Emprendelibro and the Spanish digital way

EmprendeLibro is an incubation program created by Fundación Germán Sánchez Ruipérez and Factoría Cultural to support emerging initiatives in digital publishing field in Spanish language. In this article, Javier Fierro explains how the programme is born and how it is effectively succeeding in providing an incubation space for new projects addressing the evolution of the digital Spanish market with new solutions for the publishing sector based on the use of technology and the development of new business models.

Digital Publishing in Spain: a “bird’s eye view”

The digital paradigm, which affects almost all areas of society and is significantly modifying preferences and consumption habits of cultural objects, with a progressive and incremental tendency to the use of new channels of access and new formats, should encourage Spanish publishing industry to compensate for the decrease in sales by means of a firm and general commitment to digital products. Nevertheless, recent data of sales figures of electronic books, below 4 percent of overall turnover, show that the development of this line of business still presents a precarious position.

Everyone recognizes the convenience, if not necessity, of developing and consolidating digital strategies. However, it seems clear that, so far, the lack of definition in doing global business models becoming more productive and profitable for all parts of book chain, and the fear of some obvious risks (piracy of digital products continues indicating high rates in Spain) have dominated.

The result shows us a too limited overview of evolution, with a business which has not grown as expected, and which generates limited sales data maintained thanks to the export to Latin America.

In this indefinite area to be conquered, the bravest initiatives are accompanied by small and independents publishing houses – Editorial Intangible, Minobitia, Rayo verde, Sinerrata Editores and others –, which in a very particular coexistence with large distributors (Amazon, Apple, Google), through digital publishing,  look for a path of development as an alternative to the printed book, colonized – this time – by traditional publishing houses and large groups.

To this should be added the emergence and gradual consolidation of innovative trends for the dissemination and commercialization of publishing catalogues, under different models that companies like 24Symbols, Nubico or Bubok exemplify.

It is in this context that EmprendeLibro enters the picture to support emerging initiatives, which are representatives of the opportunities and diversity of approaches which are currently feasible in this sector. It attempts to identify, consolidate and internationalize innovative projects in modern digital industry, through an incubation program including a training program, expert advice in different disciplines and a networking plan for the consolidation of a community which brings together entrepreneurs and professionals, and that it can be used for the sharing and updating of relevant challenges and action plans at any time and context.

Fundation GSR collaborates in this project with Factoría Cultural, a space for the creation and development of business initiatives in the different areas of arts, communication and new technologies, all included in cultural and creative industries.

Emprendelibro – the programme

The program offers support to publishing initiatives arising with innovative approaches within a market in the Spanish language area that is still in ripening process (certainly incipient in some countries) and is progressively adapting to the process of global transformation of the sector.

These are projects which, pursuing very diverse objectives and results, make a contribution to the growing and progressive professionalization of the sector sincethey are conceived from innovative perspectives which incorporate an important technologic component and try to foster new ways for the development of creative industries.

What is critical for these projects is to define clearly all internal and external parameters (associated with each idea, with the publishing industry and with an economy that becomes more and more dependent of the technology and that requires the application of collaborative strategies) which define the development framework of their business and, from them, concrete and implement the business model, the offer of products and services and the procedures and tools to create them by some levels of quality and profitability to become competitive. The pursue of this objective also implies to design relevant marketing strategies through distribution channels and platforms of digital contents, which can be reinforced by efficient marketing and communication plans.

This set of requirements usually exceed the know-how, technical capabilities, infrastructures and financial resources of which emerging companies that – as in the case of those supported by EmprendeLibro – arise from an individual initiative or are composed of a small group of young professionals.

The program launched by Fundación GSR and Factoría Cultural is precisely intended to cover those deficiencies providing the selected projects with the tools and advice they need to face the challenges which will lead to become a successful business reality.

The development cycle

EmprendeLibro was launched in late 2014 through an open call to entrepreneurs over 18 years of age willing to innovate in digital publishing areas such as content creation, applied formats and technology, business models, publishing services and other related services.

