Toward the end of a presentation I made last week at the Internet Archive’s “Books in Browsers” conference, I named at least four ways in which publishers needed to adapt to compete in an era of abundant, digital content. These included:
- Our content must become open, accessible and interoperable. Adherence to standards will not be an option;
- Because we compete on context, we’ll need to focus more clearly on using it to promote discovery;
- Because we’re competing with businesses that already use low- and no-cost tools, trying to beat them on the cost of content is a losing proposition. We need to develop opportunities that encourage broader use of our content; and
- We will distinguish ourselves if we can provide readers with tools that draw upon context to help them manage abundance.
Sara Lloyd, digital director of Pan Macmillan, recently characterized book publishing as “business as usual, but different”. She went on to say that “Books are not being killed off. We’re simply adjusting to an additional format.”
Unfortunately, this point of view perpetuates an undue allegiance to the presentation of content in containers. Seeing an e-book as another format, one that fundamentally looks and feels like a “book”, limits our ability to capitalize on the rich possibilities available in a new realm.
As I said in my remarks: “The challenge is not just being digital; it’s being demonstrably relevant to the audiences who now turn first to digital to find content.” Demonstrating relevance will require much more than agility in handling an additional format.