3) Partnerships and acquisitions are bringing more offerings to the table.
“We all say, ‘content is king,’ but it’s clear that workflow is ‘queen,’ and without support and a deep understanding of that workflow on the vendor’s side, the mark is missed for adding value,” says Kevin Sayar, senior vice president and general manager at ProQuest Workflow Solutions. He expects to see more of a focus on tools that support varied workflows and innovative access models.
Sayar points to ebrary’s acquisition of EBL and the consolidation of their mutual experience in ebooks as an example. EBL brought its 10 years of expertise with demand-driven acquisitions and support for a researcher’s workflow to the mix. The next step is combining their mutual platforms and content so users can access the blended ebook collection and integrate the search and discovery process seamlessly into their workflow. “The bottom line is that we’re paving the way for better, more efficient processes that will then help libraries demonstrate value,” he says.
4) More tools and services are being developed to enrich digital content.
Enriched econtent is a hot commodity these days. Ebooks just aren’t flat text on a screen any more; they can now include interactive gaming, videos, and animation to enhance the e-reading experience. Aquafadas, now part of Kobo, can push content to all-new levels with an Adobe InDesign plug-in.
“We have an interactive portal that can help publishers create new content from PDFs or XML in an automatic workflow,” says Rainer Heckmann, Aquafadas’ general manager for the U.S. “We are not a service company. We leave publishers alone; they know what to do, but we give them tools to take ebooks and publications to the next level.”
What sets Aquafadas apart from other ebook solutions is its ease of use. “A designer can create one layout in an InDesign source file and publish into Android, Apple, or the web.” While not everyone has a tablet or iPad, a single design can offer the same enhanced functionality whether it’s viewed on the iPad or on the web. And the designer doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel every time, he says. “More and more tools will eventually be based on HTML5 because we’re using more and more interactivity in our digital content,” he says, “whether that’s for ebooks or digital publications.”
Aquafadas gives designers all the tools they need on one palette to create a slideshow that can easily be embedded into digital content: Load in 75 high-resolution images, set the frame rate, and capture a 360-degree view. “Designers understand this process instantly,” says Heckmann. “There’s no need to worry about what to do next or in what order. Everything is there, and it’s easy to use.”
Heckmann admits that he sees many publishers struggling to find the right digital strategy: “Everyone wants to have a digital presence, but they hesitate about how to do it. Everyone is afraid of making the wrong decision.” His advice is to start small. When the process goes well and publishers get the results they want, they inevitably jump on board.
“Like it or not, we have to be print and digital,” says Srikanth Subramanian, executive vice president of sales and product solutions at Hurix. He noticed that 2 or 3 years ago, many of his customers in the e-learning space started voicing similar concerns. It was all about the content, he says.
Publishers had legacy content in PDF and print that they wanted to make digital; many of them also needed to start producing digital-first content that never existed before in print format. So Hurix led the way with two product platforms: KITABOO, an end-to-end ebook solution that lets publishers convert PDFs into different formats and enrich the content with video and animation, and there’s the cloud-based Dictera that offers publishers the option of creating digital objects from scratch. The content authoring platform helps publishers create HTML5 courses and EPUB3 widgets to provide flexibility in managing their own workflows and projects.
Subramanian says about 95% of the Hurix ebook conversion process is automated, which lets “publishers focus on content, which is their sweet spot.” Hurix’s engineering team loaded its platforms with artificial intelligence and semantic language processing to drive the process so publishers don’t have to worry about formats. “Our products are made for legacy print,” he says. “For publishers who own a lot of content, we want to give them the shortest path to publish.”
5) Bigger and better business models are monetizing content more efficiently.
For Sameer Shariff, founder and CEO of Impelsys, more publishers are turning to vendors that offer integrated one-stop shopping. While many other vendors provide only part of the toolbox for ebook publishing, Impelsys steps in to provide the total infrastructure for publishers, from content creation to distribution and detailed analytics along the way.
“We give them the infrastructure to manage their ebooks, solutions that not only manage the process [but] help publishers build their own platforms,” says Shariff. “You don’t see us; we’re just the power behind it all.” With iPublishCentral, publishers can create a portal and have a web presence to sell their books with an end-to-end solution. “And you can start collecting data immediately on all the customers you reach,” he says.
iPublishCentral works for large publishers such as Elsevier and McGraw-Hill Education as well as small association publishers or university presses, such as The MIT Press. Shariff compares iPublishCentral’s cloud experience to that of Amazon’s Kindle, where the seamless e-reading experience picks up exactly where the user left off and fosters a relationship between user and distributor in the process.
“Every time a user reads a book, data about the reader experience is being collected for publishers with iPublishCentral,” says Shariff. As the ebook industry moves toward providing more personalized content for users, it’s important that publishers understand what their users are consuming or what they are skipping over. This feedback is something that publishers can use to customize content more effectively for their users, he says. If readers are reading Chapters 1, 2, and 5, and not 3 and 4 of an ebook, publishers can revisit that content and tailor it more effectively to pique user interest. “In essence, the analytics capabilities in iPublishCentral like having a closed focus group,” he says.
Publishers can not only sell their books, but they can monetize content in a variety of different business models. “You’re really empowering a publisher to go into any market, whether it’s designed for corporate, library, or individual users,” says Shariff. “Publishers can sell or rent ebooks, they can offer subscriptions or set up book clubs, or even offer individual chapters.”
As the ebook market continues to evolve, the options for business models are sweetening the deal and content continues to go beyond simple text on a device. And what can we expect to see next in ebooks? Heckmann offers some tantalizing food for thought: “With the innovations we’ve seen since 1996 on the web, can you imagine where we’ll be in 2020?”