Embracing e-Publishing: Implications and Strategic Planning

Embracing e-Publishing: Implications and Strategic Planning at the Civil Service College

by Kenneth Quek, SCBWI Regional Advisor, Singapore

In July, 45 people attended publishing consultant Simon Sharp’s two day course “Embracing e-Publishing: Implications and Strategic Planning“. The course was held at the Civil Service College, a new venue for NBDCS courses.

The diverse group of attendees represented different sectors of the publishing industry, including educational, medical, law, science journals, scholarly publications and magazines.

Simon began by presenting an overview of the technological leaps and bounds in the publishing industry through the ages, leading up to the current interest in e-publishing and e-content. He further delved into the specific pros and cons, and issues of cost, manpower and distribution.

Naturally, each of the sectors has their own particular experience of e-publishing at the present, and expectations for the future. These were shared with the entire group through an informal dialogue session, with each of the sectors addressed in turn.

There was much discussion about the business model of publishing companies and how they are traditionally dependent on strong back lists. E-publishing presents an opportunity for smaller, nimble outfits to be quick to the market with new products.

Another area of interest was the different hardware platforms and software formats that are in use now. Nothwithstanding the current popularity of e-reading devices such as the iPad and Kindle, and the epub and pdf formats, each of these has their limitations.

Many of the attendees also expressed concern about the issue of digital rights management (DRM) and piracy. However it is inevitable that DRM affects the user experience and it can also be an infringement upon legitimate user rights. Also questioned was the actual losses accrued to piracy, and whether it is worth the expense and hassle to genuine customers?

Simon highlighted the importance of strategic planning for the future and deciding on how much to invest e-publishing and e-content. Some publishers might even decide that it is not necessary or appropriate for their sector. This is related to the possibility (or lack thereof) of monetizing the e-product, whether it is provided for free with the traditional printed product (eg. supplementary website) or sold as a separate add-on product (eg. archives available to online subscribers)

The course ended with a group exercise where each sector attempted crystal-ball-gazing to create a killer product. 
Surprisingly, holograms were a popular theme across the groups.

Overall the two day course kept me riveted – Simon clearly has extensive experience in publishing and he ably fielded many questions from the attendees. Apart from a couple of hiccups with the seats and projection screen closing shut on its own schedule, the new course venue also proved to be convenient and comfortable.

I look forward to future courses run by NBDCS – especially if they are all as interesting and informative as this was.


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