2011 List Building for the Digital Age

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Acquisitions editors have long commissioned and evaluated content for print formats. How can we evolve our list building priorities to suit the 21st century reader and the multiple devices on which our acquisitions will be read? This panel will share what editors are learning about apps, enhanced e-books, and open source publications and discuss how this knowledge informs their acquisitions. The session will include discussions of how we solicit and evaluate digital content, new opportunities for acquisitions, project management of e-initiatives, and how editors can adapt longstanding approaches and philosophies to new modes of content delivery and new reading experiences.


Chair: Christie Henry, Editorial Director for the Sciences and Social Sciences, University of Chicago Press

Panelists: Jennifer Crewe, Associate Director and Editorial Director, Columbia University Press; Jean Thomson Black, Executive Editor, Yale University Press; Marguerite Avery, Senior Acquisitions Editor, the MIT Press; Will Lippincott, Agent, Lippincott Massie McQuilkin



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Session Notes from Thom Lemmons, Managing Editor, Texas A&M University Press:

348 hours from one editor at Chicago UP involved in developing their iPad app.

Most panelists acquire in scientific/technical areas.

MA (MIT): Learning from YouTube from MIT Press, ebook’s design, architecture, and functionality is a part of its meaning. Integrates with YouTube content.

More books in the pipeline involving integration of ebook “text” with online rich media content (including template for iPad ebooks).

“Change is user-driven, not technology-driven.” It’s not about the latest app, it’s about what users find useful.

Preservation is an issue; meaning that is dependent upon access to third-party online content is affected by changes in access.

Still 22% of Americans don’t have Internet, 35% don’t have broadband.

JC (Columbia UP): Joint effort with J-school, who published a seminal report on their website May 10. Had to be quick, so they had to provide their own ebook. In conjunction with POD paper. Done without peer review because of time constraints (J-school faculty had already read and vetted report). Ebook was available on Amazon by May 28.

They did a collaborative development of an iPad app (shared royalties instead of paying for development). Has been available for a few months at this time, 800 copies sold, $1,400 revenue to Columbia UP.

Advocates thinking about ebook early, rather than as afterthought. Need to tailor author advice to ebook. Want to provide resources in ebook that can’t be replicated in print (sound files, video, etc., that are hosted externally—so requires online access).

Considering “E-short” series of shorter works to be sold as ebooks with POD option.

Conference proceedings could be appropriate for e-publication, but might require different workflow (truncate or eliminate peer review? Same imprint as press? Sell parts, not just whole? How to market it if no physical object exists?)

WL (literary agent, used to be at Johns Hopkins): Represents academics writing for trade and journalists.

AAP est 1Q 2011 e-sales at 22.5% of trade. 22% est in 2010. BN says 25% of YTD revenues are digital. Amazon reports e-sales exceeding print revenue.

Self-pub is growing, with help from Amazon and BN.

Electronic royalties are still unsettled. Trade expectation is 25% of net. Some are offering up to 40%. If WL can’t get escalating royalty at time of contract closing, they insert a “revisit clause” after 2 years, per “industry standard.”

Reviews and social media are centerpieces of publicity considerations (though he has reservations about effectiveness of social media and “reviews are hard to come by.”

He is not persuaded that “enhanced” ebooks sell better than standard ebooks. Content drives this decision. “How many formats can the market support?”

Successful author is asking, “Why do I need a publisher—or an agent?” This question not likely to go away.

JTB (Yale UP): Principles for AE’s for ebook frame of reference:

Gatekeep for quality, content. Recall mission statement.

Require budget/bottom line accountability (production costs, royalties, licensing, programming time, etc.)

Pricing model must be consistent with competition, consumer expectations.

Fundraising will be necessary. Entrepreneurial orientation is necessary.

Assume digital pub from the start of each project (coding, programming implications; try to avoid “retrofitting” as much as possible; rights considerations). Know what “granularity” means; understand “disaggregation” and its effects on style, formatting practices.

Collaboration and teamwork more important.

Plan ahead, assume steep learning curve.

Distinction between “information” and “knowledge.” Implications for chunking and disaggregation on this basis.

Evaluate staff time, developmental implications of “extras” involved in a “born digital” project.

Think ahead, but recognize that nobody can adequately anticipate the pace or direction of change in the digital world (i.e., computers connected to the Internet went from just over 800 in early 1990s to over 600 million in 2009).

Q&A:

Are retailers approaching authors directly for projects? WL: yes

Are there comparative studies of all costs of producing print vs. ebooks? JC: no, not really. Problem with projecting ebook revenue, costs are still a “guessing game.” AUD: costs are not less, which is a misperception that authors and public have. Not taking into consideration pre-print/bind costs.

AUD: Editors provide value (improving writing, advocate for reader, “director’s cut” vs. final version of a movie).

What can acqs depts do to create time for “imagining” possibilities for epubs, vs. just doing the daily grind? JC: monthly collaborative meetings for brainstorming, based on input received from authors, consumers. CH (Chicago UP): start including ebook data in management reporting, financials, P&Ls (though this takes time to establish guidelines).

What are implications for aggregated collections like J-STOR, Muse/UPCC, especially with regard to chunking. JTB: Consideration of this, but so far not lots of action. Keane from Hopkins/Muse says we will need to start paying more attention to usage data as it becomes increasingly available.

Do you have conversations with authors about how they would like to access the scholarship, particularly in fields with non-text data is important? Could these answers inform digital publishing initiatives? MA: Traditional books are still valued, but other formats are valuable, and scholars are pushing for more innovative ways of presenting data. Permissions are important here (esp with music; iTunes store). <end posting>

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