Thomas Cox joined IPR License as Development Director at the start of the year and is responsible for platform direction and implementing the latest technology innovations. He has been leading the team that has developed Instant Rights, a new product that leads rights buyers through a simple, automated process to purchase translation rights online. Instant Rights has launched this week.
1) You’ve been working in the field of technology within publishing for over 12 years now. What drew you to the industry in the first place?
I started programming in the mid to late nineties when the internet was starting to take off and the opportunities for innovation and creativity that it provided excited me. Since then I have been hooked, I’ve always also been an avid reader and enjoyed living in Oxford which is one of the UK’s key publishing hubs, so there were plenty of opportunities to apply both of my interests. Content systems were my initial focus, and I’m lucky enough to have been involved in designing and building some great products and services which have always kept me interested.
2) How does working for a big content services providers differ from being part of a small team at IPR License?
I’m enjoying working with a smaller team especially since we are focussing on product development. We can implement projects and features quickly and effectively without some of the hurdles you face at large organisations. It is satisfying to see a product change go from a prototype to live in a matter of weeks instead of months. The team at IPR are all extremely hard working and knowledgeable in their fields so while it is a small team it always feels professional.
3) Instant Rights is an exciting new product launch for IPR. What makes it so unique and how can it help rights professionals monetize their backlist titles?
Instant Rights allows publishers to embed online rights sales into their existing sites and process; for me, this is where it has the most impact. By surfacing their backlist on IPR and embedding our tools into their sites, publishers are providing a quick and easy way to monetize their backlist, improving discoverability and providing a quick and easy process for acquiring rights.
We have gone back to basics during the design phase and focussed on creating a system which is highly configurable for rights sellers and easy to use for rights buyers. Instant Rights is a package of improvements with the aim of increasing ROI for rights deals. Adopting Instant Rights enables publishers to think about their backlist differently, enabling their titles to generate revenue with minimal ongoing involvement and costs.
4) How simple a process it is to use Instant Rights, and do you have to be a member of IPR License to use it?
IPR offer membership based services to right buyers and sellers, so yes you do have to be a member, however, rights buyers can browse the site and discover rights and only when they want to complete a deal do they need to become a member. For rights buyers the process is really simple, find the title you are looking for, enter a few key pieces of information about the deal you are after, pay online and download the manuscript.
For Rights sellers, if you are already an IPR member it is straightforward to add Instant Rights to your account, and it can be configured without needing any additional metadata feeds. For new and prospective members IPR will help set this up as part of our onboarding process.
5) How has technology helped to shape the future of publishing and what would you say to anyone resistant to change?
Where to start on this one…. discoverability has changed drastically over the past 20 years and is continuing to do so. Crowdsourced reviews are just as important to a product as being in physical shops and social media platforms and communities such as Goodreads offer different models for how people discover titles.
Technology has reduced the barriers to publishing, print on demand workflows and self-publishing tools like CreateSpace make it possible for anyone to publish and compete in the same market places. I find this very exciting; there is now a growing community of small/micro publishers that are taking advantage of this.
There is also the less visible side of technological advancements; companies are increasingly looking to cloud-based technology platforms that focus on specific business functions. For me this is an area of real interest, it means that companies can focus on their core business model without having to create their own ecosystem of functions to support that effort.
The publishing industry with the rest of society has gone through a drastic change over the last few decades, and that change is likely to continue. This change will always lead to some people who are resistant to it and to some extent it is impossible to predict the impact of innovation on our lives. However, while the way we live our lives and the jobs we do are changing, I think that these changes are positive and offer many new opportunities.
6) When you are not working in the field of technology, what type of books do you enjoy reading?
I like a bit of a mix, nothing too highbrow so fantasy/sci-fi mostly. I think my mainstay are books by the likes of Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Douglas Adams. Iain M. Banks. I also tend to pick up the latest Crime/Thriller that is going around, girl on a train, etc. and I’m always up for a random recommendation from a friend.
7) Given the choice – print books or eBooks? And why?
Tricky question, I love print books, book shops and physical libraries. Bookshelves are a much less clinical way of discovering a new title, than browsing through a subject category online. However these days I tend to read on my phone. I know people will be looking at me in disgust(myself included) when I say phone but although the reading experience can’t match a physical book or an eReader I always have it with me, so it tends to be easier than taking out a separate device. I’m very glad to see that print sales are heading back up and believe that the formats will happily coexist.