Improvement is Trending in Publishing

Coming out of the Book Industry Communications seminar on Monday, I felt even more excited about the future of publishing than before. After a few years of uncertainty about its direction and the big Digital Mystery was not yet solved. The seminar, held in the majestic RIBA offices, threw the spotlight on some of the fantastic clues that lead us to the conclusion that technology and innovative thinking really are enablers to our industry and not things to be frightened of.

The clues took the form of industry trends and first we must decipher what a trend actually is. Karina Luke from the BIC took us through the difference between a trend and a fad and what we are looking out for here are new developments with longevity. It can be hard in the early days to know if we are in a trend or a fad but we can make an educated guess: is it likely to catch on? Does it answer a business or consumer need? Is there a cost benefit?trnading

For example, Paul Porter from the RNIB demonstrated how Apple’s VoiceOver and Braille Display technology has enabled a huge number of visually impaired people to access books that they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to. Accessibility to books does not just mean reading them, it means being able to search for them, choose and buy them. For the 1 in 8 adults that have severe sight problems this technology has allowed them that choice as without it they have a very limited range of books in Braille. Technology has vastly improved the access that was already there, meeting a demand that wanted to read.

Similarly, a panel discussion told us about the efficiency gains made by Auto Stock Replenishment; cheaper than print on demand, this technology keeps stock up to date and ready to go. However, this does not negate the need for good people – Inventory and Stock Controllers – it is not replacing their cognisance. Rather, it allows them to spend their time on making more strategic decisions, interfering with the ASR if their knowledge supersedes the predicted sales figures when, for example, an author event happens that a machine wouldn’t know about. Again, technology is improving an existing system; the trend towards printing improvements is a lasting one meeting a need and allows people to do what people do best – make decisions about publishing.

People are at the core of this industry as it is driven by people’s passion for publishing great content and it’s important to remember that these new trends are not threatening that. Stuart Evers from the Bookseller Award Winning NetGalley explained how their platform improves the process of getting content to influencing readers: reviewers, librarians, booksellers etc. Inter-departmental liaison and postage delays are eliminated, giving people more time with the content. With this in mind, it’s important that we have the right people on board and a further panel discussion reminded us that with these new trends in our industry, new skills will be needed and we’ll need to market ourselves as an attractive industry to work in to people with the right technical skills.

Monday uncovered several new trends in our industry, many of which are emerging through new technologies and we do seem to be solving the Digital Mystery. However, listening to them all seemed to bring one overarching trend to light; as an industry we are looking for ways in which to improve. We are looking forward to the future and asking more of ourselves. Technology can be the answer to this but it can also give us to time to do this more. We’re on an upward trend!

Abigail Barclay  By Abigail Barclay, Managing Consultant

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#Futurepub – New Developments in Scientific Publishing

On Tuesday evening, we made our way to the NESTA offices in Chancery Lane for a discussion on the new developments in scientific publishing, organised by John Hammersley (WriteLaTeX) . The event consisted of six “microslot talks” of five minutes each from a great panel, with time for a few questions for each speaker.

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First up was Cheyne Tan from Blikbook who explained how his platform allows students who have questions and problems with research to ask each other and help each other out through an interactive platform. It started out in LBS and UCL and aims to improve content discovery and aids the universities in gleaning data from monitoring behaviour; how the data is shared between students and disseminated. The key point from Cheyne’s talk was the issue of “I don’t know what I don’t know” – this echoed through all five minute speaker slots and brought to the fore the issue of the lack of discovery avenues for those seeking information – how can they be led to unearth information that they never knew existed? In a society hungry for data, this is something that innovative science publishers are looking to address.

Joseph McArthur from Open Access Button took it from here and as well as filling us in on how Open Access Button works, he explained the importance they place on the stories that their users tell them of experiences, challenges and successes with their academic research. Everyone, from patients looking for information on their illnesses to academics probing for details and explanations, can use this platform and it is looking to grow and evolve even more.

Lou Woodley, Co-founder of MySciCareer, filled us in on what has been occupying her time during her current sabbatical – she is focussed on what preoccupies scientists; how can they keep up with all their papers and how can they secure grants? There is more of an interest now in talking about data. Career decisions is another big issue and MySciCareer records the personal narratives of what people have been through and the paths they have taken.

Richard Smith, Founder of Nowomics, stepped up to discuss how his platform helps life scientists to source research (a “twitter for genes”) and collates the information needed in one place through a twitter style feed. It searches for updates and publishes them and setting up an account is free. You can search by popularity and see what people are talking about and email alerts are also set up to further aid the discovery of more information.

Greg Tebbutt of Sparrho delivered an engaging microslot where he explained the purpose and work of Sparrho and how it came about for the same reasons mentioned above – you can search journals but this doesn’t help you find what you don’t know is out there! Again – the issue of “I don’t know what I don’t know”. On Sparrho, you can “love” posts that you like and get rid of what you don’t – Sparrho understands more about you by your activity and can consequently recommend better information and sources.

