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Future of digital publishing: Five strategies for consumer book publishers

The rapid transition to digital publishing is presenting key technical challenges to companies in Communications, Media and Technology. 

Overview

As the rapid transition to digital publishing throws up technical challenges, publishers who equip themselves to deal with these challenges will be able to seize opportunities for revenue growth and emerge profitable.

The book publishing industry is going through an enthralling and irreversible transition from the physical to the digital space. Rapid changes in user preference and technology have made it possible to conceive a not-too-distant future when printed books are rare and digital downloads take place through innumerable small chunks of content across several locations on the Internet.

Ten years from now, few people may read complete texts, let alone pay for them in advance. Publishing revenues would then comprise a huge number of micropayments derived from advertising, product placement, subscription, and sales of consumer analytics data. This scenario may be far off yet, but there’s no denying the fact that digital publishing is reaching a tipping point. In several regions, revenues from e-books are rising faster than those from printed ones.

This Accenture point of view discusses some of the key technical challenges in digital publishing and recommends strategies publishers can adopt to chart their route to high performance.

Background

There has always been storytelling, and it was only the advent of the press that gave rise to books. Now, reading and publishing must evolve to meet the digital environment. In this evolution, the publishing industry is facing challenges in five key areas: the creation of new products; the growing independence of authors; assessment of metadata for discoverability; building innovative retail business models; and use of business intelligence. As digital publishing races ahead, industry players that have built enduring capabilities in these areas will be able to seize opportunities for revenue growth, future proof their business and pave the way for high performance.

Analysis

  • To support new product types, such as enhanced e-books, apps and e-books with advertising embedded and respond efficiently to creative as well as consumer demand, publishers need to secure the right production capability and integrate it with a flexible, asset-based supply chain.

  • Metadata—ranging from an International Standard Book Number (ISBN) code to a customer ranking on a website—makes books searchable and discoverable, and enhances the retail and consumer experience. Publishers need to accurately capture, identify and describe what content they own; define usage rights and authorize ways to monetize the content; cleanse metadata and populate missing information; tag and enrich it to enable search and contextual recommendation; and make all that available to retail partners by creating a repository.

  • With growing author independence and the rise of self-publishing, publishers need to reassert their value proposition by using technology to provide greater pricing and campaign visibility, near real-time sales volume reports, business intelligence and advanced royalty accounting.

  • As innovative commercial models develop, they present challenges to product management rules and the ability to report on a variety of usage. Publishers need to have an extensive view of commercial rights and sophisticated reporting capabilities to capitalize on this change.

  • Both supply chain and consumer data available to publishers are growing rapidly. The priority before publishers is to access and make sense of the data through a smart data warehouse (or intelligent messaging services).

Recommendations

In Accenture’s view, success in digital publishing would rely on book publishers implementing the following five strategies:

  • A flexible production and distribution environment that can deal with reconfiguring products at a component level

  • An extensive view of full and complete metadata updated during a product life cycle to enable enhanced engagement with retailers and consumers backed by accurate reporting

  • A transparent supply chain that provides visibility from product creation to content delivery in both business-to-business and business-to-consumer models, as well as reporting every step of the way

  • A sophisticated rights management and commercial rules engine that lies at the heart of fulfilling rapidly evolving business models

  • Robust protocols for aggregating and harmonizing data that can drive the decision-making processes