News

Industry struggling with digital skills lag

The books industry is not doing enough to attract and train staff to take advantage of the surge in e-book sales, this year’s Digital Book Census survey from The Bookseller has found.

The survey of more than 2,200 people, nearly three quarters of whom work in the industry, revealed that more than half (51.1%) of publishers now have a dedicated digital department or unit. Around one in five (22.8%) say they have increased their overall staff numbers as a result of the shift to digital.

But despite these efforts to reinforce digital publishing functions, many survey respondents still feel publishers are not adequately equipped to handle the opportunities and challenges presented by new and emerging digital platforms. Fewer than one in seven (13.4%) people think the industry is reskilling fast enough to cope with digital challenges.

One respondent said: "Some parts of it are [reskilling], but many traditional publishers are behind the times, both in their concept of their role in the new marketplace, and their unwillingness to upskill their staff quickly enough." Another added: "Some people and some imprints and some areas might be [reskilling], but there is a lot of lag."

The survey also uncovered fears that the salaries on offer in publishing are not pulling in the most digitally talented staff. More than two in five (43.2%) of all publishers responding to the survey felt their salaries were not enough to attract the right people. "There are far more competitive industries out there for those [digitally talented] people," said one.

Staff resources and training will be among the issues to be debated at this year’s FutureBook conference on Monday 5th December. Faber chief executive Stephen Page will discuss his vision for a modern day publisher and how to drive change within an organisation, while a panel discussion chaired by the author Nick Harkaway will address how digital changes the role of the publisher, who the new publishers will be and what skills they will need.

At last year's FutureBook Conference Suzanne Kavanagh, publishing sector manager at Skillset, said it was worrying that only 41% of book publishing companies arranged training for their staff, in comparison to 63% of television companies. Research conducted to support Skillset’s Publishing Digital Futures project identified digital skills and management skills as the two areas with the most significant skills needs.

The full findings of The Bookseller’s survey will be available in the Digital Book Census 2011 published in December.

Comments: Scroll down for the latest comments and to have your say

By posting on this website you agree to the Bookseller comments policy. Comments go direct to live please be relevant, brief and definitely not abusive. Report any "unsuitable comments by clicking the links"

Although digital awareness is growing in the industry a lot of skepticism still exists on how people are trained and in what areas (Sales, Development, Security) and how this will be detrimental to printed business.

I feel the possibilites of digital are exciting but caution is very much the feeling among people right now.

The company I work for were really positive about ebooks / epublishing earlier on in the year and getting us trained up to know about the 'future' but when it comes to actual training then they are not interested. All talk, no action.

I sometimes wonder if managers are worried about their staff being more knowledgeable. I know that companies are worried with regards to the economy but to keep employees happy and to keep the pennies rolling back into the company then they need to invest in 'future proofing' their companies.

The full findings of The Bookseller’s survey will be available in the Digital Book Census 2011 published in December.

An eBook, perchance? ... but even so, will any of us mere mortals be able to afford it?

I am surprised that 41% of companies are arranging training, actually. I wonder how many of those companies think attending a talk about social media counts as digital training?

I think the answer to the salaries part is in training people - people who want to work in publishing do accept lower salaries than in other sectors because they get job satisfaction, but they may need trained to do new jobs just as new graduates need training in editorial or sales skills. Cultural Enterprise and other government agencies can give training on this for free if the company is too small to hire a consultant.

This will be one of the topics discussed at the joint Diversity in Publishing, Skillset, SYP and Stationers' Company event at Stationers' Hall with guest speakers Amanda Ridout, MD of Phaidon, Meike Ziervogel, MD of Peirene Press, Alison Baverstock, head of the MA in Publishing at Kingston University, Mary Ann Kernan, head of the MA in Publishing at City University, and Nicholas Lovell, founder of GamesBrief. There's a few seats left. Is anyone coming from The Bookseller.

(Yes, a shameless plug. I am putting my interweb skills to use).

I should probably complete the plug with this:

https://www.facebook.com/diversityinpublishingnetwork#!/event.php?eid=122692534502445

The cost of producing it has to be covered somehow. Or are you suggesting a government subsidy?

The salaries part is true without question. I have worked in both ebooks and online training, plus in commissioning and editorial of technical books. There are the jobs are out there for sure, but the salaries on offer are extremely poor.

As for training - well I guess there are things you could do, but the best way is to take the staff who want to do it, and get stuck into some projects. That's the only real way to learn.

I have to agree.

I'm pretty tech savvy and came from a creative media industry background - but the programmers, animators and developers I know wouldn't switch to publishing as the salaries are much lower then they can get in videogames, advertising, IT companies etc.

(Thank goodness for little black books and contractors!)

Although digital awareness is growing in the industry a lot of skepticism still exists on how people are trained and in what areas (Sales, Development, Security) and how this will be detrimental to printed business.

I feel the possibilites of digital are exciting but caution is very much the feeling among people right now.

The company I work for were really positive about ebooks / epublishing earlier on in the year and getting us trained up to know about the 'future' but when it comes to actual training then they are not interested. All talk, no action.

I sometimes wonder if managers are worried about their staff being more knowledgeable. I know that companies are worried with regards to the economy but to keep employees happy and to keep the pennies rolling back into the company then they need to invest in 'future proofing' their companies.

The full findings of The Bookseller’s survey will be available in the Digital Book Census 2011 published in December.

An eBook, perchance? ... but even so, will any of us mere mortals be able to afford it?

The cost of producing it has to be covered somehow. Or are you suggesting a government subsidy?

I am surprised that 41% of companies are arranging training, actually. I wonder how many of those companies think attending a talk about social media counts as digital training?

I think the answer to the salaries part is in training people - people who want to work in publishing do accept lower salaries than in other sectors because they get job satisfaction, but they may need trained to do new jobs just as new graduates need training in editorial or sales skills. Cultural Enterprise and other government agencies can give training on this for free if the company is too small to hire a consultant.

This will be one of the topics discussed at the joint Diversity in Publishing, Skillset, SYP and Stationers' Company event at Stationers' Hall with guest speakers Amanda Ridout, MD of Phaidon, Meike Ziervogel, MD of Peirene Press, Alison Baverstock, head of the MA in Publishing at Kingston University, Mary Ann Kernan, head of the MA in Publishing at City University, and Nicholas Lovell, founder of GamesBrief. There's a few seats left. Is anyone coming from The Bookseller.

(Yes, a shameless plug. I am putting my interweb skills to use).

I should probably complete the plug with this:

https://www.facebook.com/diversityinpublishingnetwork#!/event.php?eid=122692534502445

The salaries part is true without question. I have worked in both ebooks and online training, plus in commissioning and editorial of technical books. There are the jobs are out there for sure, but the salaries on offer are extremely poor.

As for training - well I guess there are things you could do, but the best way is to take the staff who want to do it, and get stuck into some projects. That's the only real way to learn.

I have to agree.

I'm pretty tech savvy and came from a creative media industry background - but the programmers, animators and developers I know wouldn't switch to publishing as the salaries are much lower then they can get in videogames, advertising, IT companies etc.

(Thank goodness for little black books and contractors!)