YPG Attends WNBA Panel on Digital/Enhanced E-books

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Since January 2011, 23.5% of trade book sales are now digital, as moderator Susannah Greenberg of Susannah Greenberg Public Relations told the audience at the “Digital Books, E-books, Enhanced E-books and Apps” panel hosted by the Women’s National Book Association’s (WNBA) New York City Chapter on Tuesday, March 29, 2011. The crowd, including many YPG members, heard panelists Peter Costanzo, Director of Digital Content at F+W Media, Inc.; Andrea Fleck-Nisbet, Digital Publishing Director at Workman Publishing; Ami Greko, Senior Vendor Relations Manager of Kobo US; and Evan Ratliff, Editor of The Atavist describe their vision—and air their own questions—about digital publishing from all angles.

Costanzo launched the discussion by emphasizing that digital publishing is not the future; it’s the present. He urged publishers to put more time into the quality of their eBooks and to be selective about enhancements they add. He also suggested that “how-to” content may be the most practical for enriched products and advocated the creation of a sustainable digital publishing model, rather than prioritizing rapid development at the risk of putting inferior products into the marketplace.

Design and searchability made the top of Fleck-Nisbet’s priority list when creating digital products at Workman. The Digital Publishing Director took a strong stance on apps, saying they’re not quite the right space for books at this time and also explained that the lag time in nonfiction eBook production is due to increased difficulty of the conversion process as opposed to fictional content.

As the first panelist to speak from a non-publisher perspective, Ami Greko described the platforms that Kobo (a minimalistic electronic reading device) is creating to use the digital space as a tool to make reading more social. For example, “My Reading Life” merges aspects of several social media tools, like the badges of FourSquare and the sharing functionality of Facebook, to make eReaders a place for community and even playful competition. Greko touted “My Reading Life” as “an asynchronous way to connect with your friends and family.”

Evan Ratliff, an editor at the digital publishing house, The Atavist, subscribes to the paper version of The New York Times. Why, then, does he work with digital-only content? “I think offering choice is the most important thing,” he explained. Hailing from a journalism background, Ratcliff said The Atavist creates a space for stories of varying lengths. His own 13,000-word story, “Lifted,” is published by the house and recently hit the top five nonfiction bestseller list on Amazon.

During the Q&A, all panelists made clear that while companies like Kobo have the provisions for digital publishing available, publishers are still in the conversion process and are also affected by format changes made by Apple or Amazon. Constanzo encouraged publishers to allocate the resources for these changes. The speakers then wrapped up the panel by sharing the names of their go-to blogs and websites for updated information on digital trends, including Tools of Change, Digital Book World, and The Shatzkin Files from Idea Logical.

Overall, the WNBA-hosted panel provided a concise and hopeful overview of the potential for expansion within the world of ebooks and apps, and YPG was pleased to be invited to participate in the discussion. If you missed it, click here to watch the event in its entirety.

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