On April 14th took place Adapting publishing for a mobile audience, a seminar organised jointly by TISP, the London Book Fair and the Publishers Association, dedicated to strategies for reaching out to readers via mobile devices.
The chair George Walkley, Head of Digital of Hachette UK, started by highlighting the degree of penetration of internet and mobile technologies, thus stressing their relevance for reaching out to audiences; he said that mobile technologies represented an important opportunity for publishers as well, given the possibility they offered to tailor content and provide personalised experiences – our smartphones do indeed know a lot about us, and there is also a lot of potential for serendipitous discovery.
Mr Walkley added that mobile internet makes for a much more competitive landscape, where books compete for readers’ time with apps, games, social media notifications, and basically all other media; however, as mobile devices become more and more common, focused on local experiences and tailored to individual users’ needs, publishers have the opportunity to come up with content to match this environment.
David Jackson, director of Storyjacker Ltd, a digital start-up that develops new approaches to story reading and writing, presented his company’s DipIn mobile app, which recently won the ICTomorrow Books on the Move competition to receive funding, and support from The Publishers Association.
DipIn allows users to compare short snippets from hundreds of stories to help them choose their next book: prospective readers get short samples of different books on their smartphone, they can compare them and decide which stories to keep reading, without knowing at first from which books the excerpts are taken, and can eventually choose to get the entire book by download or streaming. The aim is to make getting back into reading fiction easy and fun, enhancing discovery through simple comparison and slicing the task of reading into manageable chunks. As the reader makes choices, the app learns their likes and dislikes, and thus presents a coherent reading history for any user and helps with reader engagement.
According to Mr Jackson, initial testing suggests that casual readers like this approach to discovery; in particular, so-called reluctant readers seem to have responded well to a mobile app that advises them on what to read. The app should therefore be quite an interesting proposition for publishers: as content snippets can be extracted from EPUB files and any existing bibliographic data, the process minimises publisher burden (there’s no need to create content specifically for the app), provides scalable resources for the app itself as well as an industry-standard categorisation base, and requires less than 10% of a book (as per existing agreements on the use of book excerpts).
DipIn offers partner publishers a way to increase e-book sales and to collect data about such sales, targeting casual and lapsed readers, as well as access to market data based on readers’ preferences (prior to purchase) and an opportunity to market a wide selection of e-books. The project’s next phase of development is going to be a closed beta test: developers will collect data on mobile reading habits over time in order to improve the app’s ability to predict habits based on preferences. The target groups for the testing will include regular readers (as a control group), casual readers and lapsed readers.
Casual readers are defined as Millennial males (aged 19-36); they are likely to find other entertainment activities more interesting than books, but love apps and games and spend money online, so DipIn is meant to get them interested in books as well. Lapsed readers are identified as “busy mums” (aged 25-49); they have a positive attitude towards reading but struggle to find time for it, and DipIn sets to find out whether mobile technology can help them carve some time.
Fabien Schmitz, CEO at Gayatech, introduced his company, which specialises in the supply of educational software solutions accessible to students and teachers anytime, anywhere and on any kind of device. The company, founded in 2014 by IT and games entrepreneurs, has found support among education system experts and authorities and is now running tests with some products in schools in France.
Mr Schmitz pointed out the fast growth of the e-education segment and outlined some trends, technologies and challenges for education over next 5 years. In his opinion, blended learning brings new tools to teachers, but of course digital is not all, pedagogy is still fundamental. The education revolution will have to be based on ATAWAD (anytime, anywhere, on any device) and rely on the blending of gaming and learning, as well as focus on content and services at the same time.
Gayatech offers a solution consisting of a flexible cloud-based delivery platform of educational content that enables BYOD (bring your own device), where content can be streamed in a way that is agnostic to formats and operating systems; interdisciplinary 3D serious games are already being built by teachers using local history; the content store provides blended learning tools from multiple media (XML, EPUB, PDF, MPG…) and a semantic push-pull search engine.
The company’s approach is to implement ‘school as a service’: solutions are completely customizable and based on cloud, mobility and ubiquity; 3D gaming is offered, blending digital content from various sources, which is compliant with national and international curricula, local culture and teaching systems. The cloud architecture is also adaptable for school twinning. In terms of content, Mr Schmitz said that Gayatech wants to work with publishers, not reinvent the wheel; his vision is that of setting up an open platform dedicated to the educational sector, which could act as an educational content aggregator (it has been tested as such for about a year in France). It also offers a toolkit for teachers, for blended media scheduling, content creation, classroom process control and pupil supervision and monitoring. The platform has been developed to allow adaptive learning through the evaluation of users’ progress, the provision of instant result snapshots and performance analyses. Via its Gayapp creator, Gayatech also enables publishers of games and apps to create responsive design capable content.
In the ensuing Q&A session, asked about best practices for publishers to work with developers, Mr Schmitz explained that not all publishers were at the same level with regard to digital uptake and stressed the importance of metadata.