Bookmachine Unplugged – ‘It’s all about Collaboration’

Last night we attended BookMachine Unplugged where a range of fantastic speakers talked us through the theme of collaboration. Starting off with Robert Paul Weston we heard about his exciting plans for digital characters for his Children’s Creature Department, followed by social butterfly Suzanne Kavanagh who reminded us of the importance of skills and people power within the publishing industry. We then heard from Paul Rhodes a publishing, gaming and bear wrestling (yes we said bear wrestling) entrepreneur who gave a fantastic example of collaborating with other industries with great success. Agent Juliet Mushens uncovered the one-on-one collaboration between agent and author and how that impacts the wider collaboration between the publisher and reader. Finally, an introduction to the new BookMachine platform by Sophie O’Rourke, a way of finding interesting people with whom to collaborate.

So what did we learn?

We’re nowhere without our skills and when we find the right people or companies to partner with we can collaborate our skills and experience to create something which is greater than the sum of its parts. With an industry which has one of the highest volumes of people in the media sector with 100,000 people, 85,000 of which are in traditional book/journals publishing, we have an amazing opportunity to drive the industry forwards using exciting combinations of skillsets.

In summary, publishing is driven by people; people are driven by passion and knowledge and this creates the perfect opportunity for innovative and effective collaboration.

Look to the people around you, what can you achieve by amalgamating your skills, your passion for publishing and your knowledge?

How is technology influencing the size and shape of what we read?

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Last night we attended Byte the Book at the gorgeous Club at the Ivy where a superb panel of experts were there to discuss: ‘How is technology influencing the size and shape of what we read?’ We heard from Ravina Bajwa, Managing Editor of Penguin Audiobooks, Benedict Evans, Analyst at Enders Analysis, Richard Loncraine, Director at Heuristic Media and Maureen Evans, Director at Ether Books.

Benedict Evans was quick to point out that there are three key issues in technology influencing what and how we read:

1.)    Distribution of content – digital changes the cost structure, hence it is more economical to be interactive with content

2.)    Ubiquity – pop culture is more accessible

3.)    The changing role of intermediaries – the market is no longer driven by logistics and you don’t need to go through the typical agent-publisher-wholesaler-bookshop supply chain.

Publishers and App Developers are now having to think of more innovative ways to overcome digital challenges; Ether Books have been successful in producing short ‘snacking’ digital content under 6000 words. They are proving that with mobile devices, it is important to also have ‘mobile’ content – short form is much more accessible on people’s devices, however previously there has been a gap in the market for books produced solely for digital. Ravina at Penguin has found the opposite where consumers want longer, unabridged content when it comes to listening to audio books. This has proven to be a huge advantage of digital; they have found new distribution opportunities to get the content to consumers as well as innovative ideas in order to mix sound effects and narrative elements together.

Technology is becoming a huge influence on how and what we read, but how is this going to change in the future and what are Publishers and App Developers doing to drive this forwards?

Ravina from Penguin discussed the launch of the entire Roald Dhal backlist in new Audio Book format. This will feature an exciting cast of high profile celebrities and brand new compositions to highlight his work and really create a picture in listener’s imaginations through the many dimensions of sound. Loncraine touched upon the launch of haptic touchscreens; however, it seems these are still at least a decade away in innovation. Benedict Evans talked about the innovation within App Development but shared interesting facts about the obstacles that still exist to getting your app noticed. For example, across iOS there are about 4 apps downloaded per month per device and only a dollar spent; the real problem is discoverability.

In summary, the future of what we read and how we read is still up for grabs, there is so much innovation out there in terms of devices, apps, as well as inventive ways of using and delivering content. However, it would be wrong to assume that everything will be sucked up into the digital mass, in the same way that when colour printing came out not everything became colour. It was pointed out that the way we feel about our childhood computer is the way today’s children will feel about the iPad; there is a huge generation of developers and technological genius out there that we have no real idea what is going to be around in 20 years time and it’s going to be an exciting journey to find out…

Kim Scott Walwyn Prize 2013

Miriam Robinson, Head of Marketing at Foyles has won the Kim Scott Walwyn Prize for 2013.

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We attended the Kim Scott Walwyn prize giving last night at the Free Word Centre in Farringdon; the place was packed with publishers as well as people young and old from the industry, all there to celebrate this unique prize promoting revolutionary women in publishing. We heard from Booktrust, The Publishing Training Centre and the Society of Young Publishers followed by a Keynote speech from Joan Smith, a bestselling author, journalist and human rights activist before Denise Johnstone-Burt, co-chair of the Kim Scott Walwyn Committee introduced the shortlist and awarded Miriam with her prize.

The prize was established in memory of Kim Scott Walwyn, a pioneering Publishing Director at Oxford University Press who died in 2002 at only 45 years of age. The prize is aimed at young women who have achieved great things within publishing and have really added value and innovation to the publishing industry.

