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The 2.0 Publisher?

20 Dec

Tonight’s Confession:

Emerging technologies have made publishing a perplexing path

Aspiring publishers admit it– you’ve thought this too. Our tough economy makes it impossible to avoid asking:

  • How do I become the publisher of the future?
  • How do I stay relevant when there are new technologies threatening to make me obsolete?
  • How do I become the 2.0 Publisher?

In a stable economy obtaining a publishing job is difficult enough. Sprinkle in emerging technologies and breaking into publishing becomes a Mission Impossible movie.

Where’s that magic ball when you need it? Isn’t there a publishing fortune-teller with clear answer?

Sadly there’s no fortune teller or magic ball. There are however, experienced and inexperienced publishers with contrasting opinions.

Tonight’s blog is an opportunity for me and other students to get three different perspectives on this subject. Perhaps a traditional publisher (Vanessa Chan), a self-publisher (Mark Leach) and a publishing graduate (Smriti Chawla) have better advice for publishers trying to sustain relevancy in the Digital Age of Books.

LG: Vanessa, you work for a prominent “traditional” publishing house. Are there any novice and experienced publishers “jumping ship” to digital publishing? Let me reword, have any new publishers abandoned traditional practices to acquire digital skills instead?

VC: In regard to the job market, more than ever there are publishing jobs that involve technology. Digital marketing and social media marketing are two big areas that publishers are looking into. Almost every publisher has an online presence which means aspiring grads will need to be tech savvy to break into the industry, computer skills are highly preferred.

Still, the e-book industry is still very unstable, so there aren’t too many pubs “jumping ship” yet.  So far, print publishing (in Canada) far outweighs digital publishing. Digital publishing here only accounts for 10% of our sales at most. We are just beginning to put more effort into marketing e-books, but we usually have the e-book ride on the print version’s marketing efforts.

However, with e-readers on the rise, we can see that number increase.

LG: Thank you Vanessa, I must admit your insight is very eye-opening. I had no idea that digital publishing was not as prominent in Canada as it is in the United States. You mentioned that digital marketing and social media marketing are preferred skills publishers seek in candidates. Smriti have you noticed any others?

SC: Having knowledge editing or using markup languages such as HTML and XML are essential. You cannot fight change. The best way to survive is avoiding redundancy and accepting the technological changes.

LG: This would explain why many publishing job postings emphasize these skills. I guess it’s like you said Smriti if a publisher is to survive they must accept change. I guess this is true for accepting self-publishing too.

Over the years, self-publishing has surged in popularity; Amazon’s CreateSpace is a testament to that. However, it’s difficult for me to understand how “traditional” aspiring publishers can compete with self-publishers? It’s even more difficult to know how aspiring publishers fit in.

ML: Publishing students can help self-publishers with e-book technology. When I formed Economo E-Books, LLC, the hardest part of e-book publishing was my ignorance of technology. As all the publishing students know, little in the e-publishing world is straightforward. Students could help aspiring publishers like me understand which layout is suitable for various devices. I’ve received some advice, but their approaches are all different. Some like InDesign some hate it. Some “hand build” every page using HTML. Many use different software programs, and then spend hours  “cleaning up” the code.

Legal matters are another area students can help self-publishers with.

A few months ago I knew little about copyright and etiquette. Now I pay an intellectual property attorney four-dollar a minute for advice on clearance, fair use, license agreements, and other legal issues. I’m paying a lot for things that every publishing student already knows.

LG: I’m glad you shared this because I thought publishing e-books was easy. I’m quickly realizing however, there are many technicalities attached to it. You mentioned students can help you with different formats with different readers. Mark why has this process been difficult?

ML: There is no standard approach. There are different formats for different e-readers, with new e-readers coming on the market every couple of months. For instance, I have doubts about building for a proprietary format such as Amazon’s AXW that is only readable by Kindle.

LG: So Mark your advice for student would be to freelance their services.  Traditional publishing houses have used this method for years. However, the downside is the unstable workflow and no health benefits. Still, this may be the path aspiring publishers might need to take to work in publishing.  What are your thoughts Smriti?

SC: I don’t think that you need to provide all the work involved in running a publishing house: editing, proofreading, marketing, designing et al. Basic knowledge and know-how of at least the basic programs used by them i.e. Quark Express, InDesign, Photoshop, and basic knowledge of web designing always works.

The publishing industry won’t be focusing purely on hard copy books either, but on e-books, e- magazines and other forms of e-media as well. The emergence of self-publishing and e-book publishing has revolutionized the market in ways that has for obvious reasons raised questions for older style publishers.

One of the first things we learnt in journalism is that as technology advances, professionals in any field would be expected to do a variety of things. Specialization would be made almost redundant unless the job calls for it. I think the future publishing house would have a combination of in-house service providers and well as freelancers.

LG: Smriti, I agree with your conclusion. Whether I like it or not self-publishing and e-books are part of the publishing industry. The only thing I can do is make sure I equip myself with the tools to sustain relevancy. Of course these tools are somewhat difficult to identify because digital publishing is fairly new. In some countries such as Canada, the technology is still developing.

Even self-publishers are trying to grasp the intricacies of this technology. It’s like Mark stated, no one has a standard approach.

Still you guys touched on software systems that many publishing houses use. It would be wise for students to add them to their skill set. Personally I’m adding skills that are applicable to both publishing and other industries.

Publishers’ thank you again for your thoughts and advice, I truly appreciate them.

An EPublisher Confesses


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