Last Thursday we headed over to the QEII Conference Centre, across the street from Westminster Abbey, for the annual FutureBook Conference where we had a full day ahead of us attending brilliant seminars and meeting some industry leaders.
After collecting our badges and a quick cup of coffee, we all headed into the Fleming Room for the opening remarks from Nigel Robey (CEO of The Bookseller Group) setting the context for the day as well as the three keynote speakers who all addressed Amazon (who is decidedly becoming less of an elephant in the room) and the future of book sales and publishing strategy. First up was Brad Stone, who has recently published a biography of Jeff Bezos, creator of Amazon, followed by Seni Glaister, CEO of the Book People, and then finally, Charlie Redmayne, until recently CEO of Pottermore and now the new CEO of HarperCollins.
We attended a wide breadth of seminars throughout the day but It became clear early on that a key topic of the day was going to be about ‘insight’ and understanding the consumer. Publishing for a long time has primarily had a B2B business model but now with technological advances, we have learned that there is a need to adapt our earlier models and focus more on connecting with the end customer and making sure we are developing consumer led innovation and products, rather than industry led. This was highlighted in the Partnerships That Scale seminar, with crowd funding a new way of publishing being pioneered by Unbound, where the audience and readers are responsible for the funding of books they wish to see publish. Patrick Brown from Goodreads highlighted how modern technology and consumer reviewing is playing an ever increasing role within the publishing world. Ashleigh Gardner, Head of Content at Wattpad explained how their platform represents another form of publishing with readers writing for readers and reviewing each other.
The dangers of modern publishing were also demonstrated by Michael Tamblyn, C.E.O. of Kobo, who portrayed the events of their recent crisis in the form of a video game. Whilst humorous, Michael was able to cleverly describe how even with the promise of an increasingly digital future, there also come potential pitfalls, particularly with regards to overseeing self publishing platforms and communities.
The Big Ideas panel was particularly insightful. Rebecca Smart, the CEO of Osprey presented her idea of decreasing publishing’s absurdly long production time, allowing great flexibility and responding to market demands. Jamie Byng, CEO of Canongate, suggested that less is more, with producing fewer books of a higher quality being better than producing large commercial volume and Simon Trewin’s Hackathon for publishers idea was perhaps the highlight of this section.
All in all, it was a great day for learning about the cutting edge ideas and content currently being created by publishers. Perhaps most reassuringly, it felt like publishing and publishers are finally coming into their own in this digital age and becoming more proactive – rather than reactive. The atmosphere was hopeful and we can’t wait to be a part of and see what’s next!
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