Of digital publishing and goldfish

A Guest Post by Sara lloyd

Sara is the Digital Publisher at Pan Macmillan and you can read her thoughts and those of her team at The Digitalist.

I never thought I’d hear myself saying this, but being a ‘digital person’ in a trade publishing house is rather akin to being a goldfish. I mean, not as in I’m orange and scaley and can only hold things in my mind for a millisecond. Well, maybe the last thing actually. But as in, it often feels like you’re swimming around in this clear bowl; that you’re kind of exposed to all these eyes examining you from the outside world, judging your every move from a vantage point of actually being at least as clueless as you are as to where things will All End Up for publishing in a digital age.

This is great when you boldly come up with controversial visions of the future as in my Publisher’s Manifesto [Part 1, 2, 3] – whether or not any of it will turn out to be correct is irrelevant; it was all stirring stuff and critical of publishers in many ways and so it was roundly applauded. But sometimes it can also become very tiresome.

Thing is, there’s this expectation that all us Digital Publishers should be investing our generous R+D budgets, huge staff resources and inordinate amounts of spare time (spot the ironic tone) into developing lots of ‘cool’ and ‘awesome’ digital stuff. It won’t be entirely clear what the commercial model is for any of it or even whether it makes strategic sense but we must EXPERIMENT! We must stop being so lethargic and plain old-fashioned and stupid. Thus the hoo-ha when publishers were roundly ticked off for not spending any time or effort building a reading app for the iPhone.

Well, you know what I thought about that. And what’s happened since then? As I predicted a couple of reading apps have risen to the surface as particularly popular. My favourite, Stanza, supports the emerging ebook standard format .epub as well as plain old PDF, HTML and various other formats. It’s been downloaded over 200,000 times. It’s free. Anything we’ve converted into any of the supported formats, as long as it’s DRM-free, you can download it and read it on your iPhone. Using Stanza. So, go figure.

The fact is, the reality of being a Digital publisher in a trade publishing house is that you spend a disproportionate amount of your time trying to keep abreast of what the Next Big Thing is going to be and the rest of your time negotiating contracts to even get the rights to begin to do the most basic things. Like, digitising our content in a way which keeps it flexible and as open to future possibilities as we can. It’s not sexy, it’s not cool, but it has to be done. We have a hill to climb and many obstacles on the way. Give us a break!

Sara Lloyd
Head of Digital Publishing
Pan Macmillan

Charkin blog book

Eoin Purcell

On a whim
I flew over to London yesterday afternoon for the launch of Richard Charkin’s book. Macmillan, where Richard was CEO prior to joining Bloomsbury, decided to publish the Charkinblog as a print on demand book (and what a book).

The trip was well worth it. I enjoyed the trip, the event itself and meeting people I normally only converse with digitally. I also bumped into Sara Lloyd, Head of Digital @ Pan Macmillan who promised to, and duly did, send on a long mooted guest post (it will go live tomorrow).

I forgot to take a digital camera otherwise I’d have a few pics. All in all a fine evening and a great book. It’s steep in Euro terms at over €50.00 but worth it.

Winding down for the day,

Bloomsbury buys Berg

Eoin Purcell

More here
Following on from their recent announcement of Bloomsbury Academic, this is a pretty logical move. The database note is also fascinating. They are placing some hefty bets on digital content but in non-trade areas which seems sensible. From the piece:

Oxford-based Berg has a particular focus on books and journals for the academic student market in the fields of fashion, design and culture studies.

It is in the process of creating a major online subscription-based resource, the Berg Fashion Library, for fashion students, lecturers and the broader industry, scheduled for launch in 2010.

Liking the smartness,