Notes from the Digital Symposium (longish)

a wednesday thought piece

My notes from the Digital Revolution in the 21st Century symposium at Darling Harbour a few weeks ago … that were of interest to me as a creator of children’s books:

  • eBooks are happening now – scientific journals and publications, and text books have been in eBook format for a long time and are profitable. Charkin (Bloomsbury) noted that E-publishing is expanding the readership — with digital sales titles are now going to Bolivia and other places that would never have purchased the p-book (printed book). He also said “we need to look after authors” (and I am sure he meant illustrators too)!!!!
  • Specifically for the children’s books we create, these have been slower to the digital revolution – but that can’t last – especially with the introduction of Apple’s iPad and the enhanced Apps that are being developed. There are great Apps (Applications) now for picture books that include Graeme Base’s Jungle Drums and an App is also being developed for 12 of the Beatrix Potter Books, both through the Australian company LoL Software (and then purchased through the iTunes store). See their website and click on the About tab to access a sample of the Jungle Drums App … or http://inyerpocket.com/ or the YouTube clip of Jungle Drums
  • Not every book is suitable as an App, eg: coffee table books — but not many of us children’s writers do those!
  • Many speakers mentioned RIGHTS. Often the rights for the e-book is with one operation and the rights for the p-book with another. It is vital not to divide off digital rights from traditional publishing and it is essential that we check our digital rights of our contracts – which reminded me that I have to check my contracts.
  • Sometimes in the contract negotiations digital rights have been withheld. My take on this is that we need to ask when our books are being published what the publisher is going to do digitally with the rights. There are HEAPS of new software developers out there just clamouring for work to develop Apps for our books. It does cost money (more on that soon) which is why it is better if the publishers organise it … but it’s not the only way. Maybe the model has to be shared with the profits for the App being split between the developer and the creator (us).
  • And there was the issue of territorial rights which so many of us fought hard for with the productivity commission last year. I gather that if the rights aren’t sorted out – the Apple iBook store which is due to open in the US shortly won’t open on our shores – they won’t have the rights to sell the eBooks here.
  • With some ebooks the reader (person as distinct from the mechanism) can not only to buy the eBook but as an added bonus the experience — whether it be meeting the author (in cyberspace), or an addition to the sale all of which can be through the online store.
  • For some publishers creating the e-book is PART of the publishing model – the editors who publish the printed book also publish the eBook. And digital sales DO drive sales to the print book. For Faber, what sells really well in printed form also sells really well in eBook format. Their PoD (Print on Demand) arm FaberFind – has given new life to some of their out-of-print titles. Which make it all the more important to sort out the rights issue.
  • Publishers too are also encouraging CONVERSATION between their readers … through the blogs Facebook and twitter etc, which I guess many of us who have blogs are doing.
  • And finally (for me) the PRICE of the eBook. At the moment this varies widely ragning from MORE than RRP, LESS than RRP, MUCH less than the RRP and in some instances it cost the SAME. The main speakers did state that market forces will eventually settle on what the price should be.
Big Questions:

There were three that stuck out for me:
• What is a FAIR e-book royalty?
• Will e-Books be released at the same time as print books?
• Who has the RIGHTS to the book?

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