Cat Chimes, Head of Marketing for Altmetric, closed the evening’s event with an interesting overview of how they work. She opened with the line “Every researcher is a communicator” and went on to discuss the academic and societal impacts of research and how they are alternatives to metrics and do not replace the impact factor, they complement it. This is an article-centric approach, it searches blogs and articles to collate and deliver article-level metrics to journal publishers.

All six speakers gave excellent, informative and engaging accounts of their respective business models and it was refreshing to see how they are developing and improving user access to information in the scientific publishing arena. Even better was how they are keeping the stories and needs of the readers/researchers at the heart of it all – communication and interaction is key and with this in mind, there are so many more exciting developments and ideas to come! This linking of people’s stories to information is a nice way of connecting back to the roots of publishing; it is, after all, about story-telling.

 

Here at Inspired Selection, we are passionate about the publishing industry; we talk about publishing, read about publishing and attend all major publishing events like the one you’ve just read about. We would love to meet you at events so do feel free to come up and introduce yourselves! If you’re interested in opportunities within publishing do keep in touch and register for our Vacancy Update Service as well as keeping up to date with us on Twitter

The BETT Show 2014

Last week Inspired Selection hit the Excel Centre where the much awaited BETT show was in full flow; we went to really build on our current knowledge of the education sector but also see what new and innovative ideas publishers, content providers, platform developers and other software companies are coming up with and bringing into schools to inspire our future generation.

Esme at BETT

It is such a fantastic time to be in Educational publishing and a common theme of the BETT show was how publishers are adapting and creating new products to align with the changes in curriculum; for example, within primary there was a huge focus on the new IT curriculum where children will be learning how to code from an early age. A challenge for schools is to find and support IT teachers and there have been some fantastic resources developed to do this including the launch of the computing MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) based on OCR curriculum and created by OCR, Cambridge University Press and the Raspberry Pi Foundation.

Homework is another aspect of education that has been revolutionised through using software which allows teachers to set and assess assignments online. This also means schools can create a data footprint for each student and use this in their future assessment.

We saw a lot of interactive resources from SMART boards to tablets meant to engage their users and capture their attention whilst learning at the same time. Games have been absolutely revolutionary for learning allowing students to work their way through a task in order to reach an attainable goal, some great examples of this could be learning to read or practicing maths.

The Education sector is a hugely exciting place to be at the moment; publishers are constantly coming up with new great ideas for content; platform providers are coming up with new ways to interact with that content; software companies are coming up with great ideas to display content and teachers are using all these different mediums to inspire our students.

Amy at BETT

In the afternoon, we made our way to the Learn Live Theatre 2 to hear Alistair Smith, Director of Learning at Frog, and Billy Downie, Headteacher at The Streetly Academy, give an engaging talk on “Big Data: school perspectives on what, how and why?” Alistair spoke about how big data allows society to harness information in novel ways to produce useful insights and is a way of doing this on a large scale.

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From a school’s point of view, several interesting and informative questions can be asked – At what point in a lesson do learners switch off? Who will be bullied and when? How do friendship networks impact on exam performance? Big data is essential in determining best practice and for monitoring changes and issues. We need it in today’s world; as Alistair put it, “This is the world we are in, this is the world our children are inheriting” – we need to make it a good one and the use of big data in schools is the best way forward.

We would like to congratulate all the amazing winners at this year’s BETT Awards for their contribution to the education industry.

Here at Inspired Selection, we are passionate about the publishing industry; we talk about publishing, read about publishing and attend all major publishing events like the one you’ve just read about.  We would love to meet you at events so do feel free to come up and introduce yourselves! If you’re interested in opportunities within publishing do keep in touch and register for our Vacancy Update Service as well as keeping up to date with us on Twitter

How is technology influencing the size and shape of what we read?

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Last night we attended Byte the Book at the gorgeous Club at the Ivy where a superb panel of experts were there to discuss: ‘How is technology influencing the size and shape of what we read?’ We heard from Ravina Bajwa, Managing Editor of Penguin Audiobooks, Benedict Evans, Analyst at Enders Analysis, Richard Loncraine, Director at Heuristic Media and Maureen Evans, Director at Ether Books.

Benedict Evans was quick to point out that there are three key issues in technology influencing what and how we read:

1.)    Distribution of content – digital changes the cost structure, hence it is more economical to be interactive with content

2.)    Ubiquity – pop culture is more accessible

3.)    The changing role of intermediaries – the market is no longer driven by logistics and you don’t need to go through the typical agent-publisher-wholesaler-bookshop supply chain.

