Trends, challenges to digital transformation in publishing industry

The need for digital transformation in the publishing industry is highlighted by a paradox that people are consuming more content than ever, but traditional publishing houses are seeing their business dwindling as people’s reading habits have changed. They have gradually moved from print to digital devices to consume the content they want in the most readily available format.
Recently, Director of the Authority of Publication, Printing and Distribution under the Ministry of Information and Communication Nguyen Nguyen has released some startling number that 30 percent of Vietnamese people read books regularly, 26 percent do not read books, 44 percent only read books occasionally.
Trends, challenges to digital transformation in publishing industry ảnh 1 Representatives of publishing houses talk about digital transformation in the sector (Photo: SGGP)
However,  up to 70 percent of Vietnamese people use the Internet. This towering number of people surfing the internet shows an irreversible trend of the urgent digital transformation.
Digital transformation also allows publishers to repurpose material by chunking it into modules, depending on the rights and licensing agreements. Additionally, metadata can help publishers optimize search capabilities so that it is easier to discover and use the content.
First printed in 2012, so far the book A hundred years of finite of Phuong Nam Book and Publisher Association of Writers by author Pham Lu An, a joint pseudonym of writers Pham Cong Luan and Dang Nguyen Dong Vy has been reprinted 30 times, with 300,000 copies.
Although the book has been well-received and it has gone straight to be one of the books on the best-seller list, the two authors have lately decided to empower Fonos, a copyrighted audiobook app that has just been on the market for nearly a year now, to add a new format to the work. In the coming time, some other works such as Lost in the world, Ways of childhood, Find me in the field of the two writers will also be transformed into audiobooks by Fonos.
Author Dang Nguyen Dong Vy shared that with the development of technology, readers have different habits of reading. Publishers ought to bring information, content and knowledge to readers; therefore, they need to take advantage of digital technologies to satisfy readers’ needs. Now, the book A hundred years of finite was published under three forms including paper book, Ebook (electronic book) and Audiobook. These three versions serve different needs of readers.
According to those working in the publishing industry, digital transformation is irreversible. As a matter of fact, readers no longer only read and absorb knowledge through paper books but they also enjoy e-book, Audiobook, Clipbook, and podcasts. After nearly 2 years of launch, the audiobook application Voiz FM has currently had more than 300,000 users with 2,000 books. Moreover, users of the application Voiz FM have paid for more than 15 million minutes or averagely they pay about 2-3 million minutes per month.
In addition to audiobooks, WeWe Company, which owns the Voiz FM audiobook application, also has a Podcast, which can be considered as an audiobook format and a useful channel for book introduction.
Le Hoang Thach, CEO of WeWe shared that at first many people said that Vietnamese people will not pay for listening to books after hearing about the copyrighted audiobook plan. However, after two years, the money the company received from the audience has encouraged the company staff.
After nearly 10 years participating in the Ebook market, the Ho Chi Minh City General Publishing House has produced 3,000 books. Established in 2014, Waka Company has presently more than 3.2 million users and more than 13,000 e-books in the fields of business, skills, literature, science-technology, culture - society, for children. This company also constantly updates and supplements the best-seller books on the market of publishers, publishing companies, domestic and foreign authors.
According to Bui Xuan Duc, Director of the Library of General Science of Ho Chi Minh City, digital transformation is an inevitable trend now, especially when the development of Covid-19 is complicated which the government has imposed social distancing. The library has been digitizing rare and unique documents to serve users on different levels. The number of publications that we have digitized is about 10,000 copies excluding newspapers and magazines. Furthermore, some books are on the library’s website so that readers can read books at home.
Nguyen Thi Diem Phuong, Head of Sachweb Department of HCMC General Publishing House, said that the publishing house has produced 3,000 electronic books in ten years. The Ebook manufacturing process is extremely time- consuming whereas the price is cheap. Worse, she added that piracy has restricted the market of units making copyrighted e-books.
In addition, one inconvenience of the Ebook type is that there is not yet a shared app to serve the needs of readers to read e-books. Currently, each unit has its app, if readers want to read books of any unit, they must download these apps to their phones or tablets.
Diem Phuong admitted she has to download the apps of other publishing houses if she wants to read books. Accordingly, she has high expectations on the policy of digital transformation that management agency on the technology platform investment will create a common playground for all publishing houses to make e-books. There should be a platform, like an ecosystem where publishers and publishing houses put their e-books on it, readers just download a general app to read all books.
Meanwhile, Director of Omega Plus Book Company Vu Trong Dai said in order to quickly respond to the needs of today's users, it is necessary to be more open to electronic publishing activities.
Director Dai said that previously, Minister of Information and Communications Nguyen Manh Hung introduced the program" Make in Vietnam” to encourage businesses, technology organizations and non-technology organizations to invest more in Vietnamese own products in this field.
According to Mr. Dai, the Minister's call includes technology in the publishing sector. To have a breakthrough in publishing technology, state management agencies’ support in the publishing-media field is needed especially for fledgling start-ups.
The Authority of Publication, Printing and Distribution’s data also shows that there has been a positive change in the type of Ebook. Specifically, 213 electronic publications registered in 2018 and 2,050 publications were released with 1.5 million hits in 2020. The number of publishers goes up from five in 2019 to nine now.

By Ho Son – Translated by Anh Quan

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