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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

Truly Accessible Books

Jim Fruchterman

Jim Fruchterman

Benetech creates technological products for people with disabilities (blindness, dyslexia, etc.).  Through its Bookshare program, the largest digital library in the world, it distributes over 1 million books per year to qualified disabled readers under a copyright exception.  Fruchterman, Benetech founder, said that this is an untapped market for publishers.  In addition to those who qualify to acquire books under the copyright exception, there are a large number who do not qualify but who are still disabled and want books.  He called those people  “collateral damage in the fight against piracy” because publishers do not allow them to buy books at the same price as qualified persons can.  Fruchterman noted that the publishing industry is one of the most socially responsible.  The majority of books in Benetech’s Bookshare program were donated free (as XML files) by the publishers.  Smaller publishers can send their content to Bookshare, which will create the XML files and return them to the publishers–the publisher does not have to scan the books.  This eliminates duplication of effort and enhances the publisher’s revenues.

We have reinvented accessibility for books.  Producing accessible formats is now as simple as pushing a button.  People with disabilities want to buy these products.  Fruchterman said that 15-20% of college students have a learning disability and may only discover it when they get to college.  How can we help these people?  They should be able to buy accessible books.  Organizations like Bookshare are standing by to help publishers. Although this may not be the most interesting market, these people are potential customers.  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.

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and Conference Circuit Blog Editor

A Reading Revolution

Goodman

Cheryl Goodman

Cheryl Goodman, Director of Publisher Relations at Qualcomm (the leading provider of chipsets for mobile handsets) stressed that 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.  Reading is on the increase, and digital content sales are leading those of print content.  Stickiness is more important than ever.   Unfortunately, most publishers have not engaged with this market and have not changed their digital strategies, so advertisers and marketers will determine what the industry will look like.

Market trends

Market Trends

The largest platform in the world is the mobile handset.  Consumers want more functionality and features; content must live up to the capability of the platform. Consumers will demand that content live not only on their handsets, but perhaps even on their TVs.  Media are shifting; content must be flexible, and publishers need technology relationships and must find new ways to get their content out to the market.

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and Conference Circuit Blog Editor

6 Trends For the Publishing Industry

Kevin Kelly

Kevin Kelly

Kevin Kelly, former Editor and now Senior Maverick at Wired magazine, presented an impressive look at 6 trends that are currently affecting the publishing industry.  He made the telling comment that all of his future works will be in digital form, and said that his latest book, What Technology Wants, is the last printed book that he will write.

Here are his six trends.

  1. Screening.  Screens are everywhere.  We are moving from being people of the book to people of the screen.

    Who would have thought 20 years ago that people would read a book on the phone?  Every flat surface will eventually have a screen on it.  We have not yet begun to see the extent to which screens will permeate the culture.  You cannot tell in advance what is going to be shown on a sctreen–a web page, movie, book….  We are moving from an oral culture to a visual one.
    Interacting
  2. Interacting.  We now interact not only with our fingertips, but with gestures (for example on smartphones), and even with our whole body.  Reading will expand to a bodily conversation.   We also interact with our voices.  You can have a Kindle read to you.  Audiobook sales are rising 5% per year.  Who would have imagined that this would become a major way to read?  In 2011, 2 billion camera phones are in the hands of users.  Eyetracking is becoming a viable way to interact.  Soon we will have adaptive text, in which books look back at us.  Although interactive media failed in a previous era, technology has allowed it to return and be successful.  Now we have nonlinear narratives–alternate endings–to books.  There is far more reading going on than we realize.

    Sharing

  3. Sharing.  Everything is looking in the cloud for information, and the cloud is looking back at us, which is the basis for all sorts of social engagement.   Reading is becoming much more social.  Wikipedia is a single book with 27 million pages.  (Each page can be thought of a little book.)  Eventually all text will be in blue, i.e. hyperlinked, and all books will be linked into one large text–a library.  We read socially, and we must write socially.  We are only at the beginning of sharing.  Everything increases in value by being shared.Accessing
  4. Accessing.  We gain much more value by accessing information rather than owning it.  Why own something if you have instant all time access?  This is huge shift and a fundamental difference in this economy.  For $20,000 you can store every book on the planet.  We will soon see everything available–why will anybody own it?Flowing
  5. Flowing.  Files flow into pages, which flow into streams.  Some well known flows are Twitter, RSS, and Facebook streams.  Books will operate in the same environment.  Flows go through in streams, which are constantly updated and amended.  Our own lives will be a stream of chronological data.  Streams go everywhere and are never finished; they are constantly in flux.
    Generating
  6. Generating (not copying).  Today we have more selection, more quality, and more access–a complete renaissance for reading.  There is no better time for readers than now.  Everybody is benefiting except the producers, and everything is moving towards free.  Publishers are not ready for the idea that books will sell for 99 cents.  The Internet is the world’s largest copying machine.  Everything will be copied.  The only value will be in generatives, which must be generated in context and cannot be copied, for example:
  • Immediacy.  You can get anything for free if you wait long enough.
  • Personalization.
  • Authentication.
  • Findability.  Amazon is selling the findability of a book.
  • Embodiment.  Music is free but its physical embodiment (such as in a performance) is not.
  • Interpretation.  Software is free, but a manual often is not. (O’Reilly’s Missing Manual series has been very successful.)
  • Accessibility.
  • Attention/patronage.

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and Conference Circuit Blog Editor

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

Damage Done By the “Container Model” of Publishing

Brian O'Leary

Brian O’Leary, Founder and CEO, Magellan Media Partners, gave an excellent challenge to publishers in today’s world, and the issues he raised are highly relevant.  I think that everyone in the industry should consider them.

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and Conference Circuit Blog Editor


Publishing of books, magazines, and, newspapers is unduly governed by the containers used for centuries to transmit information, which are in two dimensions, where what does not fit with the container format is ignored.  The process of filling the container therefore strips out the context.  But our world today is one of content and browsers.  We are no longer selling content alone, so the current workflow hierarchy is already outdated.  We need to start with the context.  The containers are an option, not a starting point.  They limit how we think about our audiences and limit how they find our content.  Context should be used to strengthen content; for example on sites such as Craigslist, Monster, or Cookster.  It is time to see our digital publishing brethren as part of a disruptive continuum that affects us all.

Imagine a world where content authoring tools are cheap or even free—one where content can be disseminated in a range of contexts at a push of a button.  That world exists today.  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.  We treat readers as if their needs can be defined by containers.  But in digital world, search happens first.  Publishers are hamstrung by search because they have made context the last thing they think about.  When scarcity was the norm we could live in a limited world.  Editors now have a new and different role—figuring out how what is published will be discovered.

Mental models of physical containers constrain our ability to change.  We often speak of digital content as a secondary use.  Who owns the context that drives discoverability and value in a digital realm?  We are missing the opportunity to develop discoverable content because of digital myopia.  Publishers are increasingly in the content solution business, where the future is giving readers access to content-rich products.  Readers expect publishers to point to the answers they want when and where they want them.  Ours is an era of content abundance which is the precursor to the development and maintenance of context.  Digital abundance is pushing us to create more than title-level metadata.  Early and deep tagging is a structural reality.

Starting with context requires publishers to make a fundamental change in their workflow, and there is not much time to get it right!  Content must become open and accessible and we must adhere to standards.  We need to encourage broader use of our content and provide readers with tools to manage abundance.  Change can be hard.  We can be filled with a sense of hopelessness and failure, but it is a time of remarkable opportunity in publishing, if we make a leap away from what we are comfortable with.

What’s Next For the Publishing Industry?

