Book to the Future: Enhanced E-Books

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On Thursday, March 10, 2011, AAP’s Young to Publishing Group held its rescheduled January Brown Bag Lunch entitled “Book to the Future: Enhanced E-Books” in Hachette’s 13th Floor Atrium. Over 100 YPG members gathered for an informative panel discussion on the role of enhanced e-books in the publishing business and the possibilities and challenges they currently face. The featured panelists were Liz Kessler, Digital Managing Editor at Hachette Book Group; Dan Sanicola, Director of Digital Assets at Penguin; and Sue Fleming, VP / Director of Content and Programming for Digital at Simon & Schuster. The panel was moderated by Matt Mullin, Community Relations Manager at Digital Book World.

During the panel, Kessler, Sanicola and Fleming all agreed that the term “enhanced” includes any multimedia assets in an e-book that render it different from a “vanilla” e-book. These can be audio or video clips, such as author interviews, movie tie-ins, or anything outside of the typical reading experience. These enhanced capabilities provide a more complete and dynamic experience for readers, especially for devoted fans of a particular author or title. The panelists emphasized the highly collaborative process between all departments involved that helps ease some of the emergent fears and frustrations in producing, marketing and selling enhanced products in a constantly changing digital landscape. Working together to integrate various multimedia pieces into a collective e-book is the goal, as well as a major learning experience for veterans of the industry.

The panel and Q&A session brought up the design, distribution and acquisitions limitations of enhanced e-books. Coverless, jacketless books must be advertised. Products must be priced to fit consumer needs. Rights to newly discovered or created multimedia materials must be acquired. One of the most compelling questions considered to what extent the reading experience gets interrupted by the multimedia features present. Is the reader’s imagination compromised for an “entertainment experience”? There are no perfect answers, as managing the flow between reading and interacting is an ongoing learning process. The panel ended on a note of both uncertainty and optimism, with the panelists agreeing that success is not measured in terms of sales but, in the end, by the enjoyment of the customers.

Overall, YPG members were advised to embrace the industry’s changes, as members of a technologically savvy generation long in the midst of a digital revolution. “Book to the Future” encouraged its attendees to think about books in a completely new and creative way, making the BBL a great success.

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