Column |DIGITAL PERSPECTIVES
reached smaller publishers, who are still
submitting data in spreadsheets, or
filling out forms on Amazon, or using
services like NetRead to create Onix files
on their behalf. So that’s an area ripe for
inexpensive, easy-to-use solutions.
In the retail arena, Amazon continues
to dominate, increasing its share of all
sales made online over the holidays, while
Barnes & Noble had a disappointing end
to 2016. The Barnes & Noble Nook is
simply no match for Amazon’s Fire
Tablet, giving Amazon a huge advantage
in e-book sales. Amazon is also in the process of opening about 10 bookstores,
whose stock will be determined by
Amazon’s prodigious use of data. When
it comes to digitization and retail,
Amazon is a well-funded Juggernaut
willing to experiment and fail.
This year also promises to be quite an
ambitious year for BISG. New executive
director Brian O’Leary comes to BISG
with a packed agenda of initiatives,
which means that BISG committees are
going to be very busy. Standards, particularly those maintained by BISG
(Onix, BISAC, and so on) are the lingua
franca our business needs to operate
smoothly (or as smoothly as it can).
All in all, I think we’re not currently
in a terribly disruptive phase, from a
digital standpoint. It seems more to be a
time of putting tools to work and
upgrading to a few new technologies, but
a far cry from the upheaval of years past.
It’s worth remembering that November
will be the 10-year anniversary of the
Kindle’s launch, which set off a firestorm
of disruption from which we only now
seem to be emerging. ■
they presented at this year’s Digital Book
World. The goal of the project is to
increase sales for midlist titles by strategically selecting keywords.
Then there’s Schema.org. Book publishers haven’t really embraced the move
to linked data (structured information
that can be picked up and featured by
search engines), but I do expect that to
change in 2017, thanks to initiatives
from BISG and Editeur. By marking up
their websites with Schema.org tags,
publishers can influence search engines’
behavior to make sure products surface
more readily in search results. Yes,
Amazon will by and large come first. And
Google Play listings will show up in the
Knowledge Panel on the right-hand side
of a search results page. But Schema.org
can affect search results in other ways,
which in turn affect page ranking and
discovery of books and publishers—and
right now it seems few to no publishers
(outside of O’Reilly) are working with it.
There’s also opportunity in workflow
efficiencies, which of course speed up
time to market and offer cost savings.
Companies like Thomson Digital and
MPS are focused on machine learning,
digitized production, and rights and permissions clearance. Automating as much
of these processes as possible frees up
publishers to do what they do best:
acquisitions and sales.
In the realm of metadata, support for
Onix 2. 1 ended at the conclusion of 2014.
Without further development of 2. 1,
migration to Onix 3.0 will inevitably have
to happen. I’m betting that migrations
will not begin to roll out until late 2017
or in 2018. As an industry, we are very
comfortable with “good enough”—until
there is actual pain that needs addressing.
But we will have to face the prospect of
upgrading systems in the near future.
Efficiencies do not seem to have
Improving discovery, workflow efficiency are in the cards for 2017
The Next Steps in Digitization
In this inaugural column, I’ve been asked to offer up some predictions for digitization in publishing in 2017. The problems—and solu- tions—of digitization are more
complex than the question of e-books vs.
print books. By and large, that divide has
stabilized; print books are clearly still a
strong part of the market, and e-books
have their attributes (instantaneous purchase, no bundles to lug around, changeable font size).
Digitization impacts far more than
format, however. First and foremost, digitizing workflow speeds it up. No papers
to file. No manuscripts to walk to copy
editing or to haul home in overstuffed
bags. The reduction of physicality makes
things go faster.
Additionally, digitized workflow is
cheaper than the onerous analog publishing processes that it replaced. That
has made barriers to entering publishing
lower than ever before, and we’ve seen
new entrants to the industry pop up all
over the place. Lower costs have also
helped to make self-publishing a legitimate business (though metrics such as
sales figures are hard to come by).
So what does this mean in 2017? It’s
clear from year-end announcements that
the market is stable, but that it could be
on the brink of a contraction. Certainly
2016’s round of acquisitions (Perseus’s
book division by Hachette, ANconnect
by Readerlink) would indicate a streamlining in distribution and points of sale is
at hand. According to Nielsen BookScan
data, print unit sales were up 3.3% in
2016 from 2015, with sales of adult fiction posting the biggest gains.
That’s the product side of things. In
terms of the back end, there’s opportunity
in discovery. Kadaxis and Firebrand
Technologies have been working together
on a keyword optimization project, which
Laura Dawson, CEO of Numerical Gurus, is a
book supply chain consultant. She also facilitates
Metadata Boot Camp, a webinar series tackling
metadata issues in publishing.