Sameer Sharif

Many TOC 2011 speakers speculated on the future of the publishing industry.  Sameer Sharif, CEO, iPublishCentral, devoted his entire presentation to that subject.  His firm is a self-service digital content publishing and distribution platform that allows publishers to easily create products and make them available in the cloud.

Sharif said that boundaries in publishing are disappearing, and new opportunities are being created.  A global digital publishing infrastructure and network is being created.  For example:

  • A distributor in Brazil is creating his own infrastructure to support his publisher and retail customers,
  • A consortium of universities in the Middle East is building a locally hosted content and delivery infrastructure so that they no longer need to subscribe to content offerings,
  • Low cost smart phones and tables are penetrating the market in India and creating networks for people, and
  • Local governments in Africa are funding e-reader devices for school children.

Digital strategies cannot just consist of delivering files to Amazon, Google, etc.  A system to store digital files is also necessary. In addition, new network points must be leverage .  We must understand what customers are doing and what kind of content they want.  One solution is to make books available in the cloud to serve customers who want books in any format, any time, anywhere.  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.

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and Conference Circuit Blog Editor

Ignite TOC!

Ignite sessions are rapid-fire presentations in which a speaker has 5 minutes and 20 slides that rotate every 15 seconds to deliver a message  (they result in a lot of breathless people!) and have become a popular feature of TOC.  This year’s session was no exception.  Because of the rapidity of the presentations, it is impossible to report on them comprehensively, but here are a few interesting points that impressed me.

  • Kate Eltham (CEO, Queensland Writers Centre and founder of if:book Australia): Four Things a Catastrophic Flood Taught Me About Social Media …(and One Thing It Taught me About Publishing)
    Social Media is not just about a person.  It collapses emotional distances, and every node on a network has a role to play.  In the recent flooding in Queensland, Australia, Bookseller magazine used social media to track the welfare of every independent bookstore in Queensland.  Conversation occurred within the community.  Publishers must not miss out on the story.
  • Michael Riordan (Director and a founding member, Open Publishing Lab, Rochester Institute of Technology): The Best Students You Should Already Know
    We are in the post-print world where different disciplines are combining.  There is nothing interesting about standing still.  Content forms connections in unforeseen ways,  and students, with the energy of youth, can help you see them and rethink how publishing works.
  • Scott Rauguth (Director, Sales & Marketing, Precision Graphic Services, Inc.): E-Publishing Zen: Nothing to Write Om About, OR What is the sound of an e-page turning?
    Some people say that balance is missing in today’s publishing world.  But balance is not a static concept.  Using digital technologies correctly is an application of balance.  We are no longer working towards a textual goal but a visual one.
  • Charles Stack (Co-Founder and CEO, Sideways, Inc.): My Daddy Killed the Bookstore. And Now he’s Killing the Book: Disruption and Responsibility
    The need for storytelling has not changed, even though we are killing the printed book.  Books have context and communicate both backwards and forwards through time.  They a transmitter of content.  Go ahead and kill the book, but promise your kids you will build them a worthy successor.
  • Patricia Arancibia (Manager, International Content, Barnes and Noble Digital Group): Why Selling eBooks in Spanish in the U.S. and How to Make it Happen in 8 Months
    Barnes & Noble (B&N) recognized that few e-books in Spanish were available, but there was a strong market for them because Latinos were the fastest growing group of Internet users. Spanish is the second most natively spoken language in the world, with 518 million speakers.   So B&N launched NOOKbooks en Espanol, the first Spanish language e-bookstore in only 8 months.  One of the major lessons they learned was that it is important to speak to these customers face-to-face.

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and Conference Circuit Blog Editor

The Publishing Pie–An Author’s View

Margaret Atwood

Award-winning Canadian novelist and poet Margaret Atwood concluded the first keynote session with an author’s viewpoint on the publishing industry.  The “publishing pie” is the entire business surrounding books.  If it dies, will authors die too?  If the future is the net, and it is all free, who is going to pay the authors?  Only 10% of authors make their living writing full time, and they have to work hard a lot.

