Positive Economic Outlook for Publishers

By David Alan Rech of Scribe Inc.


A recent David Brooks column in the NY Times, and a popular YouTube video, highlight the economic growth of the world.

We in the publishing industry know this. We are aware of the popularity of books during times of economic growth and social transition. During the Industrial Revolution and the period after World War II, publishing took off. In both cases, you had a group of people who wished to climb from their status and believed that education and learning were the keys to get there. Books helped them to accomplish that and became a rich part of their lives.

Publishers offered much to individuals trying to improve their status. Grammars, dictionaries, and usage guides were popular, as were books on etiquette; even fiction provided insight into the lives of others. People wanted to participate in the cultural conversation, to be cultured, and to soak in the latest ideas. During times of economic growth and social climbing, publishers play an important part.

Today, publishers act as if the market is shrinking and that publishing news is all bad. But recent economic data suggests otherwise, and one good indicator is that people are investing in bettering themselves. Greater still is the fact that the countries that exhibit growth contain large populations of English speakers. This suggests that American publishers should be doing well. Perhaps we just need to think a little more globally.

In Scribe’s business model, we leave decisions about acquisitions, sales, marketing, distribution, and pricing to our clients. But smart publishers all recognize the need to provide materials universally, which means they are engaged in a multipurpose publishing program.

Consider one example. We tracked the e-book sales of one of our clients. Books delivered to Kobo and Microsoft Reader were the number one and number two categories of their sales. Despite the perceived popularity of Nook, Kindle, and iPad, not every person who reads electronic books uses one of those devices. Even if they make up the majority of electronic platforms, it doesn’t make sense to sacrifice any viable market, especially since the cost of producing an e-book in another format can be almost negligible. It is our premise that publishers create successful books by making them available to consumers in the formats that they demand.

To employ multipurpose publishing successfully, publications must be structured so that you can readily convert them into every format. A well-formed document is necessary to accomplish this. By having your content properly structured during the editorial process, you are able to create high-quality books in every format at the end of the production pipeline. You can publish in a multitude of formats without delay, additional editorial input, or strain on production. You can test new markets with little risk. And since materials can be quickly developed for any format, you can beat your competition to a market.

The English-reading, upwardly mobile population is growing—much of it outside the traditional U.S. print-based market. If we are going to be able to tap into people’s desire to learn, we will need to produce books that can be read universally. The key to this is the Well-Formed Document Workflow, a process that allows books to reach everyone across the world in any format. Those within emerging markets wish to enrich their lives. To be successful, we need to reach them.