Publishing and technology in the digital world at Liber 2015

The seminar “Edición y tecnología en el mundo digital: el proyecto TISP” was organised on October 7 by the Spanish Publishers Association to present the TISP project and provide an update on its progress, with the involvement of the Spanish partners of the project and FEP. Jesús Peraita, Board Member of EDItEUR and Technical Director of Neturity, opened the session with an overview of the TISP project, stressing its aim to foster the collaboration between publishing and ICT to stimulate business opportunities and policy innovation, as well as its wide range of partners (the Spanish ones being represented in the panel).

The first presentation was made by Luis González, Deputy Director General of the Fundación Germán Sánchez Ruipérez, who spoke about readers, libraries and schools from a TISP perspective, providing some reflections about their role in the framework of the objectives of TISP, and in particular that of fostering innovation through a network of entities in the publishing and ICT sectors.

The speakers panel at the seminar “Edición y tecnología en el mundo digital: el proyecto TISP”

The speakers panel at the seminar “Edición y tecnología en el mundo digital: el proyecto TISP”

Mr González stressed the importance of R&D and innovation for companies and then illustrated the innovation that is taking place in reading as well: today’s reading is characterised by multiplicity (of methods, devices, etc.); digital reading is not just the arrival of Kindle, but hypertextual reading, and as tablets replace e-readers the role of the internet in connecting readers and content will keep transforming reading. Mr González recalled initiatives by FGSR like Readmagine and Emprendelibro, gathering publishers, librarians, distributors, start-ups around the notion of innovation, looking at the figure of the innovative librarian, trying to amplify the voices of readers, of new distributors of digital content, all in order to enhance innovation and make it work for users (readers, librarians), to meet their needs. He drew a parallel with TISP, which also looks at both the publishing and the ICT sectors to find a common ground in the world of start-ups: an entrepreneurial project needs a market, a technology, an economic viability; the equation must include experimentation, collaboration (a focus of TISP) and dissemination (of results), as exemplified by several initiatives for start-ups and libraries launched by Casa del Lector.

Mr González then presented the TISP Smart Book as a rich, informative and collaborative resource, and the TISP recommendations as a transparent way for the publishing and ICT sectors to propose an EU agenda to foster innovation, to influence support programmes and inform policy to stimulate an innovative environment like in the US but in a European way. He recommended for such European solution to pursue a kind of innovation that takes the time to internalise knowledge, arguing that many failures in digital publishing happened because the time of books is different from that of the Silicon Valley, and maintaining that Europe has what it takes to build viable growth models (for libraries, schools, etc.) in the cultural sector.

José Tomás Romero, Coordinator of the platform eNEM in the R&D&I department of AMETIC (the Spanish ICT companies association), introduced his contribution in the framework of publishing and technology in the digital world, recalling how his organisation, based on technology, had accepted the invitation to be a partner in TISP due to the attractiveness of the idea of being at the same table with publishing. While sometimes the two sectors looked at each other as enemies, Mr Romero argued that now they’re learning to look at the other side with different eyes, trying to see how to use ICT to help each other.

He then proposed a reflection on a traditional bookshelf, stating that it was already full of innovation, which could be taken much further thanks to ICT; he provided a series of examples, based on actual books, of the potential for such further innovations: parametric reading (“breaking the book’s fourth wall” with references to time, location, weather, etc.), changing formats (text with different colors, sizes, playing a specific function in the story), different reading paths (footnotes, reading itineraries, reference documents, instructions for readers), interactivity/gaming (different endings, choose your story, interaction, aleatory elements, etc.).

Mr Romero explained that ICT applied to the whole book value chain and that innovation could take place at any stage; this is why TISP looks at the entire value chain, and a survey carried out in the framework of the project highlighted a wide range of areas where R&D&I is needed: digital distribution, file formats, interactive content, multimedia content, e-commerce and more. The TISP consortium is suggesting to the European Commission to fund projects related to publishing, as many players in the sector plan to do collaborative projects integrating publishing and ICT. The survey identified access to finance, lack of scale and lack of infrastructure as some main barriers to innovation. TISP’s recommendations will propose solutions, and at Spanish level, the eNEM platform is also looking into such issues (and has a dedicated group on Smart Publishing); as an example of an initiative going in the right direction, an association of interactive books has recently been created.

Enrico Turrin, Deputy Director of the Federation of European Publishers, spoke about the digital transition in book publishing, explaining that while the first e-books appeared some 40 years ago, a real e-book market had emerged only in the last 5-8 years, as only then did technology allow providing a good digital reading experience to readers. Nonetheless, ICT has been present in the book value chain since its very early times. Driven by technology and innovation as well as by demand, the evolution of digital publishing has been accompanied by the sophistication of reading devices and e-book formats, the increasing penetration of the internet and the digitisation of sectors like scientific communication and education. Now, as new value chains emerge, characterized by phenomena of disintermediation and re-intermediation, new players from the ICT sector are entering the market and the traditional ones are evolving and adapting to the new environment. This generates innovation on many levels: in production processes (with ICT now being present at all stages, from authoring to distribution ad consumption), in final products (with new reading patterns and a multiplication of reading devices) and in business models (with new digital services being offered, going beyond the basic purchase by unit towards rentals, subscriptions, digital bookshelves and libraries and more).

Innovation in products aims to meet the needs of readers, in terms of enhanced accessibility (Font size, text-to-speech, audible menus), embedded dictionaries, lighter school bags, reaching out to the digital natives, providing access anytime, anywhere, on any device (ATAWAD), offering enhanced and interactive content (music, video, note, exercises, etc.), often at lower prices (although producing e-books is not much cheaper than print books). Surely – argued Mr Turrin – the digital transition has brought about also many challenges: viability of business models, piracy, different VAT treatments, technological lock-ups, concentration in the retail market, accessibility, lack of digital skills, need for innovation in rights management, just to name a few.

However, managing this aspect of innovation offers a lot of opportunities for cooperation with the ICT sector, which can help provide solutions in a wide range of areas, from e-commerce to rights management, from enhancing content to market analytics. Mr Turrin explained that the TISP project aimed precisely at facilitating the emergence of such solutions, fostering business innovation in the book publishing and ICT sectors (via enhanced dialogue, mutual understanding, information exchanges) and supporting policy innovation at national and European level (via a set of recommendations stemming from the dialogue between the main stakeholder communities); TISP provides in fact a platform for publishers and technology providers to fill the gaps between them and to bring new ideas into both sectors.

Mr Turrin briefly described the benefits already generated for the partners by their participation in TISP and provided some examples of innovative initiatives in digital publishing (collected in the TISP Smart Book). He then outlined the recommendations (still work in progress), which on a general level call for solutions to address commercial needs and favour further cooperation between the ICT and publishing sectors, touch upon several horizontal policies (ICT to improve mainstream accessibility, enhancing e-skills, improving access to finance and research, enhancing existing infrastructures, etc.) and propose a number of areas for supporting research and innovation in the book sector (enhanced digital products, production and distribution, market analysis and big data, online discovery).

To learn more about the seminar:

DOI: 10.17400/SB-2015-11-02

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