Frankfurt: Printed book 'has a future'

<p>The heads of four of the world&#39;s biggest trade publishers believe there is still a future for the printed book--but investment in digital technology is essential. </p><p>A Wednesday seminar at the Frankfurt Book Fair saw Penguin c.e.o. John Makinson, Random House c.e.o. Peter Olson, HarperCollins president Brian Murray and Holtzbrinck board member Dr Ruediger Salat tackle a key issue for publishers around the world: how to embrace digitisation and monetise digital sales.</p><p>Makinson was adamant that despite the upheaval digital changes are bringing to the publishing industry, he said: &quot;the book looks to be in rude health.&quot; But he added: &quot;Digital technology is transforming the base of the trade publishing business, and we can see that in the way we are creating content, storing it, protecting it and distributing it and the way in which we are marketing our content. The biggest challenge to us is getting to grips with that issue.&quot;</p><p>Murray said it was essential for publishers to define their roles and add value with digitisation. He told delegates at the seminar: &quot;If you look at other industries, I think the music industry did not create value.&quot; The &quot;spectre&quot; of the music industry&#39;s failure to embrace digitisation was a recurring theme for the panel, with Makinson saying it was keeping publishers up at night. He added: &quot;The speed at which that model has changed--and the tipping point--is what we are thinking about.&quot;</p><p>Both Makinson and Olsen said digital sales currently account for just 1% of their business, but despite this small proportion both also stressed how crucial it was for publishers to focus on their digital infrastructures.</p><p>Murray said HC had added about 12,000 titles to its digital archive in the past two years. &quot;In terms if infrastructure, we are feeling quite digital right now,&quot; he said. &quot;When you&#39;re talking about the digital revolution the first thing that is affected is physical book sales.&quot;</p><p>For Salat a key component to embracing digitisation and driving sales forward was integration with retailers. He believed the tipping point which will prompt mass take-up of e-books will not be an e-reading device, rather it will be about &quot;creating the right infrastructure to offer consumers&quot;.</p><p>Panelists were all adamant that they would tread carefully when investing in new digital techonologies. Murray said HC &quot;has a smaller chequebook&quot; than other businesses in owner Rupert Murdoch&#39;s portfolio, adding: &quot;We don&#39;t want to make a misstep. If we make an acquisition we want to find the right target.&quot; Olsen, meanwhile, said that rather than investing new technologies, &quot;[RH&#39;s] focus will be on digitising content [it] already has.&quot;</p><p>How publishers responded to territorial copyright issues was also tipped as a significant factor for publishers, as was Google&#39;s mass digitisation of in-copyright works. Salat said: &quot;The biggest threat is clearly on copyright. Many of the big traffic-generating search engines are mainly selling advertising so there is no emphasis for giving money to publishers or creative people.&quot; </p><p>Salat later added that Google was the &quot;enemy&quot; in copyright matters, adding: &quot;Opt out should not be an option [with copyright].&quot; But Olson revealed that RH and Google were &quot;close to resolving their differences&quot; over Google&#39;s digitisation of its titles.</p>