Publishers in turbulent times (2)

edición digital

In relation to the book Manual de edición: guía para estos tiempos revueltos, we published the second and last delivery of the interview with the authors: Manuel Gil and Martín Gómez, focused this time on the digital realm and eco-publishing.

Ediciones UCC: If we consider the prompt disappearance of Digital Rights Management (DRM), what do you think will come next?

Authors: Probably, a desirable radical scenario without DRM or, at least, the generalized use of kinder forms of DRM, which not only facilitate circulation of digital contents and their access, but also ensure their durability and build a relationship with users that is not based on hostility and criminalization.

Ediciones UCC: Open access is a much generalized form of DRM in university presses, particularly Ediciones UCC. Yet it seems that this book does not deal with that. Why? Doesn’t it have any advantages?

Authors: We assume and, at the same time, regret the fact that some issues of great relevance, such as open access, exceeded the scope of our book. Colleges and friends of ours such as Joaquin Rodriguez and Joseph Esposito have spent years not only researching on open access, but also promoting it systematically.

We believe that open access is essential primarily for the dissemination of those academic research projects that are totally or partially financed by public funds.

Ediciones UCC: The chapter on book sale talks about “developing and promoting a mix that combines offline and online markets.” I agree. But, isn’t the fact of including more variables in the formula equivalent to doubling the efforts and tasks of the publisher?

Authors: If publishers want to promote and market their products in both offline and online markets, they should take on the cost of doing so. They are two distinct, but supplementary markets or circuits, whose operating dynamics are different in certain aspects. Entering any new scene involves an additional effort for publishers that includes a process of learning and adaptation; otherwise it is not possible to benefit from the supply of a market that one wants to enter without taking on the different costs of doing so.

Ediciones UCC: Let’s stop for a while on the statement: “Any product subject to digital pressure ends up being a service.” How is that possible?

Authors: When the content is dematerialized and digitized, it cannot only be copied and reproduced in an unlimited manner —legally or illegally—, but also consumed on demand by users any time they want and, often, simultaneously. So it becomes a service to the extent that it ceases to behave as a product of exclusive ownership, which is impossible or, at least, difficult to reproduce and cannot be consumed by several individuals at the same time.

Ediciones UCC: The penultimate chapter deals with eco-publishing. This refers to an ecologically sustainable publishing process, but I guess it also alludes to economic sustainability. If a traditionally conceived publishing house is a difficult challenge in itself to take on at present (especially in third world countries), don’t you think that a company that meets responsible consumption requirements is even more unsustainable?

Authors: Currently, the adoption of sustainable production forms and models, from an environmental point of view, is an option, but at some point, it will cease to be so to become an imperative derived from changes that will arise from regulations governing the activity of different links in the book value chain. The industry shall respond to that change by adapting its production forms and models to sustainable regulations and consumption habits that have been for years in the process of definition.

Responsible consumption is due to a change of mindset derived from deep, global transformations in the way we relate to our environment, which affect what we expect and demand from organizations and brands whose products and services we consume. This change of mindset is then reflected on the amendments made to regulations that govern not only the activity of social and economic agents, but also the life of society in general.

Ediciones UCC: If eco-publishing seems to be a matter of publishers in developed countries, as powerful as Penguin or Hachette, in which “all agents participating in the publishing value chain are involved” to achieve this ecological sustainability, what can a small, independent publisher in a country with poor ecological awareness and few management resources do to start practicing eco-publishing? Should it start perhaps by “guilt-based management”?

Authors: Although as things stand today it is possible to start taking steps in this direction, the most reasonable and realistic thing to do is to start adopting eco-publishing practices systematically when the legal, economic, commercial, and social conditions indicating that the environment is prepared for all players in the value chain to embrace such practices individually and collectively, first as a responsible option and then as an obligation, are met.

Ediciones UCC: I have two questions before finishing the interview. Taking advantage of the fact that the last chapter touches on publishing contracts, if not indiscreet to ask, 1) what kind of contract do you have for this book? and 2) maybe this is the responsibility of the book publisher, but how do you intend to distribute it and make it known?

Authors: The Regional Center for the Promotion of Books in Latin America and the Caribbean (CERLALC, for its acronym in Spanish), which is the organization that published the book, has been making efforts to disseminate and promote it, which we as authors have supported since the beginning. In several traditional and virtual media, there have been reviews and comments on the book that, generally, had judged it positively.

To release and editorial product, no effort is too much or enough, especially in these times of overabundant content supply we are living.

Manuel Gil

He has a Master’s Degree in Business Management and Marketing from the Instituto de Empresa in Madrid. He currently combines consulting work in the field of books and activities as a lecturer and professor of various master’s programs in publishing, both in Spain and Latin America. He is coauthor of El nuevo paradigma del sector del libroManual de Edición. Guía para editores, autores, correctores y diagramadoresEl paradigma digital y sostenible del libro and author of Prueba, experimenta y aprende: Marketing para librerías, in addition to being coeditor of the journal Texturas and managing the blog Antinomiaslibros.

Martín Gómez

Publishing consultant and cultural promoter. He has worked for different publishing houses and cultural magazines, as well as for book fairs and cultural centres in Colombia, México and Spain. On his blog El ojo fisgón (The snooping eye) he analyses the current trends in the publishing market.