Publishing tools have a long history, and they are changing.  But change is not always good for everyone.  Have we stopped to think about whether today’s changes are really good or not?   Publishing tools have 3 sides:  the sharp side (upside), the dull side (downside), and the stupid side (where you cut yourself without meaning to).  For example, the stupid side of paper books is that they make good kindling; they are spoiled when you drop them in the bathtub, and they are heavy.  The stupid side of electronic books is that one big solar flare and they are gone, and if the technology changes, you cannot read them.  One good thing about paper is that when the lights go out, you can still read it by the light of a candle.

How will the change in publishing tools affect authors?  Will their slice of the Publishing Pie get ever smaller, as is happening with their percentage of e-book sales?  Will their meager incomes dwindle away?  Advice to the publishing industry: never eliminate your primary source.  Authors are a primary source.  Everything else in the publishing industry depends on them.  Once, authors wrote and publishers “made public”.  Now, authors are under pressure to do more publicity.  Today they are told they must:

  • Make an electronic version of their manuscript for the publisher,
  • Go on book-signing tours and sign books,
  • Tweet, blog, and create a Facebook page,
  • Appear in public and give interviews,
  • And more…

This added workload is causing unrest among some primary sources.  Is the old model still viable for authors?  Whatever publishing and publicizing tools are available, the author’s problems remain:  how to pay for writing time, how to get published, and how to get the book to the ideal reader.  With an infinite choice for readers, and the Internet making access easy, how can attention be drawn to a particular book?  (This has long been a publisher’s problem.)  Will some of the pieces of the pie join together again?  Will booksellers and electronic retailers become publishers?  Will print on demand allow successful self publishing?  Will some books appear in electronic form first?  And will authors band together to form their own publishing ventures?

Note that in an age of “remote” and “virtual”, there is still a craving for “real” and “authentic”.

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and Conference Circuit Blog Editor

Don’t Stand Still–Get On the Move!

David “Skip” Prichard, gave a strong challenge to TOC attendees.  We are in an amazing time of rapid change in the publishing industry, and the pace is accelerating.  Broadband connections and content in the cloud have brought the world of information to our fingertips.  Everything will eventually be wired to the network; location based services have begun; and personalized content will be taken to an entirely new level.  For example, billboards with facial recognition capability have appeared, and biometric wristbands are now available.  A new Ferrari that monitors brain activity and blood pressure to help control the car is under development.  The University of Washington is researching contact lenses with a virtual reality overlay.  It is obvious that change is here and is not a passing fad.  Even the accepted form of the book has changed to the e-book, and the very definition of a book is changing–Wikipedia’s definition was updated within the last 10 days!

Any time an industry goes into flux, experts making predictions will appear.   If you bet your company on a single prediction, you better be sure you are right!  Who would have thought that the iPad would such a success and would even compete with laptop computers?  Amazon is now selling 115 Kindlle books for every 100 printed books, and 1/3 of all iPad owners also have a Kindle.  Territorial rights of industry players are now being questioned, and the entire book industry business model is changing.  We must have a strategy or we will be like Columbus–he didn’t know where was, and when he got back he didn’t know where he had been.  Your purpose is not to preserve your existing infrastructure.  If something is not a key differenterator, you should consider whether it is not weighing you down and holding you back.

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.  Make certain to change and adapt to the conditions of today.

Here are some considerations relevant today.

  • When you experiment with new models, fail quickly.  There is nothing worse than failing slowly.
  • Change happens at the periphery–it is not always obvious to us.
  • Skill sets are changing; talent is often hidden in your organization.  Finding it and bringing it out is hard work.
  • We need to adapt our organizations.  Our industry has moved.
  • Everything will not change–authors will still have status, curation will still have a role.
  • The only thing that is certain is that we cannot stand still.  We all need to be on the move.

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and Conference Circuit Blog Editor