TOC 2011 Wrapup

Kat Meyer

Kat Meyer, TOC Co-Chair, Wraps Up the Conference. (Photo © Pinar Özger, Used By Permission.)

TOC 2011 finished yesterday with about 1,400 attendees–the largest TOC ever.  By all reports, it was an excellent conference, and thanks are due to all the O’Reilly Media staff for their efforts in ensuring its success.  The overarching themes that I came away with are an increasing rate of change in the publishing industry, a strong move to visual technologies, and new products for mobile platforms.  I have summarized some of the salient points below–further details are in the preceding blog posts.

Theodore Gray

  • Is the world ready for e-books?  Yes, it is, and the technology is available.   It is unsatisfying to have to resort to print to make any money on the book
  • Simple static textbooks will be produced as open source projects, and no one will pay for such textbooks, either in print of electronic form. People will, however, pay for enrichment and especially interactivity, which comes in many forms.

Skip Pritchard

  • We are in an amazing time of rapid change in the publishing industry, and the pace is accelerating.   Everything will eventually be wired to the network; location based services have begun; and personalized content will be taken to an entirely new level.
  • If you bet your company on a single prediction, you better be sure you are right! Your purpose is not to preserve your existing infrastructure.
  • Our industry is in the middle of some of the biggest changes we have ever faced.  Acceleration into the future requires new ways of innovation.  Don’t let the company history get in the way.  The only thing that is certain is that we cannot stand still.  We all need to be on the move.

Margaret Atwood

  • If the future is the net, and it is all free, who is going to pay the authors?
  • Have we stopped to think about whether today’s changes are really good or not?
  • Never eliminate your primary source.  Authors are a primary source.  Everything else in the publishing industry depends on them.
  • In an age of “remote” and “virtual”, there is still a craving for “real” and “authentic”.

Ignite session

  • Social Media is not just about a person.  It collapses emotional distances, and every node on a network has a role to play.
  • Different disciplines are combining.  There is nothing interesting about standing still.
  • We are no longer working towards a textual goal but a visual one.
  • The need for storytelling has not changed, even though we are killing the printed book.

Sameer Sharif

  • Boundaries in publishing are disappearing, and new opportunities are being created.  A global digital publishing infrastructure and network is being created.
  • We must understand what customers are doing and what kind of content they want. Publishers must find the right partners to help them with this opportunity. They must start building an infrastructure and make the global market a local one.

Brian O’Leary

  • Publishing of books, magazines, and newspapers is unduly governed by the containers used for centuries to transmit information.  Our world today is one of content and browsers.      The containers are an option, not a starting point.  They limit how we think about our audiences and limit how they find our content.  Mental models of physical containers constrain our ability to change.  We often speak of digital content as a secondary use.
  • A new breed of born-digital competitors is starting with context.  Our challenge is to be relevant to audiences who turn initially to digital content.  Publishers are hamstrung by search because they have made context the last thing they think about.  Starting with context requires publishers to make a fundamental change in their workflow.
  • Publishers are increasingly in the content solution business, where the future is giving readers access to content-rich products.  Early and deep tagging is a structural reality.
  • We are in a time of remarkable opportunity in publishing, if we make a leap away from what we are comfortable with.

Gus Balbontin

  • Know why you do what you do.
  • 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

  • Moveable content should be having the same effect on the industry as moveable type did in the 1500s.

Anna Gerber and Britt Iversen

  • We are more visual than ever before, but there is still a need for cultural objects in physical form.

Kevin Kelly

  • All of his future works will be in digital form; his latest book is the last printed book that he will write.

6 publishing trends:

  1. Screening.  We are moving from being people of the book to people of the screen, and from an oral culture to a visual one.  We have not yet begun to see the extent to which screens will permeate the culture.
  2. Interacting.  We interact not only with our fingertips, but with gestures, and even with our whole body.  We now have nonlinear narratives–alternate endings–to books.  There is far more reading going on than we realize
  3. Sharing.  Reading is becoming much more social. We read socially, and we must write socially.  Everything increases in value by being shared
  4. Accessing.  We gain much more value by accessing information rather than owning it.
  5. Flowing.  Files flow into pages, which flow into streams. Books will operate in the same environment.  Streams go everywhere and are never finished; they are constantly in flux.
  6. Generating (not copying).  There is no better time for readers than now.  Publishers are not ready for the idea that books will sell for 99 cents.  The Internet is the world’s largest copying machine.  The only value will be in generatives, which must be generated in context and cannot be copied.

Cheryl Goodman

  • Most handset or reading device vendors do not have a good content strategy, which makes an excellent opportunity for publishers to function as a conduit to highly curated content.
  • Stickiness is more important than ever.
  • The largest platform in the world is the mobile handset. Unfortunately, most publishers have not engaged with it and have not changed their digital strategies, so advertisers and marketers will determine what the industry will look like.

Jim Fruchterman

  • The publishing industry is one of the most socially responsible.
  • Producing accessible formats is now as simple as pushing a button.  People with disabilities want to buy these products.
  • If we give disabled people an equal chance to access content, they are one step closer to removing a barrier.  They want the dignity of being able to buy a book and be independent.  We need to unlock the potential of books to this community and make them truly accessible for everyone.

I am already looking forward to TOC 2012.  The dates and venue will be announced shortly.

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and Conference Circuit Blog Editor

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