Thoughts on Digital Publishing: Osprey Group Interview

We hope you’ve enjoyed the first three interview blogs in our Frankfurt series, and learned some key insights into the trends and major players in the book publishing industry.

Our final interview is with Rebecca Smart, the CEO of the Osprey Group, a company that proudly refers to itself as an “enthusiast’s publisher” due to its focus on titles that on niche markets. Founded in 1968, the company offers a variety of titles on the 16th to 19th Centuries, as well major wars, modern history, and other military-focused titles.

In your opinion, what are the best examples of digital publishing in action?

The best digital publishing delivers the author’s content in a format and with a style that suits its medium and its purpose – that may well be about publishing way beyond the ebook. There are some very clever non-fiction web-based products starting to appear. Bloomsbury, in particular, now have a number of database-driven publishing projects, notably the Churchill Archive and Reeds Nautical, which they have launched for both academic and specialist consumer audiences. When it comes to stories, I think what Nosy Crow continue to do with their apps is wonderful as they blend superb quality design and illustration with great ‘play’ elements and lovely audio. From a marketing perspective, check out what Penguin are doing with Nicholas Lovell’s book The Curve, it’s very clever indeed.

What do you envision for the future of reading?

It depends on the content and the reader. The future of reading is diverse, that’s for sure. There will be text of different types, lengths and depths, and different ways of expressing visual information. It will be in any subject you care to name, delivered in a wide range of formats, and for every taste. The key for publishers is to be wherever the reader is and actively delivering what the reader wants in an engaging way. That means knowing your specific readers and understanding their needs.

How important is cross-platform publishing for you?

It’s everything, but for me ‘cross-platform’ means more than just having your ebooks available on all platforms. It means working with the authors’ text and visual material to give readers the best experience possible. Within Osprey Group we do this in different ways depending on the type of content. For example, our military history artwork is available as a searchable database and customers can subscribe for access. We also sell some of this content in the form of a monthly WW2 magazine on Apple Newsstand. With our fiction titles, we bundle ebooks with print via partner retailers in a programme called Angry Robot Clonefiles.

What publishers, in your opinion, are leading the way with their digital strategy?

Digital has driven the need for publishers to be more consumer-focused, so for me good digital strategy is about good reader strategy. Publishers that are able to link authors and readers and attract both groups will be those that succeed. Digital is merely one route to market that needs to be exploited in ways which best suit the author’s creation and the readers served by the publisher. The three publishers I would highlight are Bloomsbury Academic and Professional, Penguin Children’s and Faber. Each of them is building specific publishing offerings branded for particular markets.

Thanks for reading our blog series, and we’ll see you in Frankfurt!

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