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Last week at the Software & Information Industry Association’s Information Industry Summit, I attended a panel discussion on custom publishing moderated by Gregory Brown, Senior Director, Strategic Development at DataStream Content Solutions. The panelists included:

One interesting fact is that the average print run for a title on a Lightning Source, an Ingram platform for print-on-demand, is 1.8 books. According to Skip Prichard, “technology is getting cheaper . . . [the] business model is changing . . . custom publishing has to be core instead of a way to make a few dollars on the side.”

But “custom publishing” is a term still being defined. In fact, if you define it one way, you see some opportunities and miss others.

Matt Turner had a broader definition of custom publishing, one in which print wasn’t necessarily an outcome.  He spoke about products like McGraw-Hill’s Create (currently in beta) and Wiley Custom Select, which are “taking custom publishing, in the broadest sense, digital.”  In his opinion, “custom publishing is pervasive in almost everything people are doing now (books, research, newsletters, etc.) and it isn’t all print.”

And what did the panelists think about the future of custom publishing?

Steve Alpern: “People know what they need and what they’re willing to pay for, and the better you can serve that need, the better it will be for your business.”

Matt Turner: “More people from the top down are talking about re-monetizing content  – everything is personalized.  It’s the  overall trend for the future.  The direction is being set that there is nothing but custom publishing.”

Skip Prichard: The upcoming “entitlement generation” is going to set customization as the trend.  “Content has to be targeted directly to them. They expect  you to know the paper they’re working on [and this expectation] will move from the student to the professional world.”

Matt Turner was the one thinking big.  He left the group with an interesting thought:

What if I could open the doors a little to my own content and package it up for someone else.  Users may find it.  Users may customize it.  There’s a whole business around allowing others to customize [content].

And, in my opinion, custom doesn’t just mean working with the content as-is or the content of only one publisher.

Now that takes custom publishing in a whole new direction.  User-generated content, user-generated data about content, and user-generated compilations of content within and across publishers is really the ultimate in custom publishing.  It’s a far cry from bundling up chapters from a few different books, articles from a journal, or content from just one source.

The future of custom is all about rich, discoverable content and a model that puts the user’s hands on the steering wheel.  Until we get there, publishers will always be trying to anticipate user’s needs, and we will never be able to do so completely.

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Ann Michael

Ann Michael

Ann Michael is Founder and CEO of Delta Think, focused on strategy and innovation in scholarly communications. Throughout her career she has gained broad exposure to society and commercial scholarly publishers, librarians and library consortia, funders, and researchers. As an ardent believer in data informed decision-making, Ann was instrumental in the 2017 launch of the Delta Think Open Access Data & Analytics Tool, which tracks and assesses the impact of open access uptake and policies on the scholarly communications ecosystem. Additionally, Ann has served as Chief Digital Officer at PLOS, charged with driving execution and operations as well as their overall digital and supporting data strategy.

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