15 Nov 10 Device specific formats are horrible to support, and I hope they die!

Commented a respondent of our survey on ‘The Current State of Digital Content’. So,  how are things shaping up for digital formats, does everyone in the publishing industry feel the same way? Read on.

Changing the ‘format’ of content
The publishing industry has progressively been going digital. While selling digital contentpublishingsurvey1 is recent, publishers have used digital production techniques/processes that are reliable, stable and efficient. Such processes, however, ended mostly in the creation of PDFs – that doubled as print ready files and/or a product that was to be sold digitally.

But, the rise of the digital market (especially in the context of reading devices) has led to the increase in the number of formats – consumers were spoiled for choice. Each reading device had its own proprietary format and publishers underwent a period of packaging content in every possible format – a period that led to immense pressure on the resources and  the workflow of a publisher.

What is happening now?
Our survey on ‘The Current State of Digital Content’ suggests that there is a shift in how publishers are addressing varying digital formats. Initially, publishers had adopted an all inclusive format policy – one that increased workload, decreased quality and led to dampening of consumer expectations. As the digital market becomes more mature (and it is still a long way from becoming a mature market), publishers have started formulating digital format strategies.

Format_selection_criteriaSource: ValueNotes Research, The Current State of Digital Content, 2010

Please note: This was a multiple-response question

Most publishers we surveyed have indicated that universal accessibility is a driving factor while choosing formats. The increase in popularity of e-book reading devices and mobile devices (smart phones, tablets, touch screen PCs, etc.) has led to publishers consciously identifying formats that are easily supported. Formats such as PDF have emerged as a universal and standard format for the industry. Publishers are also supporting formats that are popular with their respective consumer base, and are actively incorporating such formats. For example, with the introduction of Apple’s iPad, several leading publishers have created content that is specific to the iPad. This content, rich in multimedia, is optimized for the device.

This is not to say that publishers aren’t considering proprietary formats. Such formats (often bundled with reading devices or standalone software) are part of publishers’ digital offerings – the ratio may vary. While some publishers have indicated issues with creating content in proprietary formats, the biggest concern remains creating a unified user experience. Content in one format often does not provide the same experience in another.

Will device-specific formats die?
While there is a move by publishers to produce content in universally supported formats (such as PDF), publishers will still provide content that is device specific or proprietary. Creating multiple formats is not a challenge – almost all publishers we surveyed having indicated as much.

Format_creation_challengesSource: ValueNotes Research, The Current State of Digital Content, 2010

Creating content in multiple formats is manageable for close to 3 out of 5 publishers – challenges of scale, resources and infrastructure being very much under control. The issues and challenges do not lie in the isolated task of conversion, but in the workflow and processes that lead to it.

So, will device specific or properietary formats die out? Unlikely.

Will they be easier to create and manage? Definitely.

Blog,BPO/KPO Services
ValueNotes Research
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