Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.
In the publishing industry, making content available across the globe is usually on the calling cards of the major digital distributors; many can put ebooks up for sale in countries from Algeria to Azerbaijan. And while worldwide distribution is an often misunderstood yet market-changing feature of today’s bookselling world, doing it well is actually far more important than it sometimes needs.
There is, of course, the educational aspect, which goes far beyond the scope of this post but demands mentioning first of all. The world has evolved on the written word for centuries, and writing remains one of the most powerful communication tools in existence, capable of bypassing barriers, prejudices and politics. When something important and positively life-changing has been written, the world has a basic right to read it.
On a more specific and practical note, a glance at the STM publishing sector illustrates the host of vital content in the science and medical fields that countries and communities around the world now have access to, ensuring they have the latest knowledge to deal with whatever challenges on those fronts they encounter. The more STM publishers can help disseminate that knowledge, the more lives they potentially stand to improve.
There are also commercial as well as political reasons for content to be made available globally. The recent suggestion from the Europe Union that a single copyright market should exist within the EU, in part to ensure the community’s smaller markets do not have restricted access to content, sounded alarm bells for many publishers and authors. In the starkest of terms, a consolidated market would mean an end to the majority of rights licensing between European countries.
While rights-holders see this threat as a key battle to win, grounded in the intellectual-properly bedrock the publishing industry rests upon, a winning argument will have to occupy some middle ground. It is not enough simply to contend that if people want the content, they will have to pay for it; that moment passed with the Internet in its infancy. But it still remains to be demonstrated how content can be made widely available to all markets while maintaining sufficient tangible value for rights-holders.
This is a conversation we have on a daily basis at IPR License—how the platform can be used by small end emerging markets to allow equal access to content that previously wasn’t available.
And here is the key: While there are commercial reasons to reach all markets, even if the revenue per item is lower than in larger markets, there is now an obligation for publishers to make their content globally accessible for reasons having to do with consumers’ expectations. In an age when the online-backed consumer holds all the power, publishers that ignore this reality have ship-wrecked their argument as rights-holders to receive due revenue for their content. You have to play along before you can expect to be paid.
To be sure, this is not a call to throw everything on your website and make it available to all and sundry. Receiving due, tangible value for content is one of the primary battles facing rights-holders this century. But for publishers to thrive and prosper, they must first fulfill the obligation to make their content available to all markets before they are in a position to demand that customers pay to use it.
To my mind, this is a good thing. After rights-holders have stretched further to ensure global access, they can then sit back and consider how many different markets they can reach. This one of the rare but to-be-cherished moments in which the commercial, ethical and political all meet in the same place.
Getting there isn’t as simple as ticking the boxes on your distributor’s website to include Algeria and Azerbaijan; it means understanding the reasons why. Today there are many paths to getting there. The Internet, beyond a doubt, has made writing and publishing a global business. It’s time for publishers to move boldly to embrace that fact.