Making Digital Strategies Pay

digital ebook publishing strategiesHas the digital shift stalled?

With print sales jumping 3% in the past quarter and other indicators showing the format’s staying power amid flat ebook growth, the case for publishers to push further into digital might seem to be getting weaker.

But the relative stability of the hybrid market now gives publishers an opportunity to retool. “I am a passionate advocate of multi-channel content publishing,” says Librios, Ltd. CEO Hal Robinson, “and by that I mean print as well as various digital options.”

“But while it’s easy to trumpet the advantages of the digital approach, that’s usually not enough to answer the challenge, ‘What does it cost?’”

Here are five ways to identify where digital investments are likeliest to pay off.

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Behind the Surge in Children’s Print Sales (PW)
Nielsen Book’s Jonathan Nowell says it isn’t easy to account for the remarkable growth in print sales in the children’s market. But there appear to be complicated dynamics at play across formats and categories. For instance, Nowell says, “our research tells us that parental attitudes towards print have strengthened at the same time as they have increased their own ebook purchases.”
Related: Millennials Stick with Print | Inside Kids’ and Families’ E-Reading Habits

Kindle Unlimited Pool Swells but Payouts Trickle (Pub Lunch)
The pool from which Amazon pays Kindle Unlimited authors grew in March to a record $9.3 million, and borrows—which dipped in February—were up as well on the subscription ebook service. But that left the average payout to authors at just under $1.34 per read, the second-lowest it’s been since the program’s launch.

Enhanced Ebook Development Tool Launches (PW)
Olive Software rolls out a new platform for building rich multimedia enhancements into ebooks. Called SmartLayer, the program is intended to help publishers and developers integrate video, audio and linked web content into their titles at lower cost and with less technological expertise.
Related: The Kids are Alright…Without Enhanced E-Reading

Kindle Textbook Creator Adds Multimedia Feature (Ink, Bits & Pixels)
Amazon upgrades Kindle Textbook Creator to allow users to incorporate audio and video content. In one observer’s view, the platform is “still a far cry” from Apple’s iBooks Author but has the advantage of compatibility with a greater range of devices.

Amazon Appstore Ends Free Trial Feature (TechCrunch)
Amazon discontinues its Appstore’s Test Drive feature, which allowed users to try out apps in their browsers for free before deciding whether to buy them. Separately, the company is developing an “Unlocked” program to offer select paid apps and in-app features free of charge.

Book Recommendation Hotline Heads North (PW)
Penguin Random House extends its U.S.-based hotline offering custom book recommendations by the publisher’s staff to Canadian readers. The program isn’t a telephone hotline, per se, but an online form, and it goes live in Canada in time for Mother’s Day.

Kobo Says No Color E-Readers to Come (Wired)
Kobo recently launched a premium-grade e-reader to compete with the more expensive Kindle Voyage. Kobo president Michael Tamblyn says readers shouldn’t hold their breath for future models to offer a color display, though—at least not until authors “start writing novels in color.”

E-Commerce Competition Heats up in China (TheStreet)
Analysts widely believe there’s enormous growth potential for the e-commerce market in China, with some estimates projecting it to reach $1 trillion by 2019. That hasn’t been lost on Amazon or eBay, which is why they’ve recently partnered with the Chinese e-tailers Alibaba and, respectively.
Related: Mobile Boom Spurs Ebook Growth in China

Publisher Crafts Ebooks for Special-Needs Teens (Dominion Post)
Accessibility challenges persist in the market for digital reading content despite the growing technological wherewithal to address them. One New Zealand–based publisher, called Off the Page, launches an ebook line developed specially for adolescents with Down Syndrome, autism and dyslexia.

Ebook Series Teaches Kids to Code (GeekWire)
A software developer launches a line of children’s ebooks designed to teach basic coding skills to children as young as three, adding another layer to what’s usually meant by “technological literacy.”


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