Talking with Eliza Wing of Sideways

Talking with Eliza Wing of Sideways
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Digital technology has brought about a whole new world for book publishing and magazine publishers. Some say it is a world of trouble, others say a world of opportunity. One company that is at the forefront of what they feel is an untapped market is Sideways. I had the opportunity to talk to Eliza Wing, co-founder and President of Sideways and hear her viewpoint on the coming changes in the industry in the near future.

There's so much competition right for apps. How are you different than what companies like Vook are doing?
We are first and foremost a technology company. Our passion happens to be books and magazines which is why we have focused on the great disruption that is occurring right now within the publishing industry. We have developed a platform that allows publishers to take advantage of the Apple devices but also Android, particularly the NookColor. We are not focused on developing our own reader, instead we concentrate on helping publishers take full advantage of all the capabilities that tablets offer. That means that we will extend epub but we won't develop a pure epub product -- there's just too much functionality (including design/layout) being left by the wayside in the way that epub is being displayed by the tablets.

Is the market oversaturated with apps and book/magazine related projects?
Yes and no. Yes, because there are many players who have decided that they "need" to have an app solution and instead of thinking through just what they ought to be presenting to consumers, they are mostly repurposing their print products. That said, we are all experiencing massive and rapid change; I think people need to publish, refine, publish. So following that logic, there can never be enough product out there -- because we are all learning together. If you don't begin to alter your work-flow and how you are thinking about "book" and "magazine" -- then you WILL be left behind. Remember the music industry, the newspaper business. Both suffered and are suffering from the immense digital disruption because they didn't acknowledge the depth of the change. At a certain point, it's too late to play catch-up.

What are some of the projects you're most proud of?
I'm proud of our iPad-only magazine, Sideways (particularly the October issue) which we created in order to help build the platform that we are now utilizing to help our clients. Our David Busch Canon T2i Guide is a good example of how we are able to take a book and re-flow it based on its hierarchy. We hope to encourage publishers to begin to think about all of their assets and how they relate within a hierarchy. Stop thinking about pages, think tags, interrelationships between content forms. And another project, which is our Buddy Edition of Peter Rabbit which is being released shortly will introduce a very important new twist in tablet reading. We also produced a holiday coloring book app for Unicef pro bono because we believe in their mission. I'm proud of that because it exemplifies our company's personality.

What are you doing to make potential consumers aware of you? What is working? What hasn't worked?
Our focus is less on sales of our own apps and more on forming strong relationships with content creators.

For those looking to enter the market right now, what advice do you have?
If you don't feel comfortable with rapid change don't get into it. If you aren't patient with people trying to suss out what all this means in terms of their future and how it impacts traditional publishing don't bother trying to get involved in the business. Just because you understand the technology and perhaps have the resources to help publishers don't assume that they don't understand their audience and product very very well.

If you want to build apps and make a million off of the next Angry Three Birds? By all means give it a whirl, just remember that it is quite hard to rise above the fray and if your app doesn't catch on quickly, it will probably not get much attention.

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