Change in any environment brings with it a wealth of possibilities and opportunities. While publishers have evolved with the dawn of digital, the needs and expectations of readers have evolved as well, making the endgame for digital publishing something of a moving target that publishers must understand in order to thrive, not just survive.

Publishers must know their audience and what they want. In this current digital landscape, there is a proliferation of free or inexpensive content that readers are accustomed to. Newspapers were slow to admit that giving access to stories online for free would hurt their bottom lines as readers cancelled print subscriptions and online advertising revenue failed to make up the difference. But book publishers have the opportunity to take advantage of their own audience in a number of ways.

Trying to bend print-based solutions to fit the new digital marketplace just won’t work. The impact these changes have on managing assets, ecommerce, fulfillment, reporting and royalty calculations (to name just a few) across multiple products, platforms and systems, becomes prohibitive as a result—unless a transition in technology comes too.

Book publishers can tailor their products for the digital reader by fragmenting and bundling content in dynamic ways to re-imagine, repackage and add value.

Unlike the print-only days, publishers are now competing with movies, games, and the internet for reader attention. To add to that, readers aren't often satisfied with a simple word on a page, they want added value—video, audio, animation, source documents—to enrich the digital reading experience.

Once they determine what readers want, publishers must learn how to reach them directly. Subscriptions, timed-access and consortia sales force publishers to rethink access and pricing models, but these innovative ideas can also unlock previously untapped revenue streams and audiences, increasing profitability. With the rise of social media, online communities, and consumer insight, publishers can access information that allows them to focus marketing and sales attention toward acquiring and promoting titles with a built-in audience, taking the guesswork out of publishing.

As digital possibilities emerge and publishers stop being reactive but start testing new product strategies and business models in earnest, they will not only weather the near term but be in a better position to respond to industry-wide disruptions yet to come. We at Ingenta have built our business around the transition into the digital age and if there is one thing we know, it’s that content providers should embrace change if they expect to hit that moving target of profitability in the new publishing world.

Randy Petway, COO, advance, will be speaking about the evolution of publishing in the digital age at the London Book Fair on Wednesday 9 April, 2:30pm, at the Tech Theatre, EC1.