"We have to learn from other countries, from other sectors."
Meet our Digital Cross Over partner izneo
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Meet Luc Bourcier, CEO at izneo, which offers a platform of digital comics with a catalogue open to all comic book genres featuring publications from over 220 publishers and independent artists all over the world. izneo is Frankfurter Buchmesse's partner in the cross sector EU project Digital Cross Over which is implemented by IMZ International Music + Media Centre in cooperation with Ars Electronica, Börsenverein Group, Centrica and izneo in the framework of the Creative Europe funding programme of the European Commission. The project team aims to demonstrate and explore the current challenges facing the creative and cultural industries: Who pays for the content created by cultural and creative professionals? How do we reach our target groups in the digital age and how can we learn from players from other industries who are or have been facing similar challenges?
Could you please describe izneo‘s role within the EU project Digital Cross Over?
Luc: I believe that our role mainly consists in representing the B2C side of our businesses. We now have a ten years experience with selling to individual readers digital contents coming from the book publishing industry in French, in English, in Dutch and in German. Italian and Spanish will be coming next. We may be seen as a bridge between book publishers and digital endusers. Our understanding of the issues and challenges when you address the general public with digital content brings a different perspective, I reckon.
How do you see your industry developing during the next five years and where do you see potential links to other creative and cultural industries?
Luc: Digital book publishing will reach much broader audiences in the next five years with the upcoming new generations. Most readers from today have learnt to read fiction and nonfiction in print books, and there was no alternative, so most of them consider it granted that the content they like or need comes first in physical books. Now, everywhere, you can see people under 30 reading much less physical books than previous generations at the same age and most often reading less book content at all since there has been so little promotion of digital reading so far. There is a generation gap and we all have to pay attention to this. In music or in SVOD (Subscription-Video-on-Demand), you see the jump to digital already took place, in countries like Japan, you see digital revenues for manga publishers exceed 50% of their total revenues. Therefore, we have to learn from other countries, from other sectors.
When bookshops and libraries remain closed in times of Covid-19 and no events take place in times of Covid-19, how can the comic book industry reach its audience?
Luc: During the recent lockdown earlier this year our sales went up 300%. This means that when people have more time available and less real life distractions, they can indulge in the discovery of new services and new content. We were 100% ready for it since our business is digital only. However, these were exceptional times and it tells us how much raising awareness of our service, promoting digital reading to the mass-market in times when people are busy again with out-of-home distractions is key.
Last year you visited Frankfurter Buchmesse and THE ARTS+. Usually, your company is present at events related to the publishing sector. In your opinion, what can we learn from cross sector events and its attendants?
Luc: Trade events allow us to meet with content providers (current and future ones); we need to keep on adjusting our own strategy to what their strategies are. As a platform, it is key to understand what producers intend to do with their contents, which business models are acceptable to them, what price policies they want to follow, which demographics they target… We currently offer digital comic-books coming from over 250 publishers from all around the world and working in very different sub-genres and still we have to package all this content within one single platform. Watching at how other industries deal with these challenges is always a rich experience.
A look into the year 2025 - how do you think people will engage with digital comic books and which role will new technologies play?
Luc: I tend to believe that digital comic-book publishing will more and more separate itself from the physical world with an ever growing 100% digital content with no print at all being produced. Today, the majority of the available catalogue consists in homothetic digital versions of print books; tomorrow it is highly probable that the majority of the offering will be designed specifically for digital. By 2025, new display technologies or concepts may emerge pushing forward the envelope in terms of drawing-based stories reading experiences.
Thank you very much for the interview, Luc!