Report: How is Print Adapting to the Shifting Consumer Market in the Digital Age?

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Words by Chris Russell, photos by Daniel Solomons.

The Ivy was packed to the rafters for September’s Byte The Book, which brought together Andrew Davies (Publisher at Immediate Media), Martin Spear (Reprints Controller at Osprey Books), Laila Dickson (Key Accounts Manager at Scholastic) and Maggie Calmels (Creative Global Development Director at Eaglemoss) to discuss the role of print in the industry today.

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Justine Solomons thanks September sponsor, David Birkett of Print on Demand Worldwide  (sitting in the brown suit on the front row).

Carlton’s Lisa Edwards, who was chairing the debate, opened the floor by pointing out that 70% of publishing sales are still in the print arena, and it therefore wasn’t the dinosaur it’s sometimes made out to be. Andrew Davies agreed, revealing that the vast majority of his company’s income still comes from products you can actually hold in your hands. That said, he added that Immediate Media – formerly BBC Magazines, the name behind major consumer magazines such as Radio Times and Good Food – are always looking for innovative routes into the digital market, viewing digital as an important and potentially lucrative extension of their existing print brands. Maggie Calmels echoed this sentiment, explaining that for Eaglemoss, digital content is often complementary to a product, as opposed to constituting the product itself.

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The panel from right to left, Lisa Edwards (chair), Laila Dickson, Andrew Davies, Maggie Calmels and Martin Spear.

Martin Spear spoke at length about print on demand – affectionately known as “POD” – confirming that Osprey are currently in the process of “podifying” all their paperback titles. He enthused about the liberating potential of POD, which not only releases capital that used to be tied up in unnecessarily large amounts of stock, but also frees up the sales team, who previously would have spent much of their time head-scratching about how to sell the remaining 450 copies of a book that had only shifted 50 units. Staff can suddenly devote themselves to more forward-facing activities, which is of course beneficial for everyone. Martin also highlighted the fact that, though it was once seen as little more than “glorified photocopying”, the technology behind POD has advanced so much in the past decade that its quality is almost indistinguishable from traditional print runs.

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Partworks, bookazines, special sales and POD, loads of different types of print shown by the panel

Laila Dickson drew attention to the enormous importance of the collector’s market, and of continuing to create products for the discerning, high-end consumer (Scholastic, she said, have had huge success with deluxe products). More emphasis should be placed on design, concurred Martin, because if print products are aesthetically stunning, their value in relation to digital content will be all the more obvious.

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Some of the Publishing Twitterati

So what exactly is the future for print? Maggie spoke of the growing tendency for things to come back out of digital and into print – bloggers and vloggers becoming authors, for instance, which is a major trend at the moment. Andrew reflected that “we work in a creative industry, and we are here to innovate”, specifically recommending collaboration between book publishers and magazine publishers: “It’s always a good thing and there should be more of it!”. Martin added, rather encouragingly, that one of the major benefits of POD is its ability to resurrect dead books, giving publishers the opportunity to revitalise their back-lists with minimal financial risk.

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Lisa Edwards expertly chairs, all listen rapt

Finally, Laila summed up the mood in the room when she concluded: “We are an adaptable industry. Ten years ago everyone said we were buried… but we’re fine. I’m very positive about the future”.

If you enjoyed this report  and want to keep up with the latest happenings in publishing as well as network with publishers and authors alike join us at The Club at The Ivy on Monday 20th October  2014 .

Click here for more of the official photos of the event.

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