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Review Frankfurt Book Fair: Opportunities for Publishers & Retailers

As mentioned earlier, I was invited for a panel discussion at the Frankfurt Book Fair on Wednesday. The other panelists were Suzanne Koranyi-Esser (Editorial Director of Reader’s Digest Germany, Switzerland, Austria) and Patrik Jaros (star chef, cookbook author, CEO of FOODLOOK Studio GmbH). Siobhan O`Leary (literary agent, translator and writer) was moderating this panel. Good job everyone!

The panel discussion was quite interesting and some publishers are already playing around with mobile applications. Patrik Jaros mentioned that he released a couple of cooking applications for different mobile platforms (iPhone, Blackberry, Android). Reader’s Digest has also an iPhone app available for download called “ DinnerSpinner” and it is related to RD’s online community of hobby cooks (German version). The discussion was not about mobile exclusively, but digital in general. Questions ranged from “Should the content in an application be released for free or not?”, “Is the classic cookbook dead?” to “What kind of strategy should publishers and retailers follow in the digital/mobile space?”.

In the panel we agreed that the classic (cook)book won’t die off anytime soon and digital publishing will be an opportunity as well as a challenge, especially when it comes to rights management for content and images. Publishers have to work on a strategy that combines both areas. My opinion is that convergence amongst the classic and digital world has a lot of momentum and will be very important in any digital and especially mobile strategy for publishers. For example when someone buys a classic cookbook there must be at least a hint or link to the digital version of it. QR- or Barcodes containing recipes on ingredients you buy are another example.

A big challenge is that expectations of customers are different in the digital/mobile space. When customers buy a printed book, it is a final version and publishers mostly have no more connection to the product and the user. But when users download an application or buy a digital book, they expect updates and new content after a certain time and they might also want to be able to give feedback directly and tie content into their favorite social network.

Our recommended mobile strategy for publishers at the moment is to play around with the possibilities in the digital and mobile space and get involved with what is out there as soon as possible to gain insights and feedback and to define goals. This does not only mean developing applications for the iPhone, but all application stores and devices (widgets to the rescue!). At the end of the day the outcome must be one strategy which integrates classic books, eBooks and mobile applications. And of course it is important not to see customers as one-time buyers anymore, but as a community which publishers have to maintain and take care of.

It was a nice panel discussion. Mobile cookery publishing is still in its infancy and there are lots of possibilities in this space. It is well worth looking at this area for publishers as well as for media and mobile agencies and now is a good time to at least tipping your toes into digital and especially mobile waters.