Last month in New York City, publishers were looking to the future. At Digital Book World (DBW) 2014 – the largest conference of its kind in the world – everything from social-media marketing and metadata to eBook subscriptions and the self-publishing boom were on the agenda. This exciting event has certainly come a long way since its first, tentative steps getting to know the iPad back in 2010…
The running theme of the two-day annual get-together in the Big Apple was the galloping pace of change in publishing – and how to handle it. With dwindling numbers of high-street bookshops, the relentless rise of the industry colossus, Amazon, and the growing popularity of eReaders and tablets, huge change is not only fully underway, but looks set to stay.
Discussions on a range of techie themes were led by a panel of CEOs from publishing houses including HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster and Macmillan, who were joined by countless smaller houses and 1,500 attendees from across the industry – some of the brightest minds in digital publishing.
In a special two-blog mini-series, we’ll be focusing on the two DBW themes that are most relevant to our business here at Out of House – in this blog, we’ll be looking at the merits of metadata (which follows on nicely from our last blog on big data); next time, the spotlight will be on the subscription eBook model, and how it’s shaping the publishing landscape.
Big data’s little sister
Metadata is the information (about information) that contributes to big data. It’s big data’s little sister, and retailers and libraries need it to classify content, marketeers use it to push out the relevant information at the right time, and users – often without even knowing it – rely on the stuff to discover and select their next purchase.
As we explored last time, data is important for those who need to ensure their content stands out in the ocean of big data, in order to aid science and technology research. But as DBW confirmed – if any confirmation were needed – it’s also crucial for anybody in the business of content creation, who wants that content to be discovered, bought and enjoyed.
Metadata and you
As we all know, book browsing today is less about wandering down dusty bookshop aisles waiting to be inspired, and more about keywords, clicking, searching and viewing. It’s the stuff that works hard behind the scenes to organise browsing lists and match our searches. We use it to filter our options by subject, genre, author, format, ISBN and price point; you name it, metadata organises it.
It’s not a new phenomenon, by any means, but the digital boom has placed metadata at the forefront of book-selling. Whether we’re talking about print titles in traditional bookshops that need effective marketing, print titles sold online or digital-only content – where the entire experience, from discovery to delivery, is in the digital realm – metadata is more important than ever.
The metadata machine
Attendees at DBW 2014 couldn’t have left the conference hall in New York City any surer of the incredible power of good-quality, well-assigned metadata. It’s no longer an option for publishers, or merely the domain of digital-savvy businesses; no, storing metadata in easy-to-read, accessible formats like XML – as we do here at Out of House – has become one of the keys to longevity for anyone creating content.
What’s clear is that in an industry that’s no longer dabbling in digital, but completely awash with technology, the manipulation of this highly sophisticated data-filing system – the metadata machine – is not only desirable, but tantamount to success.