Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Do eBooks Hold the Keys to Monetizing Web Content?

Digital Book World was challenging, energizing, and inspiring. So many great opportunities and ideas.

One of the challenges we all face is "free." There was some good data and discussion at the conference. Mike Shatzin addresses part of the conversation here in his post on the crowded publishing space. Research presented at the conference showed that 40%-50% of the content downloaded by digital book readers is free, meaning those readers are paying for 50%-60% of the content they are downloading. The reality is that the market expects free content and will pay for what it likes. Free increases the pressure to publish excellent content. Finding the balance between free and paid, how much is free, and how long it is free is something we'll continue to experiment with and discover. I suspect the free equation will remain dynamic--a moving target--and an important part of content pricing strategy.

As a Bible publisher. we've been especially challenged with the proposition of free. The Bible is free digitally everywhere, but that is nothing new. Bibles have been freely available in hotel rooms and church pews for decades, and online for the the past decade. Now we are making it available free by download too, through YouVersion apps and ebook downloads, but we've found other value propositions for the consumer. The text edition is free, but the reference edition with linked cross references and footnotes is one price, and the Study Bible with linked commentary and notes is another price. I'll share more of that at my Tools of Change presentation, MoBible: Why LifeWay Wants You to Play with Your Phone in Church.

One of the more exciting thoughts I had at the conference, though, is the idea that books--ebooks--may hold the key to monetization of web content. For years media companies have struggled with how to monetize content (beyond advertising) when the market expects/demands to get information, news, and entertainment for free. The answer may very well be the ebook. The market understands a book is a unit of text-based content that carries value, and the market has demonstrated a willingness to purchase and consume content digitally in these units. With the new ePub3 spec due out in March supporting external links and HTML5, ebooks also become sellable units and delivery mechanisms for related video, audio, and more external content. Ebooks become the new cross-platform apps.

As Shatzkin pointed out, The New York Times "Open Secrets" wikileaks insta-ebook is a perfect example of a news media company monetizing content in and through an ebook. Yes, the digital marketplace makes it easier for any media company to publish and monetize content and puts more pressure on publishing companies to produce superior product, all of which is only good for reading, readers, writers, editors, and all the rest of us who love books.

No comments: