Dr Liz Marchant’s Digital Lunchtime Lecture - Part 1 (#DLL14)

The remaining students file in for Wednesday's lunchtime lecture, chatting excitedly and pulling out sandwiches to munch on. I flex my fingers. Limbering up is important, especially when you're about to scribble down words of wisdom from Dr Liz Marchant, Head of Science at Pearson. Her title causes a knowing chuckle amongst my digital group - we lucked out, our brief is to develop a digital product based on Pearson’s KS3 Science book. This is going to be so very, very useful. We were right, well... sort of.

First and foremost, Liz says that 'clear strategy is key for digital publishing.' I think that this is the most obvious yet useful thing to keep in mind when starting a digital project (or any for that matter). You must ensure that the vision is solid, if you have one good concrete idea you can run with it and build upon it. If the foundations are sound then you should be successful. If not then you can run into huge losses; wasting time, money and effort. Liz emphasises the importance of time management - 'there's no use finishing a project late and then realising that the technology is out of date'. With digital publishing constantly growing and advancing, it easy to see how this could be the most dangerous pitfall.

Liz points out that though digital has many similarities to the way print operates (the process is almost exactly the same), there are some major differences arising from the use of technology. For, example, content is considered differently because of the array of technology that can be used to deliver it:

  • There are more ways to experience it - audio, video, interactive apps, games etc.
  • Hardware itself impacts upon access - ebook readers, websites, smartphone apps...
  • Connectivity and interoperability between software and devices is also a factor.
  • Function and usability can be more important than the content.

Furthermore, the digital publisher develops a different definition of ‘a finished product’ as well as a more direct relationship with the customer.

  • Content is changeable immediately after release (fixing typos etc.).
  • Publishers can allow single user or multiple user access at the click of a button.
  • Often there is a perception that online content means 'free' or 'cheap' as such the publisher must make the customer see that their product is worth spending money on.
  • You can interact with the customer and track what they're doing on your product.

Here is where my group's ears pick up, Liz starts talking about digital projects that Pearson have undertaken in regard to science. We're eager to see where our preliminary ideas fit in. Frustratingly, Liz describes projects that are very similar to the ones we'd thought up. Back to the drawing board gang! Though it's nice to know we're on the same wavelength.

Liz finishes up with a few key points; remember to go beyond what the customer needs and think also about what they want. Often they will not buy something purely because they need it, they've got to desire ownership, especially if it's a repeat purchase. Pricing is subjective, they've yet to find a perfect way to charge for their products especially when dealing with schools who are often on tight budgets. Lastly, the overhead costs for digital products can often be very expensive, therefore knowing people will buy your product before you make it is handy.

(Read about the Q&A in Part 2)

About the author of this article

Ionie Ince is studying MA Digital Publishing and has just started work experience with Angry Robot Books. She can be found on Twitter - @ionieSCULLY and would welcome the chance to chat about books.

Edited by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12 Feb 2014 around 8am

Last edited: 18 02 2014