One of the most anticipated publishing industry events of the year, Digital Book World 2019 is just around the corner. This year DBW takes place September 10-12 at the Loews Vanderbilt Hotel, located in the heart of Nashville, Tennessee. DBW is a gathering of publishing communities from across the world where nearly 1000 executives and leaders from trade publishing, scholarly publishing, independent publishing, educational publishing, corporate publishing, and all of the technology companies that serve them, come together to share, learn and network.

DBW is distinct from many other conferences, the event is known for lending different insights on publishing trends every year, and a trendsetter in the industry for the next 6-12 months. It’s a place where you can listen to valuable talks from industry leaders representing organizations which are currently changing the facet of publishing. This year Lisa Lucas, one of publishing’s dynamic young leaders and the executive director of the National Book Foundation, is providing the keynote. DBW is also a place to get first hand information about new products and services, new tools and ecosystems, new revenue streams, new ways of thinking, and a new sense of community.

Some of the big names we will hear from at DBW 2019 are…

National Book Foundation, Audible, Penguin Random House, The US Copyright Office, LSC Communications, Foreword Reviews, Dolly Parton’s, Amazon’s Alexa team, The Motovun Group, The University of Michigan, Mike Shatzkin, BISG, Microsoft, Hachette, Kickstarter, The Fisher Company, The DAISY Consortium, Firebrand, Capstone, Talaera, Simon & Schuster, Southwest Airlines, The House of Anansi Press, Human eSources, Innovation and Tech Today, Scenarex, Orna Ross and ALLi, The Collaborative Knowledge Foundation, Books + Publishing, FutureProof Content, Novel Effect, Vearsa, Readerbound, Earplay, Dosdoce, Klopotek, Simon Fraser University, The Writer, Overdrive, Books International, Macmillan, and many, many more.

The DBW Awards will be distributed at a reception programme on  Tuesday, September 10, after the day’s program concludes. The reception will also see Mike Shatzkin’s inducted into the Publishing Hall of Fame, and the Celebrity Roast of BISG’s Brian O’Leary. The DBW Reception is included complimentary with full conference registration. Alternatively, a limited number of passes are available here.

Impelsys, as every year will exhibit at DBW 2019. Stationed at  booth #302 this year we present to you our flagship publishing platform, iPC Scholar. The platform for publishing and elearning is leveraged by over 200 publishers and associations across the world in steering their digital expansion. Impelsys helps all types of publishers and enterprises to upgrade to cutting edge technologies – to fully leverage the power of digital publishing. Register here for a free demo of iPC Scholar at DBW 2019.

Digital Book World is one rare event where you get to see things differently and you meet really important people. This year we are looking forward to meeting a lot of people and we are excited about it, hope to see you in Nashville very soon…

Book publishing is one of the oldest industries of the world having survived for over five centuries. Over the turn of the 21st century digital enwrapment of human lives has been so thorough that the reading habit is reported to be on decline for the first time in all these centuries. The amount of entertainment and information at our disposal has diverted attentions away from books towards visual and audio rich, brief content, created for individual appetite. Now is the challenging time for publishers and authors when the youth is immersed in social media and Netflix, when the nice smelling paperback has become a luxury, which might fade away into nostalgia some day. For the book to stay relevant the industry needs to create a product that appeals to the generation that’s attuned to video games and memes, we need innovations beyond format and medium.

While our lives are increasingly becoming digital as we are exposed to variety of digital media and our attention span has reduced, book reading is also the oldest fixation of a civilized world while digital disruption of human behaviors is merely a twenty years old phenomenon, and we can safely assume that our oldest habit is not going to die easily, because the publishing industry, whose revenue was up 6.2% in the first quarter of 2018, as per reported by American Association of Publishers, still generates more revenue than Hollywood. However, this disruption has become a permanent thing, it has changed things and will continue to do so.

Launch of Kindle in 2007 and then iPad in 2010 were the moments the popular digital book took form and got popular attention, the next few years ebooks sales rocketed and it looked like they would totally disrupt the market and gradually replace paper books like online streaming replaced dvds. Come 2019 and the inevitable plateau of sales is stretching too far for ebooks, they are nowhere closer to any disruption.

