One Book, Many Covers: Meeting the Challenges of Multiplatform Publishing

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Article ImageHow many platforms do you use to consume media in a given day? Between smartphones, e-readers, PCs, tablets, and even traditional mainstays such as print and television, consumers are getting content from more sources than ever before. While this multitude of content sources offers new revenue streams, it also poses a challenge to publishers seeking to maximize the value of their content on as many mediums as possible.

To complicate matters further, meeting the challenge of multiplatform publishing frequently demands not just adapting the content to fit various mediums but also rethinking parallel processes such as workflow, advertising, and distribution. The ability to bridge the gap between the many forms content consumption can take is becoming a key factor in whether a media producer is helped or harmed by the changing face of content.

The Utility of Mobility: Publishers Embrace Ebooks and Mobile Devices

Mobile device users love content, especially ebooks. Just take a look at the massive surge in ebook sales that is occurring as both dedicated and nondedicated e-readers become widely available. Ebooks offer pitfalls and challenges as well as benefits, such as a marketplace filled with competing platforms and formats. They're also fraught with concerns over piracy and revenue streams.

Although some publishers attempt to control the flow of content with digital rights management (DRM), when global publishing house Springer wanted to distribute its scientific content as ebooks, the company opted for a DRM-free approach that would let it reach many different platforms easily. "Springer believes in giving our users the content they want, irrespective of device and operating system," says Ray Colón, Springer's director of eproduct management and marketing. "We may not be able to always directly serve an individual or a community's unique demands, but there is an increasing number of devices and services providers who support us who can."

Springer made the choice to forego DRM in part because of input that the company received from librarians and library patrons, explains Colón. "Prior to launching eBooks we surveyed librarians and their patrons and found DRM to be a barrier to entry," he says. "Many mentioned the fact that DRM systems don't prevent illegal use of content, they just make it a bit more difficult to access."

Even for a major publisher such as Springer, the jump from print to digital isn't entirely without hiccups. Eproduct development manager Nathan Brothers says that adapting the publisher's sizable backlog of material proved to be a time-consuming process. "The largest challenge that we face is the adaptation and file conversion of our extensive collection of ‘legacy content,'" says Brothers, describing the process as a "massive undertaking," but one which, he notes, is essential if the company is to provide its content to users.

At the same time, Colón says that Springer is also trying to parlay its digital audience into new forms of promotion. "It's likely that our users read and write blogs, subscribe to various email lists and are on Facebook and Twitter," he says. "Through social media we can leverage our platforms by following trends and topics that allow us to promote applicable services."

("Table Pad News" courtest of Shutterstock.)

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For content jockeys, of course, it is the dream: a single information store and automated delivery to multiple platforms in numerous configurations, all at the push of a button. And it is not a new ambition--it predates the tablet and smartphone outbreak by decades. The need for smart content management and the ability to automatically generate customized outputs, then, is greater than ever. Luckily, getting there is easy. All you need is intelligent content and cross-platform code development. (Okay, maybe getting there sounds easy.)