The digital revolution has opened up new opportunities in the publishing industry.

When Nishant travels to college, he finds a comfortable spot for himself in the bus and reads books on his smart phone.

He doesn’t subscribe to any newspaper. Instead he browses online. There are instant updates and information is just a click away. For him, going digital has been a convenient transformation.

The publishing industry in India is waking up to this new reader. It is transitioning into a new platform, where there is a possibility of reaching out to a wider audience at a relatively lower cost and creating new revenue streams.

Bangalore-based publisher Pratham Books was among the first Indian children’s book publishers to make their title “Muchkund and His Sweet Tooth” available in the digital medium.

The title has got more than 6,000 views on Scribd till date.

Skills

Editors, designers, and content providers need to be aware of the expectations of online readers. K. Srinivasan, who publishes a monthly public e-zine — PR-e-Sense, says, “People do not like to read too much text at a time, online. They dislike scrolling too much to get to the end of a story and want to access information as quickly as possible. Also, cluttered pages look worse on digital platforms, people prefer a clean design.”

Additionally, digital publishing requires knowledge of technology. Tina Narang, Publishing Manager at Scholastic India, corroborates, “[Creating] vanilla versions of a printed book simply requires knowledge of the software that converts the book into its e-version. However, digital versions of books that are created especially for this medium requires a designer with specialised knowledge of the software and the processes involved.”

Some of the software used in the industry are Adobe Photoshop, In Design, Illustrator and Flash. Programmers normally use “xcode” for iOS applications and “eclipse” for Android applications. However, these may vary between organisations.

Apart from software knowledge and technical knowhow, editors, designers and content-providers need to have the latest devices and know the innovations to stay ahead of their game.

Beyond technology

However, simply “knowing” the technology won’t be sufficient. Suzanne Singh, Chairperson at Pratham Books, says, “Digital publishing requires people who can help create new engagement models with readers. We require people who understand analytics, social media and are digital innovators. These are early days in digital publishing... [but] we look for out-of-the-box thinkers who believe in the transformative power of technology...”

Education

Digital publishing is at a nascent stage in India and a lot of skills are learnt on the job; although a few courses are offered in this discipline. For example, Chennai-based Digiscape Gallery offers a number of courses in digital publishing. In association with Digiscape Gallery, Annamalai University offers a BSc course in digital publishing.Internationally, courses in digital publishing are offered at institutions such as the Oxford Brookes University in the U.K. and at the Columbia School of Journalism in the U.S.

Career paths

Students interested in a purely media-based job profile, such as working for digital editions of mainstream media, e-newspapers and magazines can also choose to pursue postgraduate courses in new media or digital media.

Students interested in working in this field can look for jobs with websites of various national and local newspapers and magazines, as well as online-only news portals and e-magazines.

A few local book publishers have a full-fledged digital division. They usually have a small team that converts print editions into e-books, which are mainly epubs or pdfs.

Parthibhan Amudhan at BookBox, an organisation that helps publishers digitise their books, says, “There has been a marked rise in publishers looking for companies to digitise their books. At Bookbox, we produce animated stories to help improve reading skills and language learning using Same Language Subtitling. We make sure the content is easily accessible across all existing and upcoming digital platforms such as YouTube, Google Play, Apple Store, Kindle and DTH.”

However, with rising awareness, digital products are being taken more seriously by book publishers. For example, Penguin India launched the Penguin App for smart phones in 2011 and rolled out its e-book publishing venture in 2012.

Hence, opportunities for working with some big ticket book publishers as well as external agencies that specialise in creating digital products exist.

Although jobs vary between organisations, some profiles that students can look at are online editor, online journalist, web-designer, videographer and graphic artist. Digital publishing also requires production personnel as well as software designers who can develop apps and other digital enhancements to bring the content to life. Students with an IT background can also take up a promising career in this field.

(The writer works in children’s publishing.)