“The Future Seems to Be Good – For Those Who Survive.” Workshop summary from the ReBoot debate on post-pandemic publishing.
September 20, 2020 by ruediger

With 2 workshops (of 4) into the ReBoot Preparations Tracks, we can report already a load of interesting findings. Overall, it becomes clear on the one side how different the Covid-19 fallout is impacting various markets, segments, and companies, while on the other hand some strong lessons seem to come out across all the observed fields.

Topics of the ReBoot workshops and conference

Nielsen Book shared in the first workshop on consumer trends a wide panorama of how 1HY2020 went in territories so different as UK, Spain, Italy, Brazil, Mexico, India and South Africa. How reading, in the UK for instance, was up 7% after the first wave of lockdowns, yet reading overall was down -4%. In Spain meanwhile, reading went up, in particular among consumers between 20 and 35 (male and female).

Additional insights into developments in additional countries allowed to look into the US (down -4.2% y-o-y by now, with educational K-12 at a staggering -30.3%, but adult up +1.8%, and children &YA up 6.3%, AAP Statshots), or Germany (down -6.8% January to July 2020, with a small growth of 1,3% in July; MediaControl/Buchreport).

But across all markets, brick-and-mortar / stationary retail lags significantly behind the total market, due to increasing online sales everywhere. (James Daunt, head of the British Waterstones chain, reported in another conference recently that online sales in his company had been up 1200% (!) during lockdown, and were still up 400% in early summer.)

But not all is about statistics.

In Workshop #02, on “hybrid publishing”, publishers from markets and contexts as different as Argentina and Egypt, Russia, Italy, Spain, Mexico, Brazil or the US reported amazing case stories of Covid-19 initiated innovation at all levels.

The examples reached from the by now iconic independent booksellers cycling to their customers to deliver books, to a pickup of digitization along the entire value chain. Even smaller publishers rush to digital cataloguing systems to facilitate discoverability for their print books online, and set up ebooks and audiobooks (many for the first time) with digital distributors like Bookwire (a sponsor of ReBoot). Even new digital service companies highlight a thriving business in our conversations, sharing specifics with the attendees.

In Slovenia, two major educational publishers opened their digital learning platforms for free during the lockdown. At first, their servers collapsed, but soon could be backed up by idling IT capacities from closed physical shops, to the point that AFTER the lockdown had ended, and access was not free anymore, paid subscriptions went up by 30%.

This matched well with a baseline found across the board in workshop #01: Especially for independents – publishers and retailers alike -, the strongest buzzword spells #community related services.

Not an entirely new concept, of course, but one that got energized enormously during the past half year. New sales strategies emerge from the pandemic, which are community driven, tightly intertwining physical and digital, especially in local contexts.

Most importantly, many participants in the ReBoot workshops emphasized how critical under the given circumstances a direct relationship to reader communities has become for anyone in the book business. Building social media driven networks and all the tools for an ongoing interaction with consumers has become key in overcoming all the challenges from closed stores and various hurdles in bringing products to customers.

This is not just in Europe, it is everywhere”, we were told by Nathan Hull of Norwegian BEAT, a digital subscription and à la carte services provider for audiobooks and ebooks, and a sponsor of ReBoot.

Tomás Granados Salina of Grano del Sal, an independent publisher from Mexico, summed it all up: “The future seems to be good – for those who survive.

Recordings from the ReBoot workshops and a detailed written summary will be made available to registered attendants of ReBoot, together with access to forthcoming workshops #03 (“Bookselling” on Friday, Sept 25, 16.00 to 18.00 CET) and workshop #4 (“Suppliers”, with among other digital pioneering publishing software provider KNK, a sponsor of ReBoot, on Tuesday, Sept 29, again 16.00 to 18.00 CET).

And of course, attendants will also participate at the big ReBoot virtual Conference on Tuesday, October 13, 2020, from 13.00 to 19.00 CET).

All details at www.rebootbooks.org and updates on Twitter at @rebootbooks

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