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TOC Conference Opening Keynote: Is the World Ready For E-Books?

O’Reilly’s TOC 2011 conference opened this morning to a sellout crowd of over 1,300 attendees.  As mentioned in my previous post, the keynotes are being live streamed, so I am reporting on the conference from my home office.  (Originally, other sessions were on the live streaming schedule, but evidently this was an error, and it was also a disappointment!  A number of viewers voiced their disappointment on the Comments or Twitter streams.)

Theodore Gray

Opening keynoter Theodore Gray, author of The Elements and Mad Science (both of which I highly recommend!), described how he created The Elements, both as a printed book and also an iPad app, and the lessons he learned from the process.  He began by wondering if the world is finally ready for “real” e-books.  He published his first e-book in 1992 but had problems with distribution and with combating the free distribution model of the Internet, and concluded that the world was not ready then.  His printed book has sold 320,000 copies in 11 languages, but he found it unsatisfying to have to resort to print to make any money on the book.   When the iPad appeared, he wanted to create an app for the book  but had no tools to do it.  Working with Wolfram Research (of which he is a co-founder) and its flagship product, Mathematica, Grey developed the necessary tools, created the app, and submitted to the Apple store, which put it on preview copies of the iPad, thereby assuring its success.  All production was completely automated; the code was written using Mathematica and database templates, and it was completed in 60 days.  So far, the app has sold 185,000 copies in 5 languages.

Gray’s publishing company, Touch Press, was created to investigate what books would look like in the future and to develop additional products.  Its second app is The Solar System, which features rotating images and integrated videos.  Touch Press operates like a TV production company, with each product being developed by a team of professionals.  It is not a textbook company even though its materials are educational.  It produces enrichment material–things that children would check out because they are interesting, not because they were assigned in a class.

According to Gray, 3 elements are needed to produce a new title:

  1. A real author (not a technical writer) who can tell a real story and produce something you might want to read even if it were not in electronic form.  Print publishers understand this.
  2. Real programmers who can turn the hardware into magic.  Videogame  companies understand this, but print publishers may not.
  3. TV producers with an eye for visual and moving imagery at very high quality and who can make a video that you would watch even if it was not an e-book.

Gray thinks that in the near future 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.  TouchPress, Wolfram Research, and Wolfram Alpha each contribute unqiue aspects of interactivity to a product; for example, in The Elements, one can touch a screen and get current price of gold.  Touch Press is a publishing company, and Wolfram Research is a technology company that creates tools and platforms for licensing to publishers.

Now the world is ready for e-books, and we are here with the technology.  You can to this in your textbooks too!

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and Conference Circuit Blog Editor

O’Reilly’s TOC Conference Sells Out For the 4th Year in Succession!

toc2011 logo

Yesterday, O’Reilly Media announced that its Tools of Change (TOC) for Publishing conference has sold out for the 4th year in a row.  A record number of attendees–over 1,300–is expected.  (And the weather appears to be cooperative–no snowstorms are in the forecast!)  Click here to read the press release.

In addition, O’Reilly announced that the conference keynotes (i.e. plenary sessions) will be live streamed.  So my colleague, Barbara Brynko (Editor-in-Chief of Information Today) and I have planned an experiment.  Barbara will be attending the conference physically, and I will attend it virtually, and then we will compare our experiences.  There have been a number of studies done on virtual conference attendance, but TOC is better suited to it than most because a large part of the conference consists of plenary sessions.  So watch this blog for my reports, beginning on February 15, and also for the results of our experiment.

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and Conference Circuit Blog Editor

O’Reilly TOC Program Chair Discusses Conference Features

Kat Meyer

I interviewed Kat Meyer, one of the Program Chairs of the upcoming O’Reilly TOC conference, and afterwards, I became even more enthusiastic about attending TOC than I was before.  Click below to listen to a podcast of this approximately 20-minute interview.

Meyer TOC Interview

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and Conference Circuit Blog Editor

O’Reilly Releases List of Speakers for Its TOC 2011 Conference

O’Reilly Media has released an initial list of keynote speakers for its 5th annual Tools of Change (TOC) Conference.  The conference theme is “Publishing Without Boundaries”.  According to the conference website, the following will be of particular interest:

  • The opportunities and challenges of a global digital marketplace
  • What’s up and coming in digital design and production
  • Shifts in business models and modes of delivery
  • Legal and ethical issues for 21st century publishers: dealing with territorial rights in a digital world; IP reform; fair use; creative commons; consumer privacy; and copyright
  • The importance of capturing and understanding consumer data
  • Standardization of content identifiers and metadata
  • Whither big box and indie brick and mortars? Will indies establish a foothold in the etail space?
  • The many issues surrounding digital content for libraries
  • Meeting (and anticipating) consumer demands
  • Will dedicated devices flourish or perish?
  • What are the predictions for winners and losers in the mobile space?
  • Advances in EPUB
  • The how-tos (as well as pros and cons) of books as apps
  • Are any parts of the legacy publishing model worth saving?
  • What it really takes to create and operate an effective B2C publishing business

This is an impressive list indeed!  But then, we wouldn’t expect anything less from O’Reilly, given the excellence of its past TOC conferences!

Early registration rates end January 11.

I hope to be there covering TOC for The Conference Circuit; check back here frequently for developments leading up to the conference.

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and Conference Circuit Blog Editor