Digital Partners: Part II
Moderator: Doug Armato, Director, University of Minnesota Press
Panelists: Tony Sanfilippo, Marketing and Sales Director, Penn State University Press; Dan Lee, Manager of Digital Publishing, Yale University Press; Mark Saunders, Electronic Imprint Manager, University of Virginia Press
Description: What strategic decisions need to be made about GoogleBook Search, Microsoft Live Search/Book, and Amazon SITB (participate in pay-for-view? participate in POD program? co-branded search?) Is OCA a contender? What's different about them? What about the electronic aggregators--Ebrary, EBL, X-refer? What do I need to think about in assessing these companies and their contracts?
Please post outlines, notes, and/or links to presentation materials below.
Mark Saunders, PowerPoint Presentation, Navigating E-books
Tony Sanfilippo, Penn State Press and our Digital Partners. (A case study)
(a PDF of the accompanying slide show can be found here)
Today I'm going to discuss some of the digital partners we have been working with over the past couple of years and why we chose those relationships. I'm also going to look at some of the hurdles in dealing with those partners and some of the advantages and disadvantages we've discovered in these different relationships.
First I thought I'd list the digital partners we're currently working with.
Our Library Google --Google Book Search ---Including Google Co-Branded Book Search --Google Co-op ---Google Custom Search on our site --AdWords ---Google Grants --Analytics Amazon Search Inside the Book. Microsoft Live (in negotiations) NetLibrary Lightning Source OCLC/WorldCat
These are a lot of partners who offer a variety of services so rather than just jump into each of the relationships individually, Let me start by looking at some issues the all share. And the very first is a hellish morass of legal bureaucracy.
Depending on your institution and your state law, this could be the biggest hurdle. NDAs Non-Disclosure Agreements, prevent me from telling you much about the details of our agreements but I can tell you this, though most of these partners may appear to be reluctant to change their standard agreements, there's nothing stopping you from asking them to.
I can also tell you in a general sense what our lawyers tend to have problems with. Liability issues are probably, not surprisingly, the most difficult. But usually this is because of the nature of our particular institution. While Penn State gets some of it's funding from the Commonwealth, in terms of liability we the Press are probably not protected by the 11th amendment (which limits the ability to sue a state or an instrument of the state), so Risk Management is very careful about these particular issues. The nature of your institution could probably create a different set of issues for you. Step one is getting a copy of the standard agreement and finding out what the sticking points are for your particular institution. Once the problems are identified, then it's simply a matter of tenacity.
The next big legal hurdle probably won't involve lawyers but will influence the content you choose for these programs, and that is determining which books you can legally include. With the book search partners you might not want to include content with third party content in it. This includes illustrations, lyrics, poetry, those sorts of things. If you have digital rights for that material, fantastic, but in all likelihood you probably don't and it would need to be eliminated, and some of these partners, like Amazon, won't accept incomplete content. Though I think we're probably rather unusual in our sensitivity to that issue, especially with Amazon. It should be noted here that both Google Book Search and Microsoft Live Book allow you to submit content with images and then request a title by title blanket exclusion of those images from the program.
As some of you may know, our director has something of a dilettante's interest in copyright law. He thus far has not bought the argument that I think most presses use to justify the inclusion of third party content in Amazon's Search Inside the Book program. And that is that the inclusion of that content is not a commercial use, but a marketing use and that it's no different than a customer browsing a book in a bookstore in the physical world. Sandy, our director, is convinced that any digital public display of that third party content would require a license and so few of our books with illustrations are in that program. Though, on occasion we do publish a book where the author owns then transfers the rights to the photos or illustrations so we do include those.
This book, Deer Wars, is an example. This book is by two journalists, one a photographer, who transferred the rights to those photographs to the author of the writing as a work for hire, who then transferred them to us.
Once the legal issues are resolved - your agreements are signed, and the content chosen - there may be one or two other factors that will influence how you choose partners. For us, one of the biggest current factors is our primary partnership with our library and the effect this merger has had on the cultural landscape of our institution. To summarize: These days, there's a bit more access in almost everything we do. Frankly, this hasn't been a difficult transition as book marketing has long had a tradition of what I call the 'junky-dealer dynamic'. Give them a free little taste to hook them and then start selling. In the old days this might have been accomplished with first serial rights or an author tour. These days it's much more likely to occur immediately after a search. This is also something of a Web 2.0 value so it definitely makes sense for book marketing on the web today.
