Johannes, is this a book?

future digital publishing
19/11/2015
By Paolo Giovine posted in Market

All across the world there are tens of thousands of talented illustrators, videomakers, musicians, actors, writers who gather at conferences where they are told about amazing new tools to build new stories, to reach readers in different ways. All these writers, artists and designers want a way to tell, teach, explain that really leverages digital opportunities. 

On the reader side we need to open new ways of telling stories and envision the future of reading and study. American and European schools are filled with students who are not native speakers: digital is the ability to allow them to speed up their integration, studying a new language with the help of synchronized audio, a simplified versions of the textbook or a bilingual one. We need to understand that children are using a smartphone to get answers, rather than reading a long text.

Interoperability and accessibility should be a given in the ideal world of digital books: a blind, dyslexic or autistic child should be able to find a version of the book that allows him to share the same readings or lectures of his companions, using tools or versions suitable for him, when not customized by his teacher.

Many tools exist today to build new products: there are websites, apps, retailers, social networks, connected televisions. There are proliferating business models also you may sell content, lease content, give content away to sell other things (merchandising, advertising). The ebook market in particular is growing due to increasing amounts of self-publishers and there is a strong demand for new digital content, an audience out there that really doesn't know what iBooks is, only the App Store, or who looks for apps in the Google Play stores, not conventional ebooks.

So both the business and the technical barriers to producing complex content have been reduced dramatically. How are we to take advantage of that? At PubCoder we spent the last few months meeting with publishers from around the world who saw an EPUB3 file playing, moving, interacting; and then the same thing exported in HTML5, and then the same thing inside an app-reader for Android, or Readium, and told us: "Is this is a digital book? And can we build it ourselves?" They can, and anyone now can. With this digital book that can be ebook and app and widget they can find ways to win new readers, not replicating the work done for the paper, but rather amplifying it. These digital books are both a products and powerful marketing tools that designers, writers, marketers both in-house and freelance can manage independently—without waiting a year for the IT manager to sign off. New content can be made at lower costs, in innovative ways making previews, teasers, banners, branded content and well

Imagine an elementary school child who, in the coming years, searching the internet with his voice, navigating digital libraries built for him by teachers, parents, friends We see him rework information and contribute to her ongoing education, using the best of paper and digital, reducing the schizophrenia between physical and virtual world which today worries so many analysts. Creators, corporate, collective, and solo, will have a dialogue with their new audience, will open their content, giving life to new different products. 

It is hard to invest in a world so complex and slow: this is why publishers are moving between many uncertainties, often limiting resources and imagination of its digital managers; however, today the barriers have been drastically reduced, you can now restart with a more mature market, you can place content at the center in a new way, even finding allies where you would normally search for enemies (yes, I am thinking about Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook).

A good friend of mine from New York tells me that the new startups dealing with books and publishers are for venture capital as kryptonite is to Superman (therefore my respect and gratitude go to all who have risked and still risk on this industry). In fact even the startup created by Johannes Gutenberg failed and he died poor and sick, in good part because of his first investor: print copies of Bibles took much longer than expected, and Gutenberg was forced to sell his machines to repay the debt. 

In the long run, though, he was right.

From Writer's Dream

Paolo Giovine

Paolo brings his extensive knowledge of the publishing industry and leads the team making sure everyone adhere to the company’s vision. Before co-founding PubCoder Paolo was a Partner at H-Farm Ventures, and spent more than 11 years in senior roles within the Espresso Group, one of the the biggest media companies in Italy. Among others, he was the general manager for the Radio and TV business, and CFO of Kataweb, the group’s Internet unit. He is also investor in a few startups: Timbuktù, MiSiedo, Responsa, Henable, Curious Hat, Conversa.