Are UK Publishers Innovating in the Ebook Era?

Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.

Members of UK publishing group Byte the Book will meet in London on November 18th to engage in a discussion on “What is the future for publishers in the digital age.” The discussion is set to focus on whether authors need publishers, a topic that always ignites debate. This will be the first Byte the Book event I attend and I’m looking forward to the session and the opportunity to meet other members.

Reflecting on this topic, there are some encouraging signs that UK publishers are now deep into the kind of innovation that will not only give them a future, but that will provide a level of value that even the most entrepreneurial of authors would struggle to create themselves.

In his report of the Frankfurt Book Fair here on Digital Book World, Sameer Shariff highlighted what he saw as the widespread influence of digital publishing and a maturity of understanding and acceptance of digital business models among publishers at the fair.

This maturity was echoed by Stephen Page, CEO of Faber & Faber in this entertaining post where he challenges his business, and indeed all of us, to maintain the momentum of disruption and change as we seek new business models, learn from other industries and grasp new opportunities.

All fine in principle, but is all this thinking supported in practice? Two recent partnership announcements would suggest so.

Random House working with leading UK grocery store Sainsbury’s to create short cookery ebooks is one good example. Shorts will sell at £0.99p ($1.58) and the project seems to have been launched in response to insight from Sainsbury’s customers, which demonstrates an agility to meet customer demand by both parties.

The partnership between HarperCollins and Foyles to deliver print and ebook bundling is another. Coming on the back of the U.S. launch of Amazon Matchbook, it’s interesting to see publishers and booksellers explore the bundling opportunity further. Whether this is a commercially attractive proposition is a question for another post!

Exploring the breadth of new business models, engaging and negotiating with major store chains and agreeing partnership terms (and all the associated operational requirements) are all difficult tasks for individual authors. So, as I look forward to the Byte the Book event, I’m expecting to see a strong case to be made for the future of publisher’s in the digital age.

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