Alright, I'd like to take a look at our site now and discuss a couple of the features there and how those relate to our partners. Sometimes I'm a bit embarrassed by our homepage as it isn't unlike a NASCAR jumpsuit in that it's carrying a few more logos than I'd like, but let's take a look at a few pages and I will desperately try to rationalize why we've made some of these choices.
The first logo we see is that of our Metalmark Imprint. Metalmark books are books that have been digitized by the Penn State library and which we are now offering POD editions of. I'll note here that we're not the only press or library doing something like this, Michigan, and others are also bringing public domain works from their libraries back into print. Our approach is notable in that we do try and use clean, quality files, and we offer them as affordable paperbacks, rather than expensive hardcovers. We're doing templated generic designs, using more of a Dover model than a Kensington or MDS model. An interesting side note on these books - We did a quick cost analysis on what it cost the library to scan, clean, and process the files for these fragile old books and discovered that per page production was almost twice what it would have cost to set the book ourselves from scratch. We are considering doing lower quality scans and a larger quantity of titles, but if we do, we'll probably create a new imprint for those as they'll be both cheaper and cheaper, as in quality and price.
I'd point out here that one nice thing about this program is most costs aren't borne by the press. The library is already digitizing this stuff we're just helping them market and earn revenues on it. Since our costs are low, we use the excess revenue to help subsidize some of our Office of Digital Scholarly Publishing's other ventures.
Okay the next logo we see is Google's. Here on our homepage Google actually shows up twice. And if you viewed the source code you'd find even a third Google fingerprint.
This script code on the bottom allows us to measure site performance and the effectiveness of our AdWords campaigns in a Google program called Google Analytics, producing some pretty granular reports about our users and their behavior.
I'm sure you're all familiar with Google Book Search, but Google also has a co-branding program that allows a couple of advantages for participating publishers. First, the results page from any search originating from our site includes our mark, as well as Google's. The other advantage is that rather than showing the other book retail sites selling any particular book, the only buy the book link on these results pages is ours. We also are given the option of including a 'Find this Book in a Library' link and we, to appease our dark library overlords, do. I'm kidding about that. We actually include a link to the OCLC World Cat on all of our published book pages. And in a moment I'll go into a little more detail about that and our rationalization for that partnership.
But before we do, let's go back to that first Google box and talk about that. Google used to offer free site search to non-profits and educational institutions. Last year they folded that program into the Google Co-op program.
By becoming a member of Google Co-op, you can limit or customize search within your site so
If you look at our general search page, you'll see we've actually created two custom search engines, one for just our books, in a separate directory on our site, and one for the entire site, say you were wondering who the Director was.
There you can see from some of the press history pages that Louis Bell was the first director, there's Sandy, there's me as marketing director.
Anyway, as you can imagine, the search results we're getting are significantly better than our old home-brewed search engine from 1999 that depended on a clunky database that described each to page serve results. And all this significant upgrade cost us was a logo.
The last Google program I want to briefly touch on is AdWords. AdWords is a great way to really target online advertising as it offers lots of flexibility in choosing keywords to advertise on. One of its most obvious advantages for UPs is that AdWords seems to work best on the most arcane of topics. And nobody publishes the arcane quite like UPs. A discussion of potential keywords that would make good AdWords is now often a part of our transmittal meetings.
There is also a lesser known program Google offers for educational institutions and not for profits and that is the Google Grant program. You can apply anytime and should hear within six months if it has been awarded. The grants are applied to the free use of the AdWords program.
Alright. Enough with Google already. Let's go back to that list of partners and talk about the last few there. Amazon SITB is one and again, we probably approach that partner a little differently than others over the matter of third party content. Participation, even limited, certainly seems to make a difference in our Amazon bottom line and we're beginning to see Amazon take over Baker and Taylor/Yankee Book as our biggest customer. I wouldn't be surprised if that happens next year.
There is also Microsoft Live, though we're still in the negotiations and thus far our books are not posted.
