Four Digital Publishing Questions for Gareth Cuddy

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

Gareth Cuddy Vearsa data book publishing innovation BEA15BookExpo America 2015, held in New York City last month, served as focal point for questions about digital discovery, authors’ roles and outcomes in the publishing ecosystem, publishers’ relationships with readers and the speed of innovation.

Conversations on those and other issues are ongoing within the industry, but which ones are publishers most in need of having right now?

We sat down with Gareth Cuddy, CEO of Vearsa (formerly ePubDirect), to find out. Here he weighs in on the view of the landscape offered at BEA, explains why publishers are doubling down on data and expands on his earlier observations about innovation and the threat of disruption that publishers face.

What was your impression of BEA this year? Did anything in particular jump out at you?

The floor seemed much smaller than previously, as though there were far fewer exhibitors than in previous years. I felt the meshing of the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF)’s Digital Book 2015 conference and BEA didn’t work that well, with mass confusion and many missed sessions.

It was similar to the most recent London Book Fair, in the sense that there was an acceptance of the slowdown in ebooks, but there was also a sharper focus on data and innovation, which was great. I named and sat on the keynote panel, “Innovation and Data: The Promises and Pitfalls.”

There were other, similar sessions offering the bigger picture–view of book publishing as well.

You recently wrote that the publishing world has yet to experience its most dramatic disruptions. If you had to speculate, what aspects of the current industry are the most vulnerable and why?

I think publishers themselves face the biggest risk of disruption. Between the rise of the self-published author and more efficient methods of content creation and distribution, the value of being “published” is diminishing year by year.

One of the key issues here is publishers’ inability to engage directly with their readers—something that was debated widely at the Digital Book 2015 conference and is key to the industry’s future success.

Why did ePubDirect rebrand as Vearsa? How are you a different company than you were twelve or eighteen months ago, and where are you headed?

I think as a company we are increasingly focused on delivering data-driven solutions for our publisher partners. When we launched our ebook analytics in 2014, the immediate response made it clear that helping publishers navigate the huge amount of data points out there in order to be able to make smarter decisions would be crucial going forward.

Rebranding as Vearsa gives us the ability to build out multiple products and create a real, meaningful brand that our publishers love to engage with.

What’s one thing publishers are getting right and one thing that, in your view, they’re getting wrong?

I think a lot of publishers are beginning to focus on internal efficiencies and experimentation. They’re doing this without sacrificing or impinging upon their love of books and storytelling, and that is critical. And I think innovation is being discussed more broadly, which can only mean good things for the industry.

However, I think we need to face up to the fact that the commercial landscape in publishing will change significantly in the next few years in ways that we can’t anticipate. One thing publishers can do is begin storing their content in flexible ways digitally. You need to be able to store your content in multiple ways in order to be able to capitalize on new business models as they emerge and to maximize, over the long-term, the return on each of your book investments. Getting this right is underrated yet critical.

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