Programme

Friday, January 28

De Rode Hoed, Keizersgracht 102 Phone: +31 20 638 56 06

Friday morning, 9.30 am - 12:30 pm
Where are we now?

Sara Lloyd (Pan Macmillan, UK)

In the UK, digital publishing is a fast-growing aspect of every publisher’s business. We haven’t yet thrown our crystal balls away entirely, but we have had to turn a great deal of our attention to some stark everyday realities:

  • Our new customers are not our old customers: their different agendas challenge our ability to hold our own in the supply chain and often clash with our instinct to standardize, making innovation costly. How can we navigate this challenging new territory?
  • Could the rise in digital sales and marketing channels signal the imminent demise of the high street? How can publishers ready themselves for a less localized, more globally homogenous retail landscape? What place is there for territoriality in the new world order? 
  • Authors have traditionally been our most valued ‘customers’. Can we remain valuable to them? How can we continue to meet their needs whilst developing new, closer relationships with that other important customer, the reader?

Harry Blom (Springer, USA)

  • Without innovative marketing tools, even a published non-fiction masterpiece will drown and remain undiscovered in an era of global information and entertainment over-production.
  • The illegal copying and free distribution of e-books need not necessarily be a threat to book publishers’ revenues.
  • The book will never be the same: static sequential editions will be replaced by dynamically evolving online stories and the availability of content through cloud computing.

Jos de Mul (philosopher, The Netherlands)

  • Writing, said Plato, ‘will create forgetfulness in the minds of those who learn it, because they will cease to use their memories; they will put their trust in the external written characters rather than the internal use of their own faculties’. It’s an argument heard again today in debates about the delegation of cognitive tasks to computers. Handing over to machines not just the products of our thinking but the rational thought processes themselves is said to undermine human autonomy and wisdom.
  • We are mostly unaware that we are delegating to technology many of the abilities that form an integral part of our cognitive structure and, even more importantly, that it is within this structure that new, typically human capabilities such as writing and deep reading were created. It is not without irony that both the style and the content of Plato’s philosophy is largely a product of writing.
  • The recording of memories in the form of writing relieved humans of the task of remembering, opening up opportunities for the development of new modes of thought. We can expect something similar to occur when we outsource writing and reading abilities to computers and purpose-built systems. This need not reduce or impoverish human literacy, indeed the result may be to expand it, since new technology will once more challenge us to develop new modes of imagination and reasoning.

Discussion

12.30 - 2 pm
Lunch

Friday afternoon, 2 - 5 pm
What’s next?

Henry Volans (Faber & Faber, UK)

  • Are apps just the latest gold rush? What has substance and what is snake oil?
  • What chance do content-led paid apps have of succeeding in a world of free, cheap and advertising-agency-led products?
  • Publishers are in a position to claim this digital space, but the current industry set-up surely hinders innovation.

Marcus Chown (author, UK)

  • Any author involved in the creation of an iPad app, something that is new and cutting-edge, will discover novel possibilities that redefine the concept of the book.
  • Collaboration in a large team instead of working alone creates fears of not having the total control that is normal for an author, a sense that the app might amount to no more than a bunch of picture-led captions, rather than a seamless, story-led vehicle.

Among the new challenges are:

  1. the difficulty of writing in a straitjacket. No story could exceed 275 words since that was the maximum that would fit on the iPad screen.
  2. the difficulty of writing under extreme pressure. Delivering seventeen authoritative, punchy, exciting stories each week, which had to be researched before they could be written effectively meant producing a book in eight weeks instead of the year it normally takes.
  3. the difficulty of writing in extreme secrecy, unable to tell colleagues or even friends what you are doing.

Peter Collingridge (Enhanced Editions, UK)

  • As reading competes with many other entertainment options, the future of trade publishing will depend on innovative products, combined with new ways of building relationships with readers, and new business models that exploit this proximity between publisher and reader.
  • Digital developments are pushing trade publishing from a business-to-business industry into becoming a business-to-consumer industry.
  • These digital shifts are bringing dramatic changes to the ‘reading cycle’ that consumers undergo as they discover, purchase, read and share books. Publishers now have an opportunity to influence each step of this cycle, and those publishers grasping these opportunities will be the successful ones in the 21st century.

