In the (unlikely!) event that loyal readers can’t get enough of either Oxford or me in print, you may want to visit my video blog. In the first installment, I talk a bit about OUP’s history, as well as the future of ebooks and of publishing in general. Here’s the Video—
Posts Tagged ‘Kindle’
Earlier this year, OUP began working with a Toronto-based company called Symtext to digitize some of the content from our textbooks for specific adoption situations. Symtext’s unique proprietary technology delivers content from OUP (and other participating publishers) as so-called ”Liquid Textbooks,” which offer various functionalities including the capacity for instructors and students to enter comments and questions. Symtext launched Liquid Textbooks this Fall, and recently I had the chance to chat (by email) with Symtext president Ian Barker about where the digital revolution is taking us.
Ian Barker: What sort of shift in the market toward demand for digital content are you seeing? Is this shift changing (increasing, decreasing) and can you comment on the pace of the change?
David Stover: There’s definitely a shift and it’s definitely gaining momentum. That’s not to say that I expect to see the printed book disappear next week or next year or even next decade. If anything, the availability of digital options seems to be increasing the total size of the market, because there are some kinds of content (or some audiences for content) where digital opens up possibilities that simply didn’t exist in print.
IB: As a company, is OUP Canada seeing demand from professors/schools for alternatives to print, and how has this impacted your strategic planning?
DS: Most important for us is the ability to “hold” content in forms that can be distributed through a variety of channels and methods — as traditional printed books, as digital files, and so on. In most cases so far where instructors want an alternative to print, it’s because what they were trying to do was not very well suited to print. Print lends itself to narrative, and while there are segments of educational publishing that are very narrative-based, there are other segments that really involve the delivery of discrete “chunks” of information in a way akin to encyclopedias and databases. So a big part of our strategic planning is making sure we can deliver content in different ways, and trying to anticipate in what form the market will want content delivered to them.
IB: Where do companies like Symtext and products like Liquid Textbooks fit into the publishing landscape?
DS: My view is that what the digital world has lacked until now is an effective delivery channel. After all, publishers never (or at least very rarely) delivered content directly to customers. We utilize intermediaries — bookstores, of course! Companies like Symtext open a new channel to end-users. How a sales channel is configured inevitably affects how a product looks, so one would expect a product that’s delivered digitally — the Liquid Textbook — to look and feel different than a traditional book.
IB: It’s early days yet, but having made the decision to utilize a digital publishing platform, what would you share with other publishers as they assess the market and their position within it?
DS: I think publishers need to keep the needs of end-users in mind and not get swept away by the enthusiasms of the moment. Something big is going on, but publishing has been through big changes before, and one would hope that coming out the other side of the current transitional period we would see an era in which more information is available in more formats more readily to more people. Incidentally, that’s a much different thing from everything being free! As Dr Johnson said, “No man but a blockhead ever wrote but for money,” and the same applies to editors and publishers. So there has to be a commercial (or at least a cost recovery) mechanism that supports the distribution of information in digital as well as traditional print forms. That’s one of the appealing things about Symtext’s model — it provides content affordably to end-users while still compensating content creators.