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‘Multiplatform’ marketing, digital rights and print on demand

26 June 2006

'Multiplatform' marketing possibilities and digitisation are changing the way books are sold and exploited. At the recent Licensing 2006 international show in New York the talk was all of the 'multiplatform' possibilities that a property might possess. In the film world the right property, particularly for the children's market, may have infinite possibilities. Retailers like to hedge their bets by going for products and merchandising material which already have a solid audience, which is why bestselling children's novels can be such a hot item.

But it is now also becoming increasingly important to licensors to know that they will be able to sell 'the product' across a range of media, to television, computer games, for wireless and for online sales. Malcolm Bird, Senior VP of AOL Kids and Teens said: 'The online platform is becoming as important as the TV platform in developing content and getting those shows out to an audience.'

The money involved can be enormous. Lucas Licensing's Star Wars consumer products produced worldwide revenues of $3 billion last year.

Meanwhile the growing possibilities of digital publishing are meaning that in the UK the Publishers' Association is negotiating with the Association of Authors' AgentsThe association of UK agents. Their website ( gives a Directory of Members and a code of practice, but no information about the agencies other than their names. The association refers visitors to the UK agent listings from The Writers' & Artists' Yearbook on the WritersServices site. about who owns the rights. The scope of traditional publishing is expanding and contracts need to be expanded too to cover the new possibilities. What do 'volume rights' mean when the item you are licensing may not be a book at all in the traditional sense, but a download?

An important issue which has been thrown up by the growth of print on demand is the question of when the rights in a book should revert to the author. With the new printing technology a book need never go out of print and can be printed 'on demand' indefinitely. Authors may feel that it is unsatisfactory to have an occasional copy supplied 'on demand'. But although they might prefer their publisher to be actively selling their books, on the other hand it's better to have your book available, rather than out of print.

As technology develops it opens up new marketing possibilities - and sometimes threats - for the book, but everything depends on the original creative idea. Authors can take comfort from the fact that intellectual property is king - and it is writers who create the original stories on which the whole business is based.