The book of the future needs to evolve further, not just in format but also in content and component, the modern storytelling needs to keep pace with the changing behavior of the consumer, and the relationship between buyer and seller needs to be open and inclusive. The book of the future needs to be interactive, moving and alive, the ebooks in last ten or so years haven’t seen much of technological evolution, this needs to happen, the storytelling should engage the reader. The book needs to be overhauled, so does the industry, publishers and the industry as a whole have to find a way to preserve the oldest fixation of mankind in the chaotic technological environment.

Publishing Trends 2019

Publishing in this century is a tech driven industry which makes it evolve rapidly, as we put a fresh start to everything in the beginning of the year let’s have a look at which way the publishing industry is swaying, which new trends will emerge and which will stand their ground in publishing industry.

Hybrid Publishing

There’s a visible and steady decline in interest in traditional publishing while self publishing is on rise. Indie publishers have control over creatives and their revenues, however successful publishing needs robust marketing and post production. Hybrid publishing provides a middle ground approach. Authors stay in charge of the activities and pay only for the services they take, and there are veterans and experts in the industry ready to lend a helping hand and good guidance. Hybrid publishing, already in vogue will establish itself as a norm in future, where only the required services are obtained while authors retain control over finances and creatives while earning bigger royalty.

Concurrent Marketing

Publishing is a crowded marketplace, millions of titles fight to stay afloat in the crowded sea of books. Successes in self publishing have resulted in millions of titles being released every year, even a great piece of work can quickly get buried if marketing is not concurrent with book release and beyond. Successful authors and publishers in 2019 will invest in marketing, with their ads in the right place and right medium, keeping the audience engaged through social media and ads in bookstores. An ongoing market campaign is a necessary investment, more so for lesser known authors.

Audiobooks Keep Rising

Revenues from audiobooks have been growing at striking rates of 30 and 40 percents in past years, it has kept digital revenues afloat for several publishers. With revenues in 2018 at $2.5 billion, audiobooks could be the glorious book of the future. Audible UK grew its revenue by 45% in 2017.  Audiobooks are a great way of listening to stories, while you are exercising, lying on your bed with lights off, or travelling. Audiobooks are the only segment growing substantially when the reading habit is on decline. Improvements in devices, listening accessories and smart home speakers will help the rise of audiobooks.

Creating an audiobook is costlier than print or an ebook but it seems the investment pays off, in fact some popular authors are completely skipping the print route. 2019 will see further rise of audiobooks, and there are all those books which a half-hearted reader never found the time and motivation to read, which don’t yet have an audio version, there are millions of them.

Author-Reader Relationship

Involving readers in the journey of story development foments a relationship between author and her readers. Encouraging fans to build a piece of story or give their version of conclusion, engaging with them through social media or podcasts, creating discussion and fan forums, this helps build author loyalty which goes beyond format while keeping readers waiting for the next announcement. We will also see rising collaborations among authors, and those between authors and bloggers, vloggers and influencers. They will support each other in ways like reviews and recommendations

Publishing is becoming an increasingly segmented industry, successful authors are often creating a niche – instead of trying to be everything to everyone – and dominating there. Readers of particular interests attach their loyalty to authors in their segments, this loyalty goes beyond format and has wide international reaches. In 2019 and hereafter authors who create their own niche, excel in cultivating community and loyalty will be the most successful.

AI and Blockchain

We had listed Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain as trends in book publishing industry in 2018, these are technologies which will impact many industries in future, they will remain trends for many years to come. At the current stage publishers can leverage AI in analytics and marketing, finding the right audience for a title, or a reader discovering what she needs. Online book recommendation in many of the retailer sites currently uses some form of AI which guesses recommendations based on past purchases and browsing.

Blockchain has the potential to unleash a new reality for the publishing ecosphere. Since transparency is blockchain’s key usp a potential application is in intellectual property (IP) ownership, with blockchain it is possible to trace and equip every IP with a digital ‘fingerprint’ that always changes and evolves as the licensing and ownership status of the IP changes. Blockchain can enable efficient micro payments that go straight to authors, optimized distribution and better copyright protection.

