print vs eBooks - Digital Publishing's Festivus For the Rest Of Us

The Biannual Airing of the Digital Publishing Grievances

In my opinion, the argument of print vs eBooks begs the question the question of format. eBooks are just another purchasing format. The more compelling comparison when discussing print vs eBooks should be to examine digital alongside paperback and hardcover sales.

It’s that time of year again! Last week’s NY Times article “The Plot Twist: E-Book Sales Slip, and Print Is Far From Dead” has brought the argument of print vs eBooks, back into the limelight, and the internet is abuzz with rebuttals and commentary (including this one!).

While the story that’s been surfaced within the data is accurate, I believe this is just another case of contextualizing statistical data as a means to an end. Here are a few questions that I’d raise in response to the print vs eBooks question.

  • Are readers simply choosing to buy print vs eBooks because they don’t like the digital experience, or is it truly the emotional connection to the paper?
  • If it’s an emotional connection, then what would cause a reader to change their reading habits towards digital?
  • Do readers stay away from eBooks, because they prefer print, or do they dislike digital experience?
  • If readers dislike digital what part of the experience is not up to their demands?
  • Is it because the devices and eReading programs are still maturing and do not meet the user experience due to clumsy interfaces?
  • Is it because publishers are not maintaining consistency across standards and distribution channels and sometimes distribute poorly formatted or damaged content?
  • What types of feature enhancements and user interface would provide the reader with the experience they’re seeking, or is it just that it’s not paper?

I have a few other questions that I’ve been letting marinate further, including how we market, produce, and distribute our books, but I’ll save that for later.

Book Head Scratching - James Arboghast

The #1 Reason Publishers Still Stumble WIth Digital Products & Campaigns

Why the print-centric publishing mindset needs to shift and adopt a culture of “title group” as a parent to both print and digital products

In general, publishers are way behind the curve when it comes to interactive media and digital product development.  They often treat their digital books and standard marketing initiatives as offshoot products of the print book development lifecycle. Digital products and marketing campaigns are typically relegated to reactive afterthoughts rather than allowing for proactive planning. Digital products and marketing initiatives should be evaluated during the earliest stages of title conception.  The pitfalls of focusing on print without consideration to digital strategy at earlier phases of development is that:

  • books are typically authored with print design layouts in mind and digital requires additional consideration.
  • digital products often require editorial and design teams to have to redo or develop new content.
  • developing a solid digital end-user experience with print parameter constraints is HIGHLY challenging.
  • having to take 3 steps backward to fix issues that could have been accommodated earlier in the process adds significant production costs
  • publishers are missing out on opportunities developing a targeted pre-release social media content marketing strategy cost which are measurable in comparison to book tours, etc…

Changing this mindset and adopting a culture of “title group” as a parent to both print and digital products allows publishers to rapidly adapt to market and reader needs, improving on the product experience, significantly decreasing production costs, and increasing total sales potential.


A healthier model to examine would be for publishers to nominate title “kick-off” review teams that are comprised of product owners and stakeholders.  These team members would represent print, digital, traditional, and digital/social marketing teams.  Product owners would review submissions by stakeholders and coordinate review meetings if apropos.  The purpose would be to develop a holistic plan of attack and identify any opportunities that require additional or long term planning.   Of course not every book needs to be actionable and the review process can be quick and templated but pausing and inserting a team review milestone at early stages of title development, allows for latent opportunities to be fleshed out further.  Keep in mind this isn’t just about products, this is about social content marketing, or any digital marketing initiatives as well!


Pausing to examine the title holistically and investigate full marketing and product potential doesn’t have to be expensive if you have the right team, asking the right questions, in fact, it will cost you less in the long run.


When I first transitioned from the interactive agency world into the publishing space, I was blown away.  I couldn’t believe how behind publishers were in understanding how to develop digital products.  The paradigms that have been created over the centuries have culminated in a culture that still hangs on to rules and norms that were long since forgotten by other lateral industries.  If there’s anything you should take away from this article, it’s that publishers need to explore new avenues of content authoring, development and production at all levels.  Agile production process that adjoin with analog and antiquated upstream processes create hurdles and stumbling blocks that equal time and budget bloating downstream.  You have a ton of in-house talent who are pulling levers for you right now.  Spend some time listening to what they have to say.  They often have tremendous insight into streamlining process upstream!

Photo Credit: James Arboghast  Creative Commons: Some rights reserved


Let’s Enhance – Pushing Our Enhanced EBooks To Eleven

Every crime drama has that iconic moment when the lead detective sitting over the shoulder of the precinct tech-guru ask to “enhance” the crime scene footage. Enter the eponymous “Enhance” button that obviously exists on all government computers that is able to turn a tiny, blurred, grainy image in a photo or video into a clear, unmistakable piece of evidence. The process is virtually instantaneous though can also often delayed for dramatic effect to increase the tension (in which case additional techno jargon or more applied phlebotinum may be needed). Continue reading…

International Digital Publishing forum IDPF

Free IDPF & BEA Events Google/Outlook Ready ICS Calendar Files!

IDPF 2014 Digital Book and Publishing ConferenceYear after year and conference after conference I get super frustrated that there’s no easy way for me to sync my calendar with the default conference apps. This year however I hit the wall, and I spent about two hours formatting my own CSV file to import into my Google Calendar so that I can share my schedule with my team, and efficiently book my meetings. I decided to post it here so that others could benefit from my efforts.
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Oyster offers readers unlimited access to a library of 500,000 e-books for $9.99 a month with their subscription service.

Oyster eBook Subscription Service Adds 500 New Publishers!

By now, we’ve all gotten pretty used to not owning our digital stuff—at least in the traditional, hold-it-in-your-hands sense. If you’re anything like me, you never really considered the shift from DVD to Blu-Ray, and once Netflix and Hulu improved their offerings gave up on media ownership. And that CD storage rack that held 100 plus jewel cases (even your iTunes account) has slipped into the digital ether thanks to Spotify and Rdio. But what about your books? It turns out, we’re still pretty okay with shelling out $10 for an eBook that we’re not even 100% sure that we’ll like or even finish. The publishing industry is one of the last holdouts in the ongoing transition from media ownership to cloud-based access through a monthly service.

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Developing your ebook audience and testing your message

Why Audience Development Is Just as Important As Writing

You’ve spent the better part of two years writing a book and finally have your polished-final masterpiece, but to whom are you going to sell your book, or better yet who knows it’s even for sale? There’s nothing worse than the moment that an author, finally overcome by the staggering realization that their book is not somehow special sighs in exasperation. Their book is now lost in the digital ether among the other wayward indie-authored books.

In the past authoring a book and finding a literary agent was the natural order of progression, but in the new shifting digital landscape it no longer works that way. Still many authors are hanging on to the old publishing model and are left, sadly with their books stuck on their hard drive, and their words lost among their other files.
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