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Monday, November 21, 2011

The Opportunities and Challenges of Digital Publishing Headline

by Anna Maguire

Having worked on the cutting edge of technological shift in different industries I've been a keen observer of the international digital market and the emerging Australian digital publishing scene. The last year has seen interesting developments in Digital Publishing and ebook retailers, with more expected between now and early 2012.

While US ebook sales are reportedly at somewhere between 15-30% of total revenue, estimates indicate the Australian market has ebook sales currently at around 5%. The recent Book Industry Strategy Group Report estimates that by 2014 ebooks will comprise 24.6% of the total book market in Australia. Let's just stop and think about that; in a few years time a quarter of the book market will comprise ebook sales. I see that as a huge signpost that Australian writers need to become digital conversant if they want to be part of the publishing future.

Where once the only self-publishing options available to Australian or NZ authors were overseas efforts like Amazon or Smashwords we now have local offerings worth investigating. Although Dymocks haven't announced the terms they intend to offer to authors, the launch of D Publishing will offer authors online sales with Australia's largest bookselling chain. Bookshops have been the big movers this year to enable ebook purchasing in-store and online. We now have Google Ebookstore in Australia launched through Dymocks and Booktopia with authors able to deal directly with Google to have their ebooks listed.

A writer can now easily and affordably create their own printed books using Print on Demand technology but who should you approach and what do you need to have access to this technology?

We've probably all heard some great success stories about self-published authors like Amanda Hocking but the reality is there's a lot of work needed to ensure users can find your content and that the quality will match what is available through Publishers. It's important that writers know what the key ingredients to creating good digital content and how to make sure they are discovered online. Be assured, discoverability is not just a challenge for self-published authors but also for Publishers. Everyone is fighting the same battle to capture the eyeballs of the purchasing public!

The term used many times at the Yale Publishing Course was 'A-la-carte-services'. If you want to self-publish then look at the services you need to access or be prepared to put a lot of time and effort into learning them yourself. This means the term is NOT self-publishing; it's a-la-carte publishing! In this changing face of Publishing the old order is now being challenged enabling new business models to be negotiated. Digital-first imprints like Momentum will allow a Publisher to invest in a title by providing great editorial and marketing services but with less financial risk. This can only open up new avenues to great Australian writers.

The landscape we see today is likely to be very different from what we'll be seeing in another one to two years. There will be a lot of experimentation, some successes and inevitably some failures. Such is life on the cutting edge of change...

It's an interesting time to be a writer or creator and as digital innovations expand the output of your work may be a book, an ebook or even an application. The possibilities are boundless!

Join us at the Seminar Everything You Need to Know About Publishing  to discuss all this and more. I hope to meet you there!

Anna Maguire runs Digital Consultancy Digireado and you can read her blog about Digital Publishing and follow on Twitter or Facebook. Anna will present a guest presentation on digital publishing at the NSW Writers' Centre during our seminar Everything You Need to Know About Publishing on Saturday 3 & Sunday 4 December.

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