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Digital content focus at publishers' event Print Email
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Monday, 08 December 2008 03:10 PM America/New_York

Teen panel offers young consumer insights at ECPA’s conference

Christian publishers exploring digital content opportunities were given food for thought by a group of Christian teens who revealed some of their personal media habits, last month.

Overturning some assumptions, the young participants in a panel session at the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association’s (ECPA) Publishing University (PUBu) conference in Chicago said that despite the other media formats available to them, they still enjoyed reading books and shopped at Christian stores.

But the books they chose were ones that “tell stories,” noted ECPA Information and Education Director Michael Covington.


“They were not interested in self-help books, in how-to books; they were interested in reading about people who struggled like they did,” he told Christian Retailing.

The youthful insights came during a session at the Nov. 2-4 event in Chicago led by Aaron Linne, digital media producer for LifeWay Christian Resources. He also explained some of the latest advances in the digital media world as part of one of seven PUBu learning and discussion tracks.

As part of the digital focus, ECPA offered Twitter mobile phone updates on PUBu proceedings for those unable to attend and encouraged instant feedback from participants at the event.

Actual attendees included Dan Balow, publisher of Oasis Audio, for whom the digital focus was a highlight. The long-term implications of the trend were significant, he said.

“There will still be a need for printed products, but there will be a point when digital distribution will not only be a significant percentage of content delivery, but the lion’s share,” Balow told Christian Retailing. “The question is when, not if.”

At Thomas Nelson, Senior Vice President for Christian Retail Sales and the Ministry Development Group Gary Davidson welcomed PUBu’s addressing the future of P.O.S. data. “We all need to be smarter, and data helps us all do that to create a stronger marketplace,” he said.

Among the other key topics addressed in more than 20 sessions and discussion “community” groups were workflow technology, green publishing and marketing trends. Many informal discussions centered on the challenges for the publishing world with the recent economic downturn.

Though the overall attendance of around 250 was down markedly on last year’s event, the total drop was mostly due to a smaller number of presenters with only a handful fewer registered participants, Covington said.

PUBu was opened by keynote speaker Carolyn Reidy, CEO of Simon & Schuster, who spoke to the CEO Symposium that ran concurrently with the main event and drew more than 20 participants.

The opening evening also saw the presentation of the second annual ECPA/Dickinson Press Book Cover Awards. 

From 63 nominations, the four category winners were: Small-Size Publisher (less than 100 titles annually): David C. Cook for Claudia Mair Burney’s Zora & Nicky. Mid-Size Publisher (101-250 titles): WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson.
Larger Publisher (250-plus titles): Thomas Nelson for Ted Dekker’s Adam. Best Bible: The Literary Study Bible by Crossway Books & Bibles.

Later in the event, there were presentations of ECPA Diamond Awards—for sales of more than 10 million copies via all retail channels—for the KJV Gift and Award Bible (Thomas Nelson) and Bruce Wilkinson’s The Prayer of Jabez (WaterBrook Multnomah).

Platinum and Gold ECPA Awards, marking sales of 1 million and 500,000 copies, respectively, also went to 14 titles in each category. Platinum recipients included William P. Young’s The Shack (Windblown Media/Hachette Book Group USA).