Culture is future » Innovation and digital


Interview : "The challenge of data for the book in the digital age"

Interview with Fabien Sauleman, DG Youboox

The Forum d’Avignon launched in 2015 a study with L’Atelier BNP Paribas, aiming at helping businesses and cultural institutions to use the whole potential of data. Before discovering exclusively the first avenues of thought, the working groups of the Forum d’Avignon give voices to experts and innovation drivers, starting with Fabien Sauleman, Youboox’s CEO, about the book in the digital age.

Launched in October 2012 by Hélène Mérillon, Fabien Sauleman and Vincent Daubry the French start-up Youboox is the first streaming website that offers unlimited access to a catalog of digital books of all kinds (novels, comic books, guides practices, travel guides, tests ...).

Forum d'Avignon: How does the book industry face it in the digital age?

Fabien Sauleman: The book industry is conceived as the production and distribution of paper books. The publishing industry was relatively cut off from its consumers through distributors who did not share their customer data.

The arrival of digital books in France in 2011 was seen both with fear and as an opportunity.

The initial idea was that the digital book would provide more data and more knowledge of the consumer to publishers via direct distribution.

The current situation is quite far from this because the direct distribution fizzled and large ebooks platforms (Amazon, Apple, Kobo) do not share their data with the Publishers…

What type(s) are the data produced around the object "book" and who are the players that hold them?

The data in the book industry are of several kinds:

Metadata: generally made by the editor himself

The opinions, notes, comments: usually collected by sales platforms and social networks; publishers can access.

Customer and reading data, the most important since, combined with metadata and opinions, they explain what makes the success or failure of a book. These data are jealously guarded by Amazon or Apple.

Today, streaming platforms such as Youboox raise millions information about the reading habits and can share them with the publishing industry to make it an asset.


How and by whom these data be used?

In a supply strategy, the reading data can explain but also predict the success of a book.

In our vision, the supply strategy (which is rule today) should be affected in the future by the emergence of self-publishing.

The self-publishing platforms (Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) in the lead) will be best placed to identify the best books by the analysis of their data and will be able to propose very early a more exclusive deal to the author.

Starting from several thousand French books published each year by traditional publishing, we will reach tens of thousands with self-publishing. The supply strategy may not take advantage of the publishers. In the US, more than half of the top 100 Amazon sales concerns self-published titles.

Ultimately, we believe that the book industry will reconfigure on a demand strategy. The read data will be used to guide the creation (like Netflix, which produces series in line with the expectations of its customers). To do this, the industry will need an intimate knowledge of its readers.

We are amazed that the American majors, including Harper Collins, massively entrust their catalogs to startups like Scribd Oyster in order to test the model of streaming and also (or especially) to obtain reading data.

Note that these experiments are with start-ups and not with Amazon whose subscription offer (Kindle Unlimited) does not obtain access to these catalogs.


A proposal to help the book industry to take the step of the data?

Capturing and analyzing reading data is the key issue to allow the book industry to succeed its digital transformation. It is in their interest to begin now to test its ability to switch to a demand strategy.