Technology continually alters industries and trends keep emerging, publishing is one industry which has been nearly consistent for centuries vis-a-vis technology, but it can’t remain same forever. Machine dominated future will change human behaviors, there will be various sources of knowledge and entertainment and the book needs to evolve to catch up. What we are seeing today is just a glimpse at the future, we need to stay ahead of the trends and be a pioneer in conservation of an industry which has been the bedrock of human civilization and social progress for centuries.

Accessibility in Ebooks

Ebooks are a revolutionary product, it’s amazing how we can instantly download them and start reading within minutes. They don’t use paper and thousands of them can be carried in pockets,  and there are different other advantages in ebooks for readers. We can search for any information within the book or follow external links, and we can conveniently read them wherever we are. But are ebooks and the content in them equally accessible to all of us? There’s a certain minority – people with disabilities in vision, hearing, motor etc – of readers to whom reading an ebook might not be as convenient as for the rest of us.

World Wide Web Consortium or W3C takes web content accessibility seriously, they have laid down Web Content Accessibility Guidelines or WCAG. The current edition of the guideline WCAG 2.0 is a robust, stable and easy-to-implement set of instructions intended to guide web developers and authors worldwide while designing a people friendly website and delivering intelligible content. And we have WCAG 2.1 coming soon, the aim of WCAG 2.1 is to expand accessibility for a wider variety of people with disabilities, such as people with low vision, learning disabilities, speech disabilities and multiple disabilities, all of whom potentially have more opportunities online than ever, thanks to advanced technology.

When we talk about accessibility as a fundamental human right we think about public utilities, services and information. How important is the accessibility in an ebook? Ebooks are not just a source of pleasure, people use them to get information and knowledge, and for work, and when disabled people can’t use the product as abled people would do, it hampers their study and work, not just the pleasure reading.

A lot of readers are print impaired and digital books are a boon to them, they can increase the font size, reflow the text, and change color and contrast to suit their vision. An accessible platform should  allow the use of assistive technologies to read the text out loud with or without being able to see the screen.  The benefit of text-to-speech over audiobooks is that it gives access to a much greater variety of material. Much of this material will not be recorded as an audiobook, or will only appear a considerable time after the book’s publication. Listening to dialogue can also be tricky – if punctuation characters are not read out, it’s difficult to follow a conversation, but if they are, it interrupts the flow of the dialogue.

Current ebooks have features like increasing the font size, reflowing the text to fit the screen, higher color contrast and screen reader. Despite all of these disabled readers don’t enjoy the equality, a case in example would be the screen reader feature may not extend to notes and highlights, it may not handle book navigation and presentation of complex data such as tables or mathematical equations. Digital rights management, proprietary formatting and lack of standards in platforms are the causes of this roadblock. Lack of standard and communication among ebook reader platforms, device platforms (OS), assistive technology providers and various other stakeholders in the industry add to the chaos.

The goal of technology is to provide information and education without discrimination. Good accessibility also makes good business sense. The features that make e-texts flexible enough to meet the needs of disabled readers also make them flexible enough for different platforms, different display devices and even different business models. And as publishing becomes more competitive, opportunities to stand out from the crowd become more valuable. Supporting accessibility is good for businesses while it also helps the social credibility of an organization by allowing equal access to all.

It’s time for the industry to come together and formulate a standard and come to an understanding that makes way for full accessibility that goes beyond font size and linear screen reading, to be incorporated in ebooks that are distributed and read across all mainstream platforms. An accessibility of the kind that transcends pleasure reading, that allows disabled readers, scholars and professionals to take equal advantage of all the available resources. It behooves all the stakeholders in the industry that in future they create new ebook formats and standards for accessibility technologies that provide a truly accessible, usable and convenient reading experience for everybody, regardless of disability or level of technical experience.

digital publishing trends 2018

We do this at the beginning of every year, dust off the crystal ball and try to gauge what lies ahead for the year. Publishing, now is largely a tech-driven industry that has been evolving every year for over two decades. The trends this year would mainly follow previous year’s, however, some new technologies like blockchain may be regarded with potential applications in publishing and we might see a new drift towards increased demand for quality content and hybrid publishing. Let’s have a look at how the year 2018 will look like for digital publishing industry, what new trends will emerge and which ones will consolidate their foothold.

