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Shepherd Your Books into the Field of Online Delivery - 11/13/2012 -

In part one of this two-part series, NEA’s Mary Ellen Flannery outlines her recent experiences in going digital and shares the questions she wishes she had asked ahead of time.

By Joe Vallina, MSM

What knowledge will association publishers need to incorporate into their operations as book publishing moves into the 21st century? At a November 5th Association Media & Publishing Lunch & Learn titled "Take Book Publishing to the Next Level” (sponsored by AGS Print & Marketing Communications), content leaders Mary Ellen Flannery, senior writer and editor at the National Education Association, and Betsy Kulamer, director of books at the American Society of Civil Engineers, gave a lively presentation that introduced attendees to many of the new terms and technologies they will need to understand the changes as association book publishing goes digital.

Flannery began the presentation by outlining her recent experience with taking one of her flagship publications digital. She shared some of the pitfalls encountered along the way and gave examples of questions she wished she had asked before embarking on the journey to online publishing. Here are some highlights:

  1. Identify why you’re going digital. Flannery noted that it is important to clarify up front why the organization wants to move forward into the digital delivery arena. Is it because readers or members are demanding it? Because a board member has a pet project? Or is it simply because it would be cool to have in the publishing stable? The answers to these questions will shape the way your association implements its online strategy, says Flannery.

  2. Listen to your content. Flannery told the group that their content should drive their digital format—not the other way around. In her case, due to the engineering focus, she needed a digital format that could easily and accurately express lots of data, charts, and graphs. Other organizations might have a greater need for interactivity and audio/visual presentations, and they should take that into account when selecting their online platform.

  3. Overestimate what it will take. Flannery shared that she was taken by surprise by many of the up-front costs associated with designing a "from-scratch” digital presence for her journal. As all association publishing professionals know, both time and money are at a premium, and unexpected projects such as designing iTunes graphic icons, procuring a content creator license, legal work to review contracts, IT support, and the like all add up in the run-up to launch.

Flannery concludes that it is very important for attendees to contingency plan and then build on extra time and expense for costs and delays that will pop up seemingly out of the blue. In the end, she says, you pay in time (yours) or money (for more full-service vendor support), but there is no getting around the extra work needed to properly transition to the digital side.

Joe Vallina is the publisher of NursesBooks, the book publishing arm of the American Nurses Association, and a member of the Association Media & Publishing Content Creation Committee. Association Media & Publishing thanks Joe for covering this event for our members who were unable to attend.


 

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