The State of the Market with Impelsys Founder Sameer Shariff

Sameer Shariff, Founder and CEO of ImpelsysPublishers have had to make important decisions about whether to cultivate in-house technical skills into existing workflows or to outsource to meet the demands of an ever-changing digital consumer landscape. Rising to meet those needs, especially technical ones, companies offering infrastructure solutions specifically for book publishers have sprung up, companies such as Impelsys, Inc.

Impelsys’ flagship offering is iPublishCentral, which provides online content delivery services for publishers. iPublishCentral recently expanded its product management, ecommerce, and infrastructure solutions in a way that encompasses both print and digital books as well as new frameworks to support the creation of enhanced ebooks for the iPad, such as the recently launched Sesame Street e-bookstore iPad app.

I caught up with Impelsys Founder and CEO Sameer Shariff to get his insights about the publishing ecosystem from the point of view of an infrastructure and delivery solutions provider:

In the short time since iPublishCentral’s launch in 2008, what do you think are the most significant changes in the publishing landscape?

The digital revolution has engulfed the publishing industry across the globe. While we observe that publishers are now more aware of the trends in digital publishing and have gained a lot more clarity on the kind of digital strategies they want to adopt, I would like to highlight two significant changes in the publishing landscape.

For me, the most significant change has been the device innovation. A few years ago, the Kindle—the pioneer portable eBook reader, triggered the revolution in how people read. The innovation bred many more eReaders coming into the market and the availability of more devices spurred the demand for further innovation. Then in 2010, Apple swung its magical wand and introduced the iconic iPad. The launch and cult of iPad really enabled books to be consumed in eFormat. All of this is just the first stage of this revolution. As we go further, more innovation will take place as the weight of these devices comes down. That will really be the tipping point where content consumption on devices will compete head-on with print.

The other substantial change I have seen over these years is the proliferation of availability of content in eFormats. Google set the trend with Google books which was then caught on by the industry and that the trend got keenly noticed and embraced by the publishing sector. Now, every publisher is creating e-formats. Availability of content is top on the must-have list for them. With various devices crawling into the market and a range of formats that accompany them, publishers are constantly adopting measures to ensure that their content is widely accessible. This has opened streams of innovation in the publishing ecosystem. Not only is content availability critical, offering rich content is soon becoming a game changer.

Enhanced eBooks are gaining popularity as they are adding valuable richness to content. If enhanced eBooks offer content plus more, readers wouldn’t mind paying extra, would they? Another aspect is that not only content availability has evolved over the years, content availability through retailers has also changed over the times. There are eBookstores across the world and with retail eFormats like the iStore, the Kindle Store, NOOK store, Kindle store, etc. that have transformed the way content is made available to as many readers across the world as possible.

iPublishCentral has integrated support for both print and digital sales. Where do you see print books going?

The answer to this question depends on which segment of the publishing market and what kind of content we are referring to.

The transition from print to digital formats of books is an accelerating growth. It is gradually being accepted by various segments of the publishing industry. Certain segments of the publishing ecosystem will respond nimbly whereas some sections will slowly wake up to this change.

However in my opinion, print books will succumb to the digital revolution and will confine itself to a very small section of the industry over the years. Though one will not preclude the other, the balance may shift over the years as print books will gradually lose its foothold to eBooks. The ultimate consumption of books that consumers will demand is to have their content in all digital devices. Books on the cloud will become a norm in the industry. Publishers will need the infrastructure to enable and support this opportunity.

We envisioned the inevitable blending of the strategies for both print and digital sales for publishers and that’s why for their convenience, iPublishCentral does have a built-in feature in the system that supports the print book trade.

In what sectors of the publishing industry do you see the largest growth potential for digital publishing?

While all segments of the publishing industry are waking up to digital exploration, some industry segments have responded early and fast.

As of today, the biggest growth potential for digital publishing lies in the STM sector. It is a very stable industry and mostly remains unaffected by economic fluctuations. Not only were the end-users of this industry the early adopters of ePublishing, they are also the ones who recognized the fact that offering valuable information through technology is a sure-shot remedy to reach out to a wider audience and increase sales. I would say this is reflective of the heavy involvement of ancillary content and the use of technology to deliver the content to enhance the teaching experience significantly.

Another segment of the market is enhanced eBooks in the Children’s publishing sector. Enhanced eBooks is a more interactive and appealing art which is making learning an enjoyable experience for children throughout the world. The children’s publishing market is expected to grow up to around US$9.66 billion in the next four years. In fact, if you look at the sheer facts, majority of the top ten book apps on the iStore are children’s books!

There is so much that you can do with the versatility of multimedia. Publishers are constantly thinking of ways to offer quality content with design investments that can be consumed by children in any form, on any devices! The growth horizon is massive, especially with the emergence (and dominance) of devices such as the iPad make this sector the most exciting and growing sector for digital publishing.

Sameer Shariff is the founder and CEO of Impelsys Inc., which provides online content delivery for the global publishing market. The flagship product of Impelsys, iPublishCentral™, helps publishers deliver content online quickly and cost effectively.

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