Quality Content

The storm of content on the web is growing every day. With hundreds of thousands of authors producing millions of titles every year, discovery and targeting are some of the big challenges. Besides, with a humongous amount of ebooks being published each year, the quality of the content tends to get diluted. At a time when the hours dedicated to book reading are shifting towards other forms of media, the number of books skyrocketing and the number of readers remaining flat, the content of the title is under pressure. In order to catch the reader’s attention and earn readership writers have to produce extraordinary content with the power to keep a reader hooked and content that is worth reader’s time and money.

With the rise of online publishing the issue of content degradation has also affected (STM) scientific publishing. Scientific publishing demands a high level of ethical standards like extensive reviewing, editing, accurate representation of credits and verified facts. The multitude of online platforms which do not provide fundamental services like peer reviewing, editing etc are responsible for the drowning of confidence in research literature available online among scholars. Scholarly community which consists of authors, editors and publishers should not be encouraged to publish on these platforms which do not offer the authenticity and confidence required of an ethical journal.

Hybrid Publishing – Digital/ Print

Last couple of years have seen reports of declining ebook sales, citing digital fatigue and nostalgia for print, as the reasons. A little dig in the story will, however, reveal a twist in the plot.Author Earning’s most significant report on ebook vs print sales so far dissects the story in detail. Those reports about the slip in ebook sales constitute data collected from traditional publishers who are selling ebooks at higher prices. And the surge in print book sales mainly constituted of adult coloring books, while 70% of adult fiction sales was in ebooks category last year. And the data didn’t take into account the indie publishers, Amazon and various other channels. So, the point is ebooks segment is still going strong with over 20% of the total books read in US in 2017 being digital books.

STM publishers can leverage the advantage of dynamic publishing – making  use of huge advances in computing power, analytics, and big data to synthesize answers to users’ questions using sources in real time. STM Publishing is right now the fastest growing sector in digital publishing. They have legacy publishing business as the major source of revenue but upgrading their digital efforts, forming a strategic alliance between digital and print and reaching out ot a wider digital audience is inevitable for those who want to stay in the race.

The point to note here is that users are not ready to pay the price of a print book for an ebook, but they haven’t given up the digital version and analyses show that ebook consumption will only rise in future. This indicates that the combined strategy of digital and print publication offers the advantage of both the realms for authors. The current generation of young readers is starting to forget the life before digital; also ebooks come with the digital element of linkability to supplemental video content, subscription-based email content, access to discussion and fan forums etc. Authors should also not lose the sight of print publishing in order to monetize their products, build credibility and audience inflow.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence or AI is not a hot buzzword. We have been using it in some way in our daily lives when you think of Google Maps, Siri, Google Assistant or Alexa, and it has been impacting more and more industries each year. AI has become the mainstay of digital advertising, but how it impacts core publishing still remains ambiguous albeit with great potentials, as it goes from being a newbie to mainstream in the coming years.

One of the major obstacles for publishers concerns book discovery, i.e. finding the right audience for a title, or a reader discovering what she needs. Online book recommendation in many of the retailer sites currently uses some form of AI which guesses recommendations based on past purchases and browsing. But the audience satisfaction is still minuscule; Amazon’s book recommendation is barely accurate for a reader whose taste in reading varies to a wide range. Companies like Booxby use natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning (ML) to understand the author’s unique style (referred to as Literary DNA) and then map it onto the way a reader experiences that style. This AI derived literary DNA gives a unique identity to each title which is then matched for closeness to other titles the user has read already, thus making a precise recommendation, even without the user knowing how it is arrived at.

Content recommendation is the biggest use case of artificial intelligence in publishing, and there are other applications which the technology is finding, like search result precision through machine learning and semantics, short reviews and summaries made of coherent and accurate snippets of text (especially helpful in academic and scientific content discovery), customer service using AI chatbots, optimizing social media marketing and automating and optimizing publishing workflow processes.

Mobility

We’ve been talking about Mobility for a couple of years but it finds a top spot in publishing trends even in 2018, and that is because book industry still has a tremendous scope with mobility. Mobile content consumption has surpassed desktop.  Authors and publishers need to have a strong presence on the web that is optimized for mobile devices. From 2018 onwards when developing digital content, mobility should be the priority.

