The "digitalization" of the book industry is happening so fast and on so many fronts that many publishers are throwing a ton of resources at trying to figure out where to go, and who to follow. My guess is that today's announcement about HarperCollins and the iPhone will only stir this pot more.
But, from my perspective, many publishers aren't (yet) in a position to seriously approach the issues of the digital world. They haven't yet even gotten their product publication workflows straight yet, and still look at very basic things like getting their product information out into the supply chain as unimportant.
The larger publishers, and some other more 'enlightened' publishers have been honing these basic foundational requirements for years. So, they are in a position to move forward to test and experiment with new technologies and delivery methods.
But, many, many publishers are not there, and, unfortunately, they don't even know they are not there yet. We have one customer (who shall remain nameless) who was using more than 75 different spreadsheets and 3 different databases to manage their upcoming titles. They were pushing their bibliographic data out to the trade once a season - and letting it go at that. And, they are not a small press!
Happily, this publisher is now jumping in with both feet to rectify this problem, but it will still take more than a year before they can even think about getting into the digital mix.
Publishers need a foundation before they get caught up in all the hoopla about digital publishing. There are two areas that they really need to have down pat with their print books before they try to go wild on the digital ones:
1. Existing titles, already published - become intimate with the requirements of the supply chain. If a retailer can't get your book it won't sell. period. Larger retailers and wholesalers have fairly hefty requirements and are extremely important conduits, so if you are not aware of what to do, or think its too much of a bother, then find yourself a distributor who can handle this for you.
2. Not Yet Published titles - get your act together and have one source of truth for all your title information. Having 3 or 4 or 6 versions of your pub date flying around is a sure fire way to kill sales. Here too, you need to feed the supply chain as well with advanced title information, and most want it six months ahead of publication.
Thinking that the content of the book is what will sell it is down right wrong in a market with more than 3,000,000 active titles to compete against.
good luck out there.