LOOK inside any book published since 1970 and you will find a number. But perhaps not for much longer. The International Standard Book Number (ISBN), invented in Britain in 1965, took off rapidly as an international system for classifying books, with 150 agencies (one per country, with two for bilingual Canada) now issuing the codes. Set up by retailers to ease their distribution and sales, it increasingly hampers new, small and individual publishers. Yet digital publishing is weakening its monopoly.
Publishers who were in at the beginning got great blocks of ISBNs. Many have plenty still in stock. Some countries, including Canada, Hungary and Croatia, make them free to bolster book publishing. But in Britain, America and Japan, where ISBNs are needed for any hope of mainstream publication, they are costly.
In Britain Nielsen, a media-data giant that is also the country’s sole ISBN agency, issues sets of ten for £126 ($190). Americans can pay $125 for a one-off number to R.R. Bowker, another data provider, but subsequent editions require another fee. When Valerie Merians and her husband started Melville House Books from their kitchen in New York 12 years ago, having to buy the codes was “intimidating”, she says.
But publishing is changing. Self-published writers are booming; sales of their books increased by a third in America in 2011. Digital self-publishing was up by 129%. This ends the distinction between publisher, distributor and bookshop, making ISBNs less necessary.
Feature: Will The Future of Digital Publishing be HTML5, EPUB3 or Apps?
The future of digital publishing in the years to come is filled with uncertainty. The entire industry has failed to unilaterally embrace a standard format and we are currently seeing fragmentation. HTML5, EPUB3, and dedicated apps are currently the preferred platforms to include a myriad of multimedia aspects such as audio, video, and interactive content.
Interactive features and cross-platform accessibility are two of the most important factors in the future of publishing. Users want to be able to view their books without having to use Adobe Digital Editions to manually transfer them over to their e-readers, tablets, or smartphones. Some companies like TOR, Pottermore, and LULU are making the conventional EPUB2 format more accessible by offering their ebooks without digital encryption, making them easy to transfer. Unfortunately, this is the exception and not the normal way companies tend to distribute their content.
Many people may ask the question, why should ebooks be interactive at all? The standard novel may not benefit from this directly, but kids books, cookbooks, and magazines do. Rolling Stone Magazine recently introduced a new App for iOS that allows you to listen to music and then make purchases for the artists’ albums and individual tracks via iTunes. Kids books often have the ability to play animations and have an author read the book to you. Barnes and Noble has an interesting feature in its line of Nook tablets that allow parents or grandparents to record themselves reading the book, instead of relying on the stock voice actor. Cookbooks will show you the entire process of cooking a recipe, which helps you gauge how it should look and offers guidance along the way.
The Real Cost of Self-Publishing
Stephen King rocked the publishing world when he began distributing books online in 2000. J.K. Rowling roiled the industry again in 2011 when she decided to self-publish her Harry Potter series through her own platform, Pottermore. Such big names join thousands of others who are self-publishing books — though many do so because it’s their only option.
More than 235,000 books and e-books were self-published in 2011 in the U.S., four times the number in 2006, according to Bowker, an agency that assigns books unique identification codes. The really explosive growth has come in e-books, which went from 7,000 to 87,000. “Not long ago if you said you self-published you weren’t taken as seriously as other authors,” says Beat Barblan, a director at Bowker. “That’s no longer the case.”
New Digital Publishing Start-up Erudition Will Publish Enhanced Ebooks and Only Sell Direct
Digital publishing start-up, Erudition, beta-launches enhanced eBook series
Erudition, a new digital publishing start-up, has successfully beta-launched its first series of enhanced publications, Practising The Piano. The author, Graham Fitch, is one of the UK’s leading piano teachers and the series features the culmination of years of experience teaching pianists of all levels. The publications fill a gap in the piano literature with a focus on the art of practising, showing the reader exactly what to do in order to get the most out of their practice time.
A digital first approach
The publications are purpose-built for digital consumption using Erudition’s in-house content management system. The layout of content is optimised for onscreen reading on personal computers and iPads. Enhancements such as video clips, audio and additional resources are seamlessly integrated with content. Interactive “sliders” enable important concepts to be broken down and illustrated in a step-by-step format.
Association Publishing Market Puts Digital in Focus
Social, mobile and digital technologies are among the top priorities.
In the United States and elsewhere, there is an association for everything—from toilets to tech organizations, these groups stand to protect and promote the goals of their own industry sectors in a variety of ways, and many do so with magazines.
But association magazines, while maintaining their importance as member benefits, are quickly expanding their missions across platforms, and their parent organizations are making cross-platform information services a high priority.
“All of our members get a copy of our magazine and we consider it one of our key benefits,” says Cindy Stevens, senior director of publications for the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA).
For 15 years, the association produced a publication called CE Vision, which it redesigned at the end of 2012 and reintroduced as It Is Innovation, also known as I3, at the January 2013 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES)—the association’s tradeshow that attracts more than 150,000 attendees.
What’s Brewing for Publishing at This Year’s Fest
What do authors Douglas Rushkoff, Bob Garfield, Mathew Inman, Amy Webb, Nate Silver, and Eddie Huang have in common? All of them, including several editors from Publisher Weekly, will be attending SXSW Interactive, the annual technology festival in Austin, Tex., held this year from March 8–12. This will be PW’s third visit to SXSW, which is really three festivals jammed into one: the other two events, unfolding just after Interactive, are dedicated to film and music. Authors will be signing and selling books—SXSW has its own bookstore located on the upper level of the AustinConvention Center—and are a critical part of SXSW programming. The event brings together tech geeks, journalists, executives, and others, all looking to establish viable business models.
This year, PW has organized two panels: Self-Publishing in the Age of E, featuring former St. Martin’s editor and Austin resident Erin Brown, bestselling self-published science fiction author Hugh Howey, and WME literary agent Kirby Kim, moderated by PW senior news editor Rachel Deahl. On our second panel, Publishing Graphic Novels in the Kickstarter Era, are cartoonist Karl Stevens and Zip Comix publisher Josh Frankel, moderated by PW senior news editor Calvin Reid.
It’s not just about the panels. PW, via its PW Select self-publishing supplement, is partnering with Togather.com, a start-up venture that uses the crowdfunding model to make planning book events more efficient. We will be cohosting three Midnight Lit Lounge events for Rushkoff (Present Shock), Garfield (Can’t Buy Me Like), and Webb (Data, A Love Story). At the events, held at a bar in downtown Austin, the Togather team will show off its platform. PW, meanwhile, will we show off its PW Select program to a select group of self-publishers and aspiring self-publishers
From the ashes of Douglas & McIntyre, West Coast publishing is on the upswing
The ashes of bankrupt Vancouver publisher Douglas & McIntyre have proven to be potent fertilizer for West Coast publishing, with new company Figure 1 Publishing the latest positive result.
Led by three former senior D&M managers – Chris Labonté, Peter Cocking and Richard Nadeau – Figure 1 will specialize in high-quality illustrated books of the sort for which the earlier company was well known.