Blockchain

‘Bitcoin’ and ‘how to buy bitcoin’ were among the top three most searched terms in Google in 2017. The recent skyrocketing valuation of bitcoins has bewildered everyone instilling a sense of FOMO. The technology behind the bitcoin, Blockchain is going to have implication for industries beyond finance, and that potentially includes publishing. So far there is some ambiguity of its use for the industry, however analysts are hoping that it might solve some persistent issues like digital ownership for buyers (remember 1984?). Since it’s described to be an open system of a giant, peer-to-peer computer network, it allows transparency that renders every digital copy with a unique identity. Another potential application is in intellectual property (IP) ownership, with blockchain it is possible to trace and equip every IP with a digital ‘fingerprint’ that always changes and evolves as the licensing and ownership status of the IP changes. At the conceptual level blockchain has the potential to unleash a new reality for the publishing ecosphere.

As a terrain that changes every year depending on new technologies, digital publishing always keeps us on our toes. Some of the new terms will find commonplace in coming years making every publisher embrace and apply the new idea. Apart from above discussed there are other things that have been changing the landscape which can’t be ignored to stay in the race. Audiobooks are the fastest growing segment in the digital publishing industry. The United States continues to be the biggest market for the audio format and in 2017 there was over $2.5 billion dollars in sales. Audiobooks are becoming so popular that publishers are skipping the book entirely and are initiating a straight to audio production. Other trends include indie-traditional hybrid publishing – a working amalgamation for aspiring authors and established authors; community publishing – publishing for specific set of readers; visual content, mobile apps, subscription models, professional approach to book cover, authentic photography, social media marketing and more.

Ebooks vs Print

Soaring into the skies of popularity and catching the fancy of young and old readers for about a decade, ebooks are reported to have been losing their charm for a few years now. It was not long ago when with the launch of dedicated ebook readers and mobile tablets everybody wanted to read on their screens, bringing down sales of print books worldwide and shutting down a host of book stores.

The data on ebook sales worldwide is not clear, American Association of Publishers or AAP released a report recently which says that ebook revenues were down by 18.9% through August 2016, Publishers Association of UK shows the same trend, a slump of ebook sales by 17% in the UK. However a report on Author Earnings gives a contrasting view, the in-depth comparison of ebook vs print books sales highlights a unique balance and advises authors to diversify into print and digital publishing, according to genre and market.

With not so promising reports coming in from the industry it seems disheartening for ebook publishers, but the case of ebook is a different one. Ebooks don’t have to be seen as a product in direct battle with print books. The business of digital books is distancing itself from print books and this is natural as the two are no more same products in different formats, but different products with same content. Print books are a luxury product now, and digital books are cheap technology products which provide the same content – in fact enhanced and interactive content – in digital format. Ebooks provide instant access and they don’t need to take the luggage space when it’s tight, print books smell good and they are a precious possession. 

There’s more to this ebook vs print breakdown. In the traditional print industry, print books are production friendly whereas ebooks demand for a new approach. Distribution and warehousing of print books is costly but digital books are safely delivered at low cost on ebook platforms like iPC Scholar. Print books provide linear reading experience whereas ebooks can be interactive with media infusion and offer adaptive learning path.

Books, unlike other consumer media formats like music, television and cinema, have been constant companion of mankind since thousands of years, and they carry a lot of emotional prowess with them which humans are not able to let go of easily. For ebooks to stay competitive in the market the industry needs to understand that print books can’t be replaced anytime soon. Ebooks have to place themselves as a technology product that is not in direct confrontation with print books. Ebooks can provide a wide range of experience, from a PDF of a short novella to ebooks that are crawling up the z-axis. Ebooks rendering 3d effect and immersive virtual reality will find extensive usage in professional training in future.

A shelf full of books is a pleasant sight, it feels good to turn the pages, and we proudly show off an author signed copy of our favorite book. Books evoke nostalgia and they are our companion in good and bad times. But the story of digital books is a different one, they are a utility product with great possibilities enabled by technology in future. The genre and the market for ebooks is different from the print books. Despite the negative reports coming in ebooks are not a fad, they have a distinct desirability and practical advantages. The future is full of possibilities for ebooks and it only waits for how to leverage the technologies for greatest advantage and wider adoption.