Publishers and App Developers are now having to think of more innovative ways to overcome digital challenges; Ether Books have been successful in producing short ‘snacking’ digital content under 6000 words. They are proving that with mobile devices, it is important to also have ‘mobile’ content – short form is much more accessible on people’s devices, however previously there has been a gap in the market for books produced solely for digital. Ravina at Penguin has found the opposite where consumers want longer, unabridged content when it comes to listening to audio books. This has proven to be a huge advantage of digital; they have found new distribution opportunities to get the content to consumers as well as innovative ideas in order to mix sound effects and narrative elements together.

Technology is becoming a huge influence on how and what we read, but how is this going to change in the future and what are Publishers and App Developers doing to drive this forwards?

Ravina from Penguin discussed the launch of the entire Roald Dhal backlist in new Audio Book format. This will feature an exciting cast of high profile celebrities and brand new compositions to highlight his work and really create a picture in listener’s imaginations through the many dimensions of sound. Loncraine touched upon the launch of haptic touchscreens; however, it seems these are still at least a decade away in innovation. Benedict Evans talked about the innovation within App Development but shared interesting facts about the obstacles that still exist to getting your app noticed. For example, across iOS there are about 4 apps downloaded per month per device and only a dollar spent; the real problem is discoverability.

In summary, the future of what we read and how we read is still up for grabs, there is so much innovation out there in terms of devices, apps, as well as inventive ways of using and delivering content. However, it would be wrong to assume that everything will be sucked up into the digital mass, in the same way that when colour printing came out not everything became colour. It was pointed out that the way we feel about our childhood computer is the way today’s children will feel about the iPad; there is a huge generation of developers and technological genius out there that we have no real idea what is going to be around in 20 years time and it’s going to be an exciting journey to find out…

Byte the Book, How can we use technology to understand readers?

On Tuesday evening  we attended our first ‘Byte the Book’ event, held at the beautiful Ivy Club. On the panel were Dan Franklin (Digital Publisher, Random House), Lindsey Mooney (Vendor Manager, Kobo), Andrew Rhomberg (Founder, Jellybooks) and Rufus Weston (Customer Insight Director, HarperCollins); all were there to give us an insight into how these publishers and organisations use technology to better understand their readers. Rufus at HC began by describing the two key methods to understand your readers; you can use conventional market research such as surveys, or you can use consumer data. Rhomberg pointed out how the use of social media technologies has made it easier for people to locate books they want to read. Mooney from Kobo talked about their extensive use of web marketing and web analytics; they can see exactly where a reader has bookmarked a page and this function works across multiple devices. Finally, Dan Franklin reports that Random House, as a large publishing house, has observed the biggest change in how they can monitor people and their experience using their products through data, analytics and apps.

New digital technologies are teaching us many things that we didn’t know before, we are seeing specific behaviours concerning how and when people read books and even at what time of day people buy books. We are also able to see books’ completion rates. An interesting fact from Kobo is that 100% of certain types of erotica are being completed 100% of the time whereas there is certain non-fiction or academic books that may only be finished 50-60% of the time. With this knowledge, retailers and publishers alike are able to recommend books to their users in different ways.

Franklin also spoke about how everyone walking around with devices connected to the Internet has changed things enormously; Twitter is one good example to analyze how people are feeling about the books that are being published. People are becoming more and more vocal online with their consumer opinions, particularly on forums and blogs.

The panel agreed that it is important to note in all of this that possessing data that tells us so much about reader behaviour should begin affecting creative and editorial decisions; it is quite important that decisions reflect consumer preferences.

Romberg discussed that we can now watch what readers are doing rather than what they are saying. This means that it is now possible to disregard how users rate a book, for example on a scale, and rather observe whether they are recommending or sharing their books. Important questions to answer are if people recommend a book, who listens to them? Are they influential?

Mooney from Kobo talks about how experimentation is good for publishers, for example, book covers are hugely important for Kobo in selling books, yet some eBooks still don’t have them.

The final topic was a discussion about how private reading is for the customer and to find out how sensitive publishers are with the use of personal data. Generally the responses from the panel were that of course, the use of personal data is restricted to whether that person has said that they allow the use of data. If people post things publicly then people should be allowed to use this data, and vice versa with personal data. Privacy is important but there is a value exchange that consumers are aware of, for example in return for retweeting a post on Twitter you may get entered into a competition or likewise for Facebook. Reading is very much still private, and possibly even more private now given the masses of e readers which hides any detail to the rest of the public of what you’re reading, but the data that publishers and companies like Kobo get from you reading on an electronic device allows them to enhance your overall reading experience and recommend other things that you may not have considered before.

The key thing to come from this event is that publishers need to use data in the right way in order to get the best result. At the moment, a huge amount of money is being spent to get data that doesn’t necessarily work. It is so important to keep thinking back to the reader and the customer, what does the customer want? Look at the stats, see what works and change what doesn’t.

Overall, technology is enhancing both the publishers knowledge of their readers but also the service that the reader is getting; the ability to hone in and deliver specialised content to millions of e reader users is amazing and will certainly improve our overall experience as customers and readers.