Apple and Google are offering publishers different ways to charge for their content. For one thing, Apple will take a 30 percent cut of subscription revenue and will work with the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, while Google will only take a 10 percent cut and will work with tablets, smartphones, and websites. But an even bigger difference between the two models is the fact that Apple will give consumers the option to give publishers information about themselves, while Google will, by default, give publishers information about their customers.
On the one hand, according to Larry, Apple is just like Amazon, where you can buy products “without worrying about that merchant getting access to your information.” But on the other hand, publishers have traditionally had access to information about their customers, especially magazine publishers, and they have rarely misused that information.
Larry says his problem with Apple lies with the fact that “IOS devices are a relatively closed ecosystem,” meaning Apple can censor its apps for reasons “ranging from duplication of existing apps to its efforts to keep porn and malware from being used on its products.” This means Apple decides what is right for its customers, instead of allowing them to choose.
For publishers, it’s vital to use both Google and Apple to sell their content. But maybe publishers need to push Apple for a little more leeway. After all, publishers have not traditionally been thought of as merchants, and much of the business relies on key demographic information. At the very least, they should make very visible on their apps and content the option for consumers to share their information. And, they need to somehow educate consumers about the importance sharing this information, either by showing how they create the valuable content consumers buy from them, or by gaining sympathy and favor from their consumers by revealing themselves as real people who are doing their jobs, just like anybody else.
Teens do not yet use ereaders as much as adults, partly because they can’t afford to buy a device, and partly because many still prefer the feel of paper in their hands. However, teens do love social media, and once social media becomes a bigger part of these devices—which it’s projected to do in 12-18 months, then it’s expected that more teens will use ereaders, and are more likely to read ebooks. Additionally, more adults are reading YA fiction, which is probably due to the fact that they can buy ebooks anonymously, instead of being seen browsing the children’s section in bookstores.
Publishers believe that more kids will enjoy enhanced ebooks and will be willing to buy them. Currently enhanced ebooks do not make much money, but if kids are more interested in interactive and social media, then enhanced ebooks may be the answer. Still, many kids seem to prefer print—simply because they like to curl up with a good book and because they can actually share a print book.
Libraries are trying to offer more ebooks, but publishers are not quite willing to allow all their ebooks to be used in libraries. The fear is that if ebooks are available in libraries, no one will want to purchase ebooks, but doesn’t the same fear apply to print books? Schools are now turning to ebooks. More and more schools are replacing ereaders with textbooks, which allows them to have more modern curriculum and cheaper textbooks.
What can publishers learn here? Well, it seems that enhanced ebooks should be targeted to the children/teen market. Enhanced ebooks need to be attention-grabbing and fun. And if it’s possible to integrate social media into them (perhaps they can share links to the videos inside?) then they will become even more popular and successful. Publishers also need to find a way to allow consumers to share their ebooks. The tradition of lending books has long been engrained in our culture, and if ebooks do not have that capability, they will always be less popular than print books.
Online marketing has become vital, especially when it comes to the children’s and teens market. Both Random House and Simon & Schuster have their own teen communities online, with RandomBuzzers.com and Pulse It. Pulse It especially has a growing membership, and the site has found that teens enjoy the free ebooks, as well as the contests, blogs, and videos. Online polls have also been successful for publicity and for finding new ideas, as seen with Tom Angleberger’s Darth Paper Strikes Back.
While the physical book is still important to teens, using interactivity, such as how Scholastic promoted Maggie Stiefvater’s Forever book on Valentine’s (they had a video of the author reading an excerpt posted on her Facebook page, and then they sent out e-cards with links to the trailer and a custom heart icon, which teens could fill in with their friend’s names, who would in turn be sent a copy of the first book in Stiefvater’s series).
Webisodes and videos of specific characters or excerpts from a book are also popular, but in the end having websites for the books are proving to be the most effective method. Other marketing ideas include author blog tours and online chapter hunts.
With the YA market booming, it is important to market to teens in a digital environment. Children and teens are incredibly web-savvy, and by using the tools they often use themselves, publishers can successfully reach out to this target audience. The key is interactivity, whether through contests, polls, or otherwise. Publishers should also consider offering limited time free ebooks to entice teens to buy the rest of a series.