New Business Models in a Digital World – Byte the Book

Last night we gathered once again at the gorgeous Ivy Club to hear from Rebecca Smart (Osprey Books), Richard Kilgarriff (Bookomi), John Bond (White Fox) and Michael Bhaskar (Profile Books) to hear their take on how Business Models have adapted with the onset of digital.

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e-Publishing has changed everything; we have found that publishers can produce things quicker, cheaper and are made more widely available to larger markets. However, publishing at its core remains the same and solves the problem of getting content to readers. Throughout history the way this has been achieved has evolved; obstacles such as the price of paper, making and distributing books has disappeared in the wake of new obstacles such as free content online and consumers favouring digital technology to access content.

With this in mind, publishing is adapting to a consumer orientated world with publishers focussing on how the content is being read and by whom rather than how it’s being written and by whom. A fantastic example of this is at Osprey where everything they do is centred on the reader; even before the internet they were engaging with their readership in order to understand what content they want. This is being made easier by the amount of data that is readily available and accessible; we can see who is buying what and when and how they’re engaging with the content. Companies like Amazon champion this model; they are immersed in making money and using data to link readers with content. Behind every success story there will always be those who suffer and in this case it is the high street and independent book shops as they’re forced to lower their prices in competition with online sales.

Having established that publishing is now driven by the reader; the panel took this a step further and explained how content could become a reader experience and a service. For example, airlines could offer books on flights to substitute the complimentary film facility; in this case the literature is more than just a story – it is offering a service to the consumer. This is the model that the Professional and STM industry have been using for several years, pushing out content to people in order to offer a tailored service. Whilst this isn’t a new business model altogether we are now seeing how the impact of digital is making the trade sector operate in this way.

With this in mind, what is the new business model for publishing? There is no one right answer as it is a constantly evolving machine; the business model will always be about getting content from authors to readers but the way this content is delivered will always be evolving. The model will always be a beautiful streamlined process from the outside, but the inside might take some renovation. Alistair Horne summed it perfectly; The business model is not broken, just fragmented and will take time and innovation to adapt to the new technologies and new consumer demands of our age.

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