Today our Society of Young Publishers Conference 2013 takes place at Oxford Brookes University. Throughout the day our guest blogger, Nicola Osborne from EDINA, will be liveblogging the keynotes and her highlights from the parallel sessions. Follow tweets from the event on #SYPC13.
Please note that these notes will be updated live so apologies for any spellings or typos - we welcome corrections and, of course, comments on the post and the event!
Emma Williams (co-chair) is welcoming us to the event and also introducing her fellow co-chair Katie Lewis
Now over to Chair, Jonathan Davies to introduce the day. Starting with Book Machine, sponsor of the official after party!
Book Machine - Laura Austin
We organise events globally and we are really excited to sponsor tonights event. We run www.bookmachine.me, a platform that lets you meet and chat with others working in publishing across the world and showcasing your projects. We've also launched a recommendation system recently to help people find you and your work. We also have badges for different courses - so you can boost your rank on the site by taking courses and by recommendations. And see you at tonight's event, sponsored by Kingston Writing School, at the Jam Factory.
Introductions from Jonathan Davies, Chair of SYP Conference 2013
We wanted to go with this title because publishing is so much more than the books that we publish, the websites we create... you need digital skills to get on and we were inspired by the "Life in Publishing" Tumblr. This conference has been an extraordinary experience and I must be super diligent in my thank yous. Thank you Emma and Katey. Thank you to all of our volunteers who will be helping you tonight. And special thank you to Paper Management Services who have sponsored our opening keynote.
Do look at our sponsors today, and the people around you, these are the people that you will be working with over the years to come.
Opening Keynote: Y. S. Chi, Director of Corporate Affairs for Reed Elsevier
What a privilege to be here with the future generation of publishers. You will be in a mad rush to exchange books! I'm sure books will be flying in the coffee break.
It's a real pleasure to be here. I've actually prepared two pieces of talk here. One is on books and the future of books and about all things e-, the other part is about me. I wrote them on the plane back from Azerbaijan last night. But I'd like to tell you about me through Questions!
Let me first start out by thanking all of the volunteers that have been part of organising this conference. Meetings like this don't happen without tremendous effort from volunteers. You learn a lot by doing these things so I hope you volunteer to do these things in your circle of interest too.
So I want to talk about the publishing landscape and the sort of things you should be thinking about as young professionals. There have been so many changes, many becuase of technology. And a lot around e- books. And I thought I would shape my talk around 10 "e"s. But don't dwell on the "ebook" too much. We have moved from P-books to e-books but increasingly moving to s-books - where "s" is solution.
In 2001 approximately 10k new titles published in the UK, but in 2012 there were over 100k new titles. In 2011 more than 235k self-published books were published in the US, more than half as ebooks. And that's a doubling since even 5 years ago. More and more titles appear every day and that can feel like it devalues the good work that authors and publishers do - there is so much content out there appearing so quickly.
Authors expect easy access to books on any device. Whether phone, tablet, computer. Anywhere in the world. Quickly. and linked to other things you are interested in - dictionary perhaps, maybe readership statistics, and other communal an collaborative aspects of reading. Delivering these expectations has become like a race with an ever-moving finish line... we still have a way to go.
For a lot of people it seems that ebooks are less work for publishers as we don't have to ship a physical copy. They are actually often more work to produce. Shipping and in-store promotions certainly reduce. And we also have the reverse model of e-to-p, for instance with Fifty Shades of Gray. Publishing is like an insurance business. We pay authors and we take risks on everybody.
Publishers help authors produce their key work, and there are preservation aspects often forgotten. Many of the services publishers provide can be done by authors. But there is a cost. Self-published author Amanda Walker commented that "I am a writer, I don't want to spend 40 hours a week..." on all the associated administration of self-publishing.
And publishing services are now about making technical investments to make books