On a sweltering summer’s evening in Soho, Byte The Book brought together a panel of industry experts to discuss the very contemporary topic of personalised production. Chair Mike Levaggi (Production Director at Harper Collins) led an informative discussion between Mark Searle, publisher at Quarto, Graeme Burton, consultant at MyPhotoMag, and co-founder of LostMyName Asi Sharabi.
Our sponsors Ricoh from left to right: Mark Gedye, Neil McKinstrie, Will Collinge, Graham Moore and Roger Christiansen.
Personalised production, began Graeme Burton, can mean anything from, say, a reader ordering a book that has been out of print for decades to a customised product bearing the reader’s name, or even incorporating them as a character in a story. It’s a practise that’s far more practical now than it once was, largely thanks to the internet, which has finally brought the per unit price down to a practicable level. Mark Searle echoed this sentiment, pointing out that much of the personalisation now being seen in publishing would have been unaffordable, or at the very least uneconomical, only two years ago. He added that although personalisation originally emerged out of the gift and novelty sector, and has largely been aimed at the children’s market, it is beginning to evolve beyond these parameters, with more and more adult readers taking an interest in high quality, intelligently customised products.
Our panel from left to right: Graeme Burton, Mark Searle, Asi Sharabi and Mike Levaggi (chair).
Asi Sharabi, who formed the now hugely successful start-up LostMyName in 2013, described meaningful personalisation as “the meeting point between customer IP on the one hand and a company’s creative, technical or emotional IP on the other”. The customer “co-creates” the product with the publisher, bringing added value to it and, ultimately, justifying a premium price-tag. Breaking into the customisation market, explained Asi, demands certain key skills that traditional publishers don’t necessarily have in their toolbox, such as building e-commerce platforms, mastering customer service, exploiting data and providing robust customer support for when things go wrong. None of the LostMyName team, he revealed, had any publishing experience before they started, and in a sense this worked in their favour. Asi’s own background in internet marketing, for instance, prepared him perfectly for the challenges of direct-to-consumer selling, allowing him to find and capture the audience which is now the lifeblood of his company.
Certain shifts in culture and technology are already having an impact on the landscape of personalised production. Pokemon Go, argued Graeme, has thrust the concept of augmented reality into the mainstream, and it’s only a matter of time before this kind of technology seeps into the book market. Equally, a recent boom in personalised photobooks, reflecting people’s need to physically share their memories with others, has generated significant business in the customisation industry, and shows no sign of slowing down.
3D print samples from our sponsors Ricoh included replica body parts.
In other words, the directions in which personalisation could travel in the future are endless. All it will take are companies willing to listen to their audiences and, using a combination of technology, experience and imagination, push the boundaries of publishing beyond the confines of the simple paperback book.
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