscription service for families or for schools that’s really caught on the UK, but there are a number of contenders and it will be interesting to see if one of them breaks through.”

Read the experts’ views in their entirety here.

About the Author

Dennis Abrams

Dennis Abrams is a contributing editor for Publishing Perspectives, responsible for news, children's publishing and media. He's also a restaurant critic, literary blogger, and the author of "The Play's The Thing," a complete YA guide to the plays of William Shakespeare published by Pentian, as well as more than 30 YA biographies and histories for Chelsea House publishers.