Three Considerations to Prepare for the Next Wave of Digital Disruption in Publishing

By: David Woolenberg

The publishing industry has seen its fair share of change and transformation through the years. At first, publishers printed and promoted paper books that were sold exclusively through brick-and-mortar bookstores. Then, the industry offered a way for consumers to place book orders online through sites like Amazon. As new technology emerged and e-readers became a must-have item, e-books made a significant impact on the way people downloaded and read books on certain devices such as Kindles, iPads, Nooks and others. All of these changes helped set the foundation for the next wave of digital disruption in publishing that is aimed at further removing boundaries and enabling people to interact with digital content across all of their devices. Beyond the idea of having access to content anywhere and anytime, consumers are interested in getting exclusive content directly from the authors.

These heightened consumer expectations are driving publishers to rethink tried and true distribution strategies. As publishers are evaluating ways to supplement their existing distribution channels and establish a direct relationship with the end customers, there are three main considerations to think about:

Consideration #1: How can you engage with customers everywhere they want to buy?
Some consumers are perfectly happy with existing book distribution channels that they are used to. Others are looking for more ways to get their content and have access to it across multiple devices. Some can be considered super fans who are hungry for more and more content from a certain author. One way publishers can enhance these customers’ experiences and build further loyalty is by offering unique, engaging content that is not available anywhere else. The delivery of this content can take many different forms, including dedicated microsites and destination sites for authors where they can buy directly from the author’s brand. This direct channel enriches the customers’ traditional experience with something extra.

Consideration #2: How do you support a direct business model that is complimentary to existing channels?
Traditional publishing business models are changing. The music industry already went through a major transformation from physical to digital and subscription-based models. The book publishing industry is on the same path. It won’t be long until consumers can get access to a catalogue of content on any device and pick which parts they want to read. Establishing a direct relationship with end-customers is essential to staying relevant as the industry continues to evolve.

Going direct and establishing an e-commerce presence that is complimentary to the existing channel can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. Publishers can turn to e-commerce experts to help them establish and maintain an online presence. Having a direct relationship will help build a foundation for deeper engagement with the consumers who are super fans of a particular author or book series. By going direct, publishers can get actionable insight into readers’ interests, and then use that data to enhance their experience and, in turn, increase sales.

Consideration #3: How can you scale the program globally?
I often hear that publishers want to expand beyond their domestic markets and enter foreign frontiers to sell to fans within certain regions around the world. One of the first things I tell them is in order to be successful implementing a global strategy, they need to think internationally from the very start and throughout the entire publishing process. It goes far beyond having an accurate translation of the content and spills into the overall e-commerce experience that’s inclusive of appropriate marketing initiatives and preferred local payment methods. It is a complex process that can be simplified when working with a partner that has connections into local markets, as well as a wealth of experience conducting international business and expanding cross-border.

Although there are other considerations and questions that every publisher will have to evaluate and answer, these three considerations are meant to get you thinking about what’s next.

I’d welcome your thoughts in the comments field below about what’s next for publishing. If you want to learn more about Digital River’s offerings for publishers, please e-mail us at

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