Frankfurt Book Fair – Andrew Savikas Interview

I found an interesting interview with Andrew Savikas at Frankfurt Book Fair.

(from O'Reilly website)
(from O’Reilly website)

Tom Tivnan: First on TOC, why was it important to be here at FBF, will you come next year and are there any plans for any rolling TOC out further afield,to the London Book Fair, for example?

Andrew Savikas: More than half of the people buying our digital books are from outside the States. Digital — and in particular, mobile — publishing is a global market, and that means acknowledging that many of the geographical barriers around physical markets simply don’t apply anymore. Because our customers (and our competitors) are as likely to come from outside our borders as within, it made sense to try and bring the message of TOC to a broader audience. The Frankfurt Book Fair shares our view, and has been a great partner in bringing this event to a European audience. I’d love to be able to bring this message and this event to other parts of the world, and we’ll use what we learn from the Frankfurt version to plan next steps.

TT: O’Reilly has a DRM-free policy; what would you say to other publishers that are leery of doing the same?

AS: Ultimately, it’s their decision. But I’d say that we have years and years of data to demonstrate that digital sales can thrive without DRM. The critical false assumption to break here is that an illicit
download is equivalent to a lost sale. There’s simply no evidence to support that, and again we have years of data to point to, and our audience is as technically savvy as anyone’s. You’d expect our content to be more susceptible to what others fear when they add DRM, yet our digital sales continue to grow at a double-digit rate without harming our print sales.

I recently spoke to my counterpart at a major trade  publisher, and the technical nature of his work means he reads a lot of our books; he personally thanked me for offering our books without DRM so that he could easily read them on all of his devices. As long  as you give your customers
something they find worth paying for, and  make it convenient and easy buy from you, the benefits of selling without DRM far outweigh the risks. The seminal piece on the subject is Tim O’Reilly’s “Piracy is Progressive Taxation” and anyone thinking about this stuff needs to read that.

TT: Pricing and piracy are obviously on most publishers minds. How should publishers behave in a market where digital seems to be synonymous with free in many customers’ eyes?

AS: I wrote extensively on this subject in a piece called “Content is a Service Business”, and the
main point is that people rarely pay for “content”; they  pay for packaging and convenience. Let’s look at an example. Like many people, I’m a huge fan of Google Maps. High-quality maps and turn-by-turn directions are free and easy online.  Yet right now the top grossing iPhone App overall is turn-by-turn GPS navigation, priced at $99. There is more “content” out there than anyone could consume in a million lifetimes. The scarce resource most of us worry about is our time, and we’re glad to exchange money for something that will save us time, entertain us, help us get our jobs done better and faster. Packaging and convenience.

TT: You’re speaking at the “Will all books be E?’ seminar. The obvious question is, will they? I can imagine your answer, so the follow-up will be how quickly will e subsume p?

AS: In our direct business on oreilly.com, digital already outsells print by more than 2:1. It’s very likely that more people will read the books that we publish this year digitally than in print. I’m not
convinced print is going away, but as a generation comes of age that has read more digitally than in print during throughout their lives, I see print becoming a specialty product, great for souvenirs, gifts, for mementos. There will be fewer large print runs, but many many more very small runs, perhaps of just one. When bookstores add print-on-demand machines, the biggest request from customers isn’t hard-to-get books, but the opportunity to have *their* book printed.

Within two years, some estimates are that mobile broadband will surpass fixed broadband as the means by which most people access the internet. Mobile devices are rapidly becoming the dominant means by which we are connected to media, and more importantly to each other,
and that will certainly extend to the kind of reading most of us think of when we think of books.

TT: I am really interested about your notion that publishers shouldn’t be thinking about simply reproducing the printed book digitally. Is that what we should be talking about, essentially creating a whole new medium that ses text, video, sound etc?

AS: To be clear, I think text works great as a communication tool. Despite all the buzz about multimedia and video, text remains the primary  means of communication for most people (think email, text, Twitter, Facebook, blogs). The further you get from text as the primary content, the less what you’re looking at can be called a book. We don’t call TV shows “teleplays” anymore.

Those who find things like  video and audio and gaming and augmented reality to be the best tools  for telling the story they want to tell won’t be “authors” in the traditional sense, and we won’t call what they make books. But those  who do continue to use text to tell stories, to inform, to
educate need to remember that when readers are consuming this content on a device that’s connected to the Web, that text needs to be connected as well. Twitter is 140 characters of text, yet has become an immensely valuable communication tool, in part because one of the most common things people do on Twitter is share links to things they find interesting.

Hyperlinking is what makes the Web a web, and it’s the single most important thing you can do to make text-based content behave like the wider Web it’s now a part of.

TT: O’Reilly has been successful with Safari Books Online. What sort of new digital business models do you see emerging in the next few years? Is this a far easier space for you (and professional and academic publishers to ccupy)? Will general trade publishers struggle to find new models?

AS: The most interesting new digital business models will involve the mobile web. Some of it may be subscription services like Safari (note Disney has just launched their own Safari-style subscription offer), others will be discrete app-style models like we see on the iPhone. Within
two years, there will be more than 100 million people walking around with rich media marketplaces in their pockets, and that is an enormous opportunity for publishers of all kinds.

TT: What are the more pressing concerns for the digital future and/or what will drive the growth of the market (i.e. ebook interoperability, better devices)?

AS: O’Reilly has been active on the Web since there were fewer than 200 websites. We know the importance of open standards in creating a viable marketplace and ecosystem. In the long run, open wins (see: AOL). If hardware and software makers settled on one (or maybe two or three)
standards for ebook content, especially without locking things down with encryption, that would really help this market mature much more quickly.

There will only be more competition for the attention of our customers, and the more energy we spend trying to protect formats or channels, the more reason we give those customers to take their most valuable scarce resource, their attention, and give it to someone else.

Andrew Savikas is the Vice President of Digital Initiatives at O’Reilly Media. He is also the Programme Chair for the O’Reilly Media’s Tools of Change for Publishing conference. Andrew leads the digital publishing and ebook program  and strategy for O’Reilly Media, including both print and digital production of all O’Reilly books. He speaks frequently on digital publishing and ebooks worldwide and is also the author of  Word Hacks: Tips & Tools for Taming your Text.

(Article taken from Bookseller.com, Written by Tom Tivan 14/10/2009 )

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