Among the more than fifty submitted proposals, a selection committee chose ten proposals that started an incubation process in the space provided by Factoría Cultural at the beginning of 2015, funded by a grant system.

This process, which provides coverage for the entire development cycle of the accepted projects, has the following components:

  • Online and face-to-face advice through a multidiscipline expert team on several topics: new tools and formats of digital edition, digital illustration, design and layout, publishing marketing and communication, new business models, business management, internationalization, etc.

The work of this expert team begun through an analysis designed to maximize the strengths of each initiative and identify factors which can risk their viability. This analysis has meant the redefinition of the original idea under approaches which confer a great solidity and increase their possibilities of consolidating as an innovative business project and with a future in the medium term.

  • A specific training plan through a platform which has more than one hundred of educational short videos, distributed into two groups. One of them is dedicated to modules relating to publishing such as design and production of electronic book, writing and correction, business plan of publishing creation and distribution of electronic books; the other one is focused on transversal topics: technology, innovation, crowdfunding and other funding models, financial management and accounting, brand management, legal-juridical aspects, etc

Thus, the training strategy is done by a “multifocal” strategy, which is not limited to make available a training system like “do it yourself”, but it is supplemented by an advice plan which even provide personalized monitoring to each project through a mentor. This aim is to guaranty an individualized follow-up which enables to satisfy the specific needs related to the singularity and particular characteristics of each one of the projects.

  • The belonging to an on line community of publishing professionals of Spanish language, authors, publishers, illustrators, publishing professionals and managers gathered around a digital platform directed to Latin America, with a huge potential of creation contents.
  • Value added services as the opportunity to participate in recruitment programs of financial resources, access to distribution channels of digital contents, the support to the diffusion and internationalization of each project, and the accompaniment to events of commercialization of products.
  • Participation in an annual professional event related to technology, content creation and new business models, with the presence of the main agents of the publishing industry.

The running projects

EmprendeLibro is in an early stage of its development in April 2015, but it is already possible to see some tangible results that most projects will produce in the medium term.

It is hoped that the results and findings enable to identify a catalogue of best practices as varied as the set of the selected projects which are:

  • Levook, an application for non-fiction e-books, based on a layers structure which adapts the text to the needs of deepening the reader wants.
  • Where is Shakespeare, a digital publishing company specializing in the development of transmedia applications.
  • Blue Planet Tales, an application for digital devices that offers fairy tales based on historical episodes.
  • Reading Riders, a platform for digital marketing news content based in Madrid and New York.
  • Palabras Ludo, an Argentinian application that transforms gaming stories created by young users.
  • Inspector Comic, a program to improve the reading of comics on digital devices.
  • El mago de las palabras, a multilingual and digital publishing project oriented to children.
  • Tirso Ruiz project, a digital publishing house specializing in comics and fantasy and horror.
  • Sello de creación digital, a digital publishing project focused on new formats and expanded reading.
  • La Grieta, a digital magazine aimed at young audiences.

The projects supported base their innovative character largely in the use of technology, some cases as nuclear and explicit element of the product created (Leevok or Inspector Comic, for instance), in others as a means for the presentation and management of the service offered (Tirso Ruiz project, La Grieta The Crack).

Technology itself is also a building block of the whole programme: indeed the resources and the essential services that EmprendeLibro offers to the selected projects (online training content and the digital platform that houses the developed contents and promotes the interaction of the professional community built around EmprendeLibro) are supported by a technological architecture that optimizes their use and their effects.

It is also worth noting the important role played by the program’s website and the social spaces opened on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, LinkedIn and Google+, essential parts in the diffusion of the initial call and that will be used to create a proposal challenges based on a strategy of gamification, which is intended to serve as preparatory exercise for the debates taking place in the event of June.

The program is supported by the Ministry of Culture of Spain. Its managers are already working on the design of the second edition, which will be extended in a more evident way to the Latin American landscape. With this aim, some institutions in the region have been contacted as candidates to become satellite offices of EmprendeLibro.

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