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Simon & Schuster exec: Digital has grown from 5 to 33 percent of business in three years

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NEW YORK A Simon Schuster executive at the MMA Forum said that although digital does open up opportunites for the publisher, other areas such as discoverability are a challenge.

During the Connecting the Screens session, executives spoke about how the role of content is changing with multiple screens at users disposal. The panel was moderated by Gary Schwartz, president/CEO of Impact Mobile, Toronto.

In the last three years, my business has gone from five percent digital to 33 percent digital because of the nature of the business, which is really excellent and its really difficult at the same time, said Judith Curr, executive vice president and publisher atSimon Schuster, New York.

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Digital publishing
Accordng to Ms. Curr, digital and mobile have changed how consumers discover new books and content, especially in a retail setting.

With chains such as Barnes Noble fighting to drive in-store sales, the industry has undoubtedly been shaken up.

For example, digital sales are hard to measure compared to an in-store sale when a consumer buys a physical book.

To help users discover new content, online retailers such as Amazon are able to build a relationship with users, which creates a new business model for publishers.

Simon Schusterrecently has dabbled with mobile bar codes as a way to engage with readers and deliver extra content.

For example, users can download audio from a book to take with them while on the go.

Additionally, near field communication could be a big opportunity for the book publishing industry with NFC-enabled stickers placed on book jackets that let users take content with them, which could be tied to features such as commerce and location.

[The QR code] is rudimentary technology at the moment, but you cant break it and costs nothing, Mr. Curr said.

With consumers reading from multiple devices, the direct content from authors is the screen with everything else being augmented, per the executive.

Multiple screens
Kate Dohring, founder/owner of Rock It Media, Rochester, NY, also spoke on the panel about the ways that the music and broadcast industries have changed with mobile.

The company recently launched a partnership with Samsung that lets users unlock exclusive content at music events. Via the partnership, consumers can use NFC technology at Ceelo concerts.

The partnership is an example of how the music industry has changed with digital. Music is traditionally used as a promotional item by brands, which is changing to more of a relationship between artists and their fans.

Additionally,the companyis looking for ways to connect users at music festivals with content.

Traditionally, the broadcast industry has been on its own time table where content is planned to be scheduled and aired. Broadcast will always have a place for content, but with multiple screens, broadcasters need to refocus on how consumers access content.

On-the-go content
The publishing industry has undoubtedly been shaken up with distribution rights, but it is getting easier with technologies such as HTML5 and other industry consolidation.

For example, looking at browser history is a good indicator of what kind of content users are most interested in.

When it comes to looking for content though, people like to browse and share with friends and family, according to an executive from OverDrive.

The rise in digital publishing has also made self-publishing a more sustainable way for authors to reach readers.

The executive said that the highest number of book downloads happen between 9 and 11 p.m., showing how consumers are swapping out paper books for digital copies for leisure reading at home.

All of these social and mobile tools are just what we needed, said Steve Potash, CEO of OverDrive, Cleveland, OH.

There are so many relationships that institutions have with readers everything with a screen plays very interestingly, he said.

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York