Our Futures in Publishing after the Digital Transition

Last week, James McQuivey, VP and Principal Analyst of Forrester Research, shared results and anecdotes from the Digital Book World/Forrester 2010 Publishing Executive Survey in a video (embedded below). The survey was about the attitudes and opinions of publishing executives regarding the digital shift in publishing. And although it revealed a great deal of enthusiasm for digital, there were some details about the transition that deserve a closer look.

In the interview, McQuivney says, “80% of [respondents] told us that there is going to be a need for significant retraining across all levels of their organization. […] significant changes in marketing that will occur and merchandizing.” This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone keeping abreast of industry developments.

He went on to say that respondents foresaw layoffs as an impact of the digital shift: “We had under half, but not too far under half, of our respondents say they expect general staff to go down in this year, not to mention over the next couple of years. However, they all felt pretty confident that digital staff would rise.” The respondents didn’t necessarily think their company’s headcount would decrease, but that there would be a staffing shift moving more staff to the digital side.

People working in book publishing or hoping to land their first job in the industry should take note of this. Publishing jobs are not going to be the same. In the US, some staff will get retrained and reassigned and some staff will be laid off. While this seems make sense in the US, it’s a bit trickier in Canada.

Because of economy of scale, Canadian companies are already lean operations, in terms of staffing. Rarely does a department have manpower to spare. Let me explain: For a large Canadian publishing company to sell 30,000 books they may need to publish 6 titles that on average sell 6,000 copies each. But a large American publisher, in the large American market, may do it with only one or two titles. So Canadians need to put the work of 6 titles in to get the revenue of 1 American title. In other words, to be worth her salary a Canadian editor has to work on a lot more books.

So while American publishers may think they can trim the fat and redistribute the work among fewer staff, Canadian departments are already stretched.

What does this mean then? Each Canadian publishing professional will need to be fluent in digital, the publicist, the production editor, the marketer, everyone. Canadians can’t afford to neglect their professional development because more is expected of them in order to remain relevant and each position needs to cover more ground.

You don’t need to take my word for it. We need to hear from Canadian executives. And that’s why I’ve scheduled a panel at Technology Forum 2011 called The In-House Digital Shift to discuss the future of in-house promotional teams. How will our departments look after the transition to digital? We’ll see if they agree with me and how they see departments adapting to publishing’s future.

What are you doing to secure your spot in the digital future?

Technology Forum 2011 is over 80% sold out. Make sure you secure your spot, register today. Join hundreds of book industry professionals from across Canada for an invaluable opportunity to learn, debate, network and glimpse the future of our industry.

Click here for Digital Book World’s original posting.