Richard Nash (Cursor, USA)

  • The entire business model in publishing is predicated on the notion that printed copy has value, that the monopoly on reproduction we are granted by our authors is our most important source of income. So how do we support knowledge-development infrastructure in a world where the price of digital content is zero and where a copy has no value?
  • This is not an outlandish notion: music and news are both commodities, and efforts to contrive artificial scarcity around them continue to fail. So what will we be able to persuade people to pay for, in order that we can pay ourselves and our authors?
  • Three areas of sustainable value that do not rely on the content-is-king canard - convenience, community, and connection - will be part of the answer.

Discussion

8 pm
Dinner

Ship Chandlers Warehouse, Geldersekade 8
Phone: +31 (0) 6 534 507 58

Saturday, January 29

Saturday morning 9.30 am - 1 pm
Digitally crossing borders

De Rode Hoed, Keizersgracht 102 Phone: +31 20 638 56 06

Chad Post (Open Letter Books / Three Percent, USA)

A reader trying to make a choice in a bookstore is helped by cover images, display space, author recognisability etc. How can we prevent him from getting lost in digital anonymity as he tries to select an e-book?

  1. Is there a way that bookseller recommendations can be replicated in a digital environment?
  2. Will book reviewing, which is currently in crisis, re-emerge as a powerful source of recommendations?
  3. What role will social networking play in cultivating word-of-mouth promotion? 

The digital marketplace of unlimited availability is much more democratic than our current system, with its limited number of titles available at stores and the limited number of presses that can afford to advertise their wares at those stores. This new distribution chain is still unstable, however, and it is subject to co-option by commercial enterprises, especially those with a stake in replicating publishers’ current bestseller strategy. How this plays out against the other, more subterranean impulses of digital bookselling will define what our book culture looks like in the electronic future.

Nicky Harman (translator, UK)

The world of Chinese-translation publishing is a spider’s web in which translators have become enmeshed. Publishers hope that translators will act as unpaid talent scouts, scouring the Web for new authors. But many publishers have unrealistic expectations of what is ‘out there’. Western publishers need to ensure they become better informed about the Chinese literary scene.

Paper Republic.org received a year’s development funding in 2008, in the expectation that by the end of the year we would be able to point to a list of book translations commissioned by Western publishers. We could not list a single one. This failure conceals a much bigger success story, however. Paper Republic has developed a role for itself in informing publishers, in allowing translators to showcase their talents and those of their favourite authors, and in mentoring new translators.

E-publishing in China is often presented as the domain of new, young authors. This not only panders to the West’s cult of youth, it grossly underestimates the medium’s political and cultural importance.

Ramy Habeeb (Kotorabia, Egypt)

E-readers and e-books may offer instant, worldwide distribution channels, but they are not replacements for the basics. E-readers are not a books-in-print catalogue, e-books are not an excuse to ignore ISBNs, e-distribution does not allocate author or publisher rights in a proper manner nor is it a replacement for proper contracts. In emerging economies, e-readers and e-books should help the publishing industry to grow, but the basics must be in place for a durable, internationally successful publishing industry to emerge.

The power of promotion is as important in e-publishing as book digitization. Although e-publishing is a great means of getting your book out there, the internet is a far more diverse tool for publishers and authors.  For example, in the Arab world there are no bestseller lists and as a result the promotion of specific titles can be haphazard, relying on word of mouth. With blogs, publisher sites and e-sales, the internet can become an extremely effective promotional tool for hardcopy sales.

The best way to combat censorship is not to condemn the censors but to build a market. E-publishing is a tool for expanding and facilitating the market for books. It is also a great way of getting around censorship. Besides the three classic kinds of censorship, governmental, institutional and self-censorship, there is a fourth kind, one that is far more subtle: censorship resulting from a lack of infrastructure, which means books are excluded from certain territories. E-publishing helps combat all these forms of censorship.

Discussion

1 - 3 pm
Lunch

6 - 8 pm
Boat trip, including a buffet