Digital First: Publishing for multiple outputs

Publishers have adopted a Digital First strategy for more than 20 years now. When they started receiving MS Word files from authors and used those files as a starting point for the editorial and production process, they virtually adapted a Digital First strategy. However, until now the aim of the publishers has been to reach the best quality and standard for the books they publish, in print. Since the increase of the usage of ebook with the launch of e-readers, publishers have been thriving to find ways to convert the print editions of their books into ebooks. Ebooks have been usually considered as a ‘secondary’ format, with print keeping its position as the ‘primary’ format. It’s not unreasonable. Even today the majority of a publisher’s sales are arise from the print editions of their books, with ebooks having a modest share of 5-10% of the market. Publishers have a large database of the backlist, usually in the format of PDF files if they are lucky; but they also have a backlist of titles in various obsolete formats: They have them on paper, or even in some occasions on printing plates.

However, the market trends are changing. The ebook sales are growing and it wouldn’t be surprising if the ebook sales overtake the print sales. Write or wrong, this is the direction the market is moving in, and publishers can either embrace change and become part of it, or resist it and perish.

But the question is how to embrace the change. I’m not talking about the backlists here, as though necessary, it requires establishing a separate strand of work. We are talking about the future here, as change is about the future. You can’t change your past.

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