My previous post about Long Tail, primarily highlighted the concept behind this new model, based on the book written by Chris Anderson. The concept of Long Tail can be applied to any industry/business. This is mainly because any traditional setup today can go ‘digital’, thanks to the Internet. As a book lover, I thought of coving Long Tail aspects of book publishing industry in this post. In the lines of music, the publishing industry is primarily driven by ‘best sellers’ thanks to their sheer volume. For a niche writer getting an individual’s book published is not all the early, as publishers need to make upfront investment in terms of editing, printing and distributing books using traditional retail model. Since they are unsure of the success, niche writers and their content remained in backdoors for years together. Thanks to the Long Tail, niche writers can gain significant opportunity to get their books published by creating a viable business around. Want to know how details? Read on.
To start with, content creation is happening in the Internet at an alarming phase. For example, anybody can start writing by creating blog sites at free of cost (ex: Blogger, WordPress). Over the years, such free services evolved big time by offering user friendly interface, advanced editing options, SEO optimization methods and interfacing with social media (Facebook, Twitter etc). All of them can be setup in minutes by doing simple ‘drag-and-drop’ approach. Such democratization of tools has resulted in billions of people flocking into blogosphere, as the blog setup is a ‘non-event’ today. As long as an individual is passionate about writing, he can create wonderful contents in no time. I have personally gone thru this experience by initially setting up Blogspot, followed by Jwritings. Such individual writers (including me) have a set of readers who regularly follow, comment and share the content. There are more than 100 million blog sites around the world, which is really a huge number.
Now comes making a book out of such contents. Thanks to the digitization, there are many of ‘Print on Demand’ (POD) solution providers who can take these contents and create a book out of it using the digital printing, even if it is a single copy. This is way different from traditional offset printing industry, as the printer need to print minimum number of copies in order to ensure business viability. For example, if you want to print wedding cards any offset printer today will not print anything less than a minimum number (say 100). In case of digital printing there are no such minimum or maximum numbers exist as things happen ‘on demand’. In India, I have come across Pothi and Cinnamonteal who offer such POD services. Apart from POD, they also offer conversion, editing and formatting services where the author can design the complete book, which is ready for sale.
The whole distribution and sales can be done online using multiple options. POD service provider themselves offer online shopping cart where the books can be listed. Other options include the author creating a listing in his own blog (by integrating payment gateway) or list it in some of the popular online stores. In case the author has contacts with a retailer, it can be pushed via traditional channels as well. The most important point is, everything happens with button click on the Internet. From the POD provider’s perspective, he can create a community of writers from the Internet, group them and create ‘less number of more books’ ecosystem, which is what Long Tail is all about. Since there is no physical infrastructure required, bunch of existing overheads (supply chain management, demand vs. supply issues, stock management, retailer commission etc…) are automatically removed thanks to the ‘Long Tail’ digital Internet.
There is another dimension for digital publishing, which comes in the form of ‘e-books’. By creating the digital form of books (say in form of PDF document) plus associating Digital Rights Management (DRM), these books can be pushed to any possible device (PC, Tablet, Mobile phone), thereby opening up a new market. Amazon Kindle is already leveraging this model, but when it comes to emerging markets like India challenges are way different which I called out in my post about Aakash ecosystem. When I wrote the Long Tail book review, couple of my seniors referred to few other (related) examples:
- Krishnanum Radhayum – A Malayalam movie which became popular thanks to its marketing and release in YouTube. How can we compare this with getting a chance to direct a feature film?
- BookPrep – POD service offered by Hewlett-Packard (HP) where readers can print some of the old classics which are not currently in print. MagCloud is another example where Magazines can be created using POD.
What other examples one can think of when it comes to Long Tail? How this digital transformation will alter other traditional industries like retail?