Global Innovation, Publishing Without Pages, and Visual Editions

The last 3 presentations on Tuesday were on these 3 topics, and they represent innovations in book publishing. (My apologies for the poor quality of the photos.  One thing I have learned from my virtual attendance experiment is that taking photos from your screen is difficult.)

Gus Balbontin

Lonely Planet's Product Range

Gus Balbontin, Global Innovations Manager, Lonely Planet (LP), led off with a description of their travel products and how he and his team are moving the company into the digital publishing age.  He said that the fragmentation of publishing is expanding, e-books and apps are increasing, but processes still geared towards books.  LP is experimenting with products geared to today’s traveler by establishing connections with them.  Here are 3 principles he has learned:

  • Know why you do what you do–it is the only thing that will give you a guiding path.
  • Boundaries and borders are coming down, but the tools of today have the wisdom of 500 years.  Don’t put anything in concrete because circumstances will keep changing.
  • Find a stable way of organizing your content, as well as the culture, mindset, and structure of your business.  Don’t underestimate the bigger problems.

Walter Walker

Walker (Head, codeMantra Publishing Services Division) said that the evolution of publishing has been slow up to now, but XML has brought a whole new dimension to it.  Unfortunately, the industry is still focused on the familiar look and feel of pages, but an XML-generated product has no pages.   Many e-book creators struggle to make new pages look like the old original ones.  We are still in the opening chapters of this new environment.  Moveable content should be having the same effect on the industry as moveable type did in the 1500s.  Writers need to exploit the many capabilities of this new form.

Anna Gerber (L) and Britt Iversen

Anna and Britt are the co-founders of Visual Editions, a London-based book publisher.  They described how they are taking a new and different view of book publishing by developing books with a playful flavor.  Today, we are more visual than ever before, but there is still a need for cultural objects in physical form.  So they have created a new way to tell stories, based on their concept of a visual book, in which the pages are piled on top of each other, and the narrative unfolds as one lifts up each page.  Readers are surprised as they see the story unfold.

A Visual Book

In another experiment, they produced a “book in a box”, where the reader is given segments of a story bound separately and can assemble them to create alternative narratives and endings.  As they pointed out, books do not need a spine and binding; the narrative is what is important.

These experiments are an indication of the innovative directions in which book publishing is moving and how an unorthodox view can lead to new and unusual products.

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and Conference Circuit Blog Editor

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