Monday, September 01, 2008

Online versus Offline Digital Content

As publishers are told to go vertical, direct and create a direct dialogue with the consumer you start to see differences of approach. The pages of Facebook, Second Life, My Space, and the myriad of social network wanabees have publishers knocking on their door wanting to piggyback on their audience. Last week Penguin made all the headlines with their online match making alliance.

We have long argued the logic of taking someone such as JK Rowling and publishing the story by instalment online first and The Bookseller today covered the news that Dutton, a Penguin imprint has embarked on a digi-novel with Anthony Zuiker, the creator of the TV CSI series. The three book multimedia series due in 2009 will demand readers to read the book, view clips, and participate online in order to complete the story.

The interesting question this raises is not about ebooks but what publishers may feel is the digital end game. To us it is clear that the current one dimensional ebook readers are mere transient technology and will be replaced by either laptops or mobiles that are permanently connected with unlimited data contracts. Why on earth do you need to download a digital copy that you can do nothing with except store, when you can access it online from anywhere at anytime? Hello, why do you need a library on a reader when you can have a library in a cloud? The only strength of the Kindle is its wireless connection, the weakness was it choose this to merely download content not render it.

When will someone wake up and realise that one of the best digital alliances today is with the service providers? I’ll provide the content you provide the service. You sell lots of unlimited data contracts; I’ll sell the subscriptions or rentals. You have a huge subscriber list, we don’t and haven’t a clue how to grow and maintain one.

Another interesting question is why it will take a year to create the experince? Surely the new novel is not tied to print schedules, publication schedules and by its nature its more fluid in its construct. Maybe the old 13 week publishing window still prevails and we therefore must wait?

The one thing that is certain is change and that says that future will be different. Merely replicating today's models and processes for the sake of it means the journey takes longer and the risks are higher. We already have the Orange book prize, so why not in the words of their slogan - make the future Orange!

We welcome the continued experimentation of the likes of Penguin. We may not always agree with the steps taken but we respect that they are taking them.

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