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Get Techie To Thrive

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Working in and around the technology, publishing and retail world for over 11 years has shown me that most principals that are applied within the individual sectors to grow their business remain the same, but then something always happens that changes the way they work dramatically, forever. This used to happen infrequently in each sector. But now the frequency is increasing. 

For instance, technology was quite happily bumbling along with its massive mainframe computers and along came desktop computing to change the way we thought about computers. Booksellers were happily selling books in their shops and along came Amazon selling books through the web to spoil the chain stores’ party.

But publishing has not really had a major change for years (apart from the Net Book Agreement when price fixing was dropped in 1997). Publishers find, produce and market books. Books might have CD’s attached to them or they might have a companion web site with extra benefits when the book was purchased.

eBooks have been around for ages but they have not been widely popular because they were not very easy to use. But now there is a rush to convert books into eBooks because sales of them have become noticeable  in the accounts. Many booksellers have now started selling direct to their customers rather than through booksellers and online retailers which is quite a change. 

But most publishers have their marketing budgets tied up with the retailers buying the ‘end caps’ of the shelves, placing branded point of sale items onto the floors, or buying space in the windows to promote and sell their titles. A publisher will pay many thousands of pounds on the prime retail space in stores or on an online retailers site for a branded store, for instance. 

And publishers are spending a lot of money and time on converting their books into eBooks in a rush to get them into the eBook stores of the retailers and onto the mobile phones, laptops or eReaders of their customers. For this, the publishers will, no doubt, have to pay for the virtual store space to get their eBooks noticed in the vast eBook libraries of the retailers. Amazon has some 250,000 eBooks already in its store which feels like a lot before the publishers have even got going on converting books into electronic versions. 

Now is the time for publishers to get techie and understand that their moment is here to understand digital technology which can help them identify their niche customers, in ways which an high street retailer can only dream about, to sell not only eBooks but printed books to them. But don’t just advertise your books. Provide your customers with tools and applications which they will find useful to find, read, discuss and question your books.

But don’t just make your books elecronic versions of printed books with no functions or features. And don’t think that eBooks are all going to be read on mobiles or eReaders. Remember that nearly 70% of the population that is online in the UK accesses the internet through a laptop or PC at home or work. Provide them with a desktop tool which you can have built for a fraction of the cost of buying an ‘end cap’ in a store and which will help you connect with your customers not just for a couple of weeks, but for months. 

So, publishers, get techie and be imaginative to thrive because now is the moment when your industry is changing forever. If you don’t have the skills, don’t worry. But do get to know what the technology can do and think of doing things which would have been unthinkable five years ago. And hire some outside help to get it done.

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