London Online Information 2013

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London Online Information 2013

The Collins Dictionary defines ‘Information’ as’ knowledge acquired through experience or study’ and after two days at the London Online Information Conference  – @OnlineInfo_13  – it became very apparent that what is important is not just the information itself but how we acquire it and what we are able to do with it. While this sounds daunting, it is actually very simple: all we need to do is ask questions.

Asking questions became a strong theme across the two days: we must interrogate our data, we must discover what our users do with our products, we must find out if our team has the necessary skills to use the data, we must query which information to focus on and which to filter out and we must ask what is possible and what is next?

From the initial keynote, we were encouraged to face up to the future and ask what we can do next. Mark Stevenson reminded us of the three types of technology: that which was invented before we were born, that which is invented between birth and the age of thirty-five and that which is invented after the age of thirty-five. While we are despondent to the first, we often get a job in or using the second and we are often terrified by the third. The Digital Revolution is not a new age to be scared of but rather a part of a continuing change in technology; a Digital Evolution. London Online exposed some fantastic responses to the possibilities that new technologies have posed by innovative businesses who are asking the right questions.

Something on everyone’s lips was: what is the role of the library in this Digital Evolution? Ellyssa Kroski, from the New York Law Institute, gave some great examples such as having a library card in the ‘mobile wallet’ and on demand services such as Hoopla, not to mention renting out the roofs as air space to generate extra revenue stream! Heini  Oikkoonen  from Helsinki City Library explained how asking questions of the users influenced their product development of the Pocket Library, an app which enables users to renew loans, loan from a friend and research the collection. Research showed that actually user to user lending was the least popular and people still enjoy the community atmosphere of the library. However new functions such as dating based on reading habits came out as something that users wanted to see! Innovative start ups such as Antigo seek to answer the question of the library’s new role through creating a platform for libraries to access publishers’ eBooks easily. Jonas Lennermo, CCO of Publit and founder of Antigo , explained how questioning why and how people consume digital content and the values they place on this as distinct from print, you can get closer to the answers and solutions you need.

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Asking the questions isn’t always simple and sometimes a lot of work needs to go on behind the scenes before we can do this. For example, if we type a question into Google, a huge amount of coding has happened so that we can have the answer. If we ask a user what they think of a product, a vast amount of tech work needs to take place for that product to be in prototype stage. Therefore, as a team we need to have technical understanding, market understanding and user understanding. With this blend of skills we can achieve real success and ride the wave of the Digital Evolution into the future. We’re not always going to get it right first time, after all information is knowledge gained through experience and some of the best learning experiences are from mistakes.

Be bold, face the future and ask!

Here at Inspired Selection, we are passionate about the publishing industry; we talk about publishing, read about publishing and attend all major publishing events like the one you’ve just read about.  We would love to meet you at events so do feel free to come up and introduce yourselves! If you’re interested in opportunities within publishing do keep in touch and register for our Vacancy Update Service as well as keeping up to date with us on Twitter

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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…