Next there's NetLibrary. One of the reasons we've decided to work with NetLibrary is because of our internship program. I'm sure that doesn't make sense on the surface but if any of you have ever run an internship program, you might be aware that one of the challenges is keeping the little buggers busy. When I looked at the requirements for electronic submissions to NetLibrary, I realized that I could probably train a chimp to create a universal PDF from a press-ready PDF, and if I could train a chimp, surely I could train students.
We at Penn State are kind of control freaks so when considering the options available for archiving and digital file production, my first reaction was, 'can we do it our selves?' With both formatted PDF production, archiving, and vendor submissions, it looked like we could, so we did. As you can imagine, this saves us a lot of money in participating in these programs. There are no books sent, no postage, and no DADs to deal with or pay. I know that doesn't or couldn't work for all presses but I would also encourage folks not to be afraid of specs. This isn't rocket science or brain surgery, it's only Acrobat Professional.
Finally there's Lightning Source. We're at about a quarter of our backlist now being pure POD in Lightning Source. And the results have been quite good. Not only is it saving us on overhead, it's definitely breathing new life into the backlist. Now before I go any further I have to offer a mea culpa. At AAUP last year I was asked to give a presentation for a panel titled Print Run Decisions: So Many Variables, So Little Certainty and in that presentation I cast suspicion on the concept of the Long Tail.
But after last years conference I went back and looked at that data that presentation was based on and discovered it was really, really wrong. Here's what happened. My family lives across lake Pontchatrain, the lake next to New Orleans. Before AAUP last year I went down a couple of weeks early to help my family with the seemingly endless clean-up. While there I wrote that presentation and because Internet service in Picayune Mississippi was erratic, I asked an intern to gather data about the original hardcover editions of our Lightning Source titles and then email it. What I didn't know is that rather than getting that data from our live database, that intern had connected to an archive of the database and gave me information that was three years old. Needless to say, this intern has been replaced with a chimp and was not allowed to create PDFs.
So when that intern looked at the sales from the two years ago field, it was actually sales from 5 years before. I recently reviewed that data and here's what I discovered. Not only are the paperbacks doing well against their old hardcover editions, they are currently earning more than twice the revenue their hardcover editions did the year before their inclusion in the two programs.
We've got 70 titles we're following because they all share the same Long Tail characteristics. They were all expensive hardcovers converted to cheap POD paperbacks and they were all added to both Lightning Source and Google Book Search on the same day. In 2004, before GBS and LS those 70 old books on the bottom of our list, earned $3,300. The first full year in both programs the paperback editions earned $5,600. And last year they earned $7,600. If the first half of this year is any indication, we should continue to see the revenues on those books increase. Make everything possible available, help people find it, price it appropriately.
Now one good thing that came out of that study is that we noticed that the POD editions didn't kill the hardcover sales completely. As irrational as this sounds, they continued to sell. Now what kind of lunatic would buy a hardcover offset edition of a book when a paperback edition is available at less than half the price?
I know, a librarian! And a little lightbulb went off in my head. Should we make it easier for librarians and faculty members to find this book in their library, well, I'm not sure, but what if we could show them it wasn't in their library? Would that lead to a faculty request for a purchase?
Well, for that reason, and others, we decided to add the OCLCs WorldCat link to all of our book pages. Clicking on that link allows a user to find the closest copy in a library.
If the user is coming from a university, WorldCat can tell by the IP number of the request and just automatically lists the closest copies, if the IP isn't immediately identifiable or the user is a privacy freak and using a proxy, the service asks for a zipcode to find a copy. Does it please the library overlords? So far they haven't mentioned it but I doubt it hurts. Has it had an effect on sales. Can't say yet. Just added them at the beginning of this year so we really don't have data. But it is certainly a Web 2.0 kind of service and not only is it in sync with our mission, it's also popular with our site's users. Maybe if I get invited to AAUP again next year we can explore a possible sales benefit.
In conclusion, I'd like to leave you with at least a little bit of healthy skepticism about all of this. These days it seems like the zeitgeist points to a belief that you have to give a little something away to get something. Sometimes I wonder if this isn't like that brilliant old Saturday Night Live skit about First Citiwide Change Bank.
The bank whose only service was making change. The pseudo-commercial would end with the hilarious line 'You might ask how we can make any money with this service. The answer is simple: Volume.' I do sometimes wonder if Change Bank economics is driving some of the these Web 2.0 services, but I suppose since we're ending a third fiscal year with a surplus, I'll worry about it next year.