With previously monolithic books now (mostly) digitized and disaggregated into chapters, objectives, tests, case studies and various metatagged bits, a different publishing model is emerging. The disaggregated book, essentially a database of information, offers the flexibility to be printed and disseminated digitally, and/or customized expeditiously. That database, whether from back- or front-list, can now be repurposed, remixed, customized and sold anew.

But publishers from different book segments have also come to realize that while margins on print books are squeezed, e-book prices are not going to rise any time soon, if ever. Print books will still bring in the profits while monetization of e-books remains largely an abstract concept undergoing yet more tests and tweaks.

However, in the digitized book world, print has to change as well. It needs to be adaptable and nimble. It must take advantage of the fact that content is now digitized, and with that comes the freedom to choose “Print”, “PDF/HTML” or “Customize” whenever, wherever and however a publisher or consumer needs a copy.

As for e-books, in order to sell more (and be priced higher for better margin), the content needs to stop being a replication of the printed version. E-content should come in the shape of e-resources for learning and teaching, online tests and assessment, or multimedia ancillaries—all value-added, curated, and created to support and complement the print edition.

In other words, one model that would work best is hybrid publishing—and production—where the best features of print and e-book formats are combined to maximize margins and benefit consumers.

In the educational book space, specifically those in the k-12 segment, where much of the content has been digitized, publishers can quickly make updates and revisions to make the title relevant and current without waiting for the next edition, which may not happen until a couple of years later. Then there is the ability to select and print only chapters required by the school syllabus, thus focusing on what the schoolkids need to learn while, at the same time, reducing the weight of the textbook they have to carry.

Such on-demand customization allows publishers to print less and only as-and-when required, leading to efficiency in inventory and resource management. With less cash upfront (that may end up as dust-covered titles in the warehouse), publishers can put that investment back into manuscript and content development to further differentiate and strengthen their lists.

Student data and learning analytics, derived from learning management systems at schools, educational institutions and e-learning portals, further help publishers and educators to determine what works and what does not. Such data enables content to be adapted and tailored for a specific classroom, course or even student. This means that educational publishing is moving from the traditional inventory- and transactional-based model to one of service- and analytics-led with customized and personalized content.

A hybrid production model will then allow publishers to complement print with electronic format since “printed textbooks are the gateway for technology integration”, observes Udi Chatow, education strategy and worldwide business development manager at HP Graphics Solutions. “The printed format, as the classroom’s curriculum script, can direct and control the access to electronic platforms designed and selected to support the curriculum. This will result in a truly end-to-end educational solution that integrates and connects technology-based assets to form a holistic pedagogical model—a hybrid model that delivers the best of print and electronic to optimize learning outcomes.”

Over in the trade book segment, the current buzzwords are big data, consumer analytics and discoverability. Getting content to work in different sales channels and platforms with minimal cost at maximum speed, and knowing what the consumers need or interested in reading is paramount. Discoverability, on the other hand, helps to push new titles and untested authors in the market. Publishers use sample chapters for test marketing before major rollout, or print just-enough to promote mid-list authors and obtain additional revenues.

Driven by fickle-minded consumers who are highly influenced by community reading sites, discovery portals and social media, the trade publishers’ ability to quickly fulfill retail order makes—or breaks—a title or author. Self-publishing segment, for instance, completely leverages on discoverability to grow and prosper while providing the choice to physically print, or electronically read, a selected title.

With more publishers establishing their own direct-selling websites to generate additional revenues besides harvesting consumer analytics, functionalities such as content customization and on-demand printing have to be added. Thus, identifying the most suitable print production partners has become an integral part of the publishing process.

High-speed 100%-variable digital printing process meets most, if not all, of the requirements. Today’s publishers need the capability to produce anywhere between one copy and tens of thousands with a click of a button, and where files can be moved securely for local (or regional) printing in order to reduce shipping costs and lead times. In short, publishers must look for printing solutions that offer intelligent front-end database management capabilities to customize and/or produce content on-demand, and a back-end of logistical and fulfillment support.

“Rapid delivery of individualized materials to consumers, students and educators is now made possible by high-quality, high-speed HP inkjet and Indigo digital printing systems, which is integrated with book finishing, production management and direct fulfillment solutions,” says Douglas Sexton, director of global publishing strategies for HP inkjet high-speed production solutions, adding that “innovative publishers and book manufacturers are poised to exploit these assets.”

More coverage on digital printing solutions and technology is available from www.publishersweekly.com/HPdigital.