Across the globe, widespread digital transformation has resulted in shifts in many sectors. This means that traditional sectors, such as publishing, have created novel digital ways for people to access, read and interact with their content. As we spend more time on mobile devices, we are reading even more, with information and communication instantly available.
Teresa Iribarren, a teacher at Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, notes that with digital reading, the experience can be sporadic, as the flow of reading is paused to find out more about a specific matter or interact with the material by clicking on hyperlinks, surveys, and watching videos. Despite the interruptions, reading digitally may mean you gain a deeper or broader understanding of the subject in question. The internet also provides a platform for an expanded reading experience as you’re able to interact with other readers and publishers on social media. As well as pushing innovation and interaction, digitally published material is readily available, profitable, data driven, wide-reaching and fluid.
Digital push from the pandemic
Since the pandemic there has been an increasing number of digital libraries, audiobooks and also new traditional bookshops. In 2020, Spanish-language publishers saw increases of 112% for ebooks and 137% for audiobooks. This reflects the accessibility of digital publishing and the need for online content when many services were no longer available. In fact, a report published by Bookwire, a German digital publisher with a Spanish branch, found that in the main lockdown months, digital consumption experienced a four-fold increase. This may have been linked to the 8.1 million more social media users in Spain between 2020 and 2021 showing people’s increased demand for consuming digital content during an uncertain time.
One of the benefits of products that are digitally published is that they do not carry the price mark-up of their paper counterparts. In 2020, €6.06 was the average price for a Spanish ebook, compared to around €13.49 for an audiobook and €20 for a traditional paper book. This means that not only can the content be instantly available but more of it can be consumed for the same price of traditional media. On top of this, a study has noted that many ebooks and audiobooks can be sold as a supplement to traditional books, showing that the opportunities and flexibility afforded by digital publishing do not necessarily mean there isn’t space for both formats to cohabitate. The same study did suggest that traditional publishing houses will need to radically alter their business models to stay relevant among the digital transition. One reason for this being the lower production costs of digital formats which insures higher profitability.
Outreach and readership
Publishing digitally allows publishers or content creators to have a direct insight into their readership. This can be obtained through website analytics which show where users are reading from and what content gains the most engagement. This can allow for my specific marketing methods to reach readers who will engage with the content. It also means people can find content they want more easily regardless of their country or native language. For example, finding Spanish books in Germany as a native Spanish speaker will be made much easier by digital publishing. In light of this, there has been a push for translational rights sales shown by the virtual Books in Spain initiative to encourage translation funding.
Fluid media – embracing the transition
Manual Gil, the director of the Feria del Libro Madrid has advised what is needed to thrive in the digital market. He emphasises the need for flexibility with “multi-format, multimedia and multi-device catalogues” and “a multi-channel strategy” using social media networks to promote the digital content. He also notes the importance of subscription platforms and digital libraries in encouraging consumption of digital products. Casa del Libro, a predominant Spanish bookseller has dived headfirst into this challenge, determined not to be dwarfed by e-commerce giants such as Amazon and Apple. The company has integrated a cloud-based digital library and store that provides a range of content straight to your device and has on its side an established network of loyal Spanish readers.
In a futuristic twist, Gil has predicted that books will become multi-media, with the integration of 3D technology with “virtual and augmented reality”. You can imagine that digital publishing opens up exciting opportunities to stretch the boundaries of how we interact with and consume media products.
Training in digital publishing
3Si, along with its European partners, are creating a credit-based qualification for those interested in entering the digital publishing industry. It will include units on content, production, design, marketing, and business models. Later this year, we plan to pilot the qualification by delivering a course with the International University of Andalucia. Keep a look out for future updates and information on this Erasmus+ funded project by following our social media.