After seeing the fantastic shortlist I can honestly say I don’t envy the role of the panel of judges who had to make the decision, up for the prize were:

Laura Austin, Co-founder of Bookmachine and eBook Marketing and Account Manager at YUDU Media

Juliet Mushens, Literary Agent at the Agency Group

Laura Palmer, Co-Founder and Editorial Director of Head of Zeus

Miriam Robinson, Head of Marketing at Foyles

As the winner was announced it struck me that this is the first time a bookseller has ever won the prize; Miriam has built up her career at Foyles over the last 6 years and has been an integral part of the development of the new Charing Cross Road store and the Charing Cross Road festival championing bookshops and booksellers. She has shown real innovative thinking and a huge love and enthusiasm for books and the publishing industry; she has shown that book shops can be successful and that with a bit of creativity – traditional bookselling can still work.

Congratulations to the whole shortlist and particularly to Miriam Robinson for winning the prize!

‘Developing the Publishing Workforce’ The First Ever Equality in Publishing Conference

On Wednesday, we attended the first ever Equality in Publishing, or ‘EQUIP’ conference, held at City University London. The day was filled with many different and diverse speakers and panels and the key topic of debate was “Developing the Publishing Workforce”. Throughout the day, the on-going discussion was, what barriers still exist to equality within the publishing workforce and what can be done to help rectify this situation.

The conference was organised by Bobby Nayyar, the Project Manager of EQUIP in conjunction with the host, City University and Mary Ann Kernan, the course leader of the City Publishing MA and an EQUIP member. Key speakers and organisations involved included Creative Skill Set; Rebecca Swift, Director of the Literary Consultancy; Sophia Blackwell, Marketing Manager at Bloomsbury; and Leila Dewji, Editorial Director at Acorn Independent Press. Mary Ann Kernan and Bobby Nayyar also both gave very interesting lectures.

 

It was established early on that the main barriers to a diverse and equal publishing workforce include ethnicity, socio economic status, gender and sexual orientation. One of the key issues that was acknowledged, was that if children did not develop an interest in books and reading from an early age that they would not grow up to be interested in a career in publishing. One thing that stops young children from having an interest in reading and words is if there is not content that features similar characters to their own backgrounds. It was shown that there is not enough quality material and content for children from minority backgrounds, which stunts their interest in books at a young age if they cannot identify.

The representatives from Creative Skill Set described why a diverse workforce in publishing is important.  First of all, having people from all different backgrounds will equal greater creativity in problem solving and job performance. The company will also then have a great source for understanding of local markets and customers.

 

Another concern that was brought up was the continuation of unpaid internships. It is argued that these continue to drive a class divide in the publishing workforce where only those from privileged backgrounds can gain important experience.

 

By the end of the day, many important issues had been brought up and ideas for solutions were being formed. It will be an exciting next few years in publishing and with such dedicated professionals committed to furthering equality, great strides will be made.

Do we have the right to copy?

The publishing industry relies on it; it’s an income stream that we can’t do without. It generates revenue that can be re-invested for innovation and it protects our hard work. So why are so many of us still so unsure about copyright legislation? What is legal and what isn’t, and how can I be sure? How can I gain the right to copy pieces of text? If it’s online, does that make it free? Instead of hiding under the blanket with these questions, Inspired Selection attended a fantastic meeting held by Women In Publishing which stared these questions straight in the face.

Emma House (Director of Publisher Relations at the Publishers Association) and Madeline Pow (International Rights Manager at the CLA) talked us through the issues of copyright and piracy and discussed how we can battle the shared uncertainty that we have about the matter. As with any uncertainty, the most effective solution will be Education; as a public, we need to be educated about the dangers and the importance of copyright. The film industry has managed to do it well with trailers before the film starts in the cinema warning us against piracy but it may be difficult to replicate this in the publishing industry. Following the Hargreaves report in 2011, the UK Government is launching a website for this purpose which acts as a one stop shop for businesses and individuals to find everything they need to know about copyright.

Emma explained to us the key drivers that motivate copyright infringement and neatly brought these into three areas: cost, convenience and speed. The sad fact of the matter is that many of us a) prioritise these motivators over quality and legitimacy and b) that illegitimate content is cheaper, easier and quicker, or at least seems so, than legitimate content. With this in mind, publishers need to make sure that they’re delivering content with the consumer in mind and thinking about how the consumer is going to want to engage with the content. We need to create products that mean that there is little motivation for copyright infringement.

The Publishers Association and the CLA are not only fighting the battle against copyright infringement in the UK but are also tackling piracy overseas. The challenge with this is that other governments may have different priorities but these fantastic organisations are teaming up with parallel bodies in other countries to get right behind the problem to those printing the material, rather than targeting the symptom, in this case the consumer.

Without enforcement of copyright the publishing industry would be vulnerable and wouldn’t be able to pay the bills. So next time you’re reading something online, or looking at copies of Harry Potter being sold when on holiday, think about the industry that we’re all in and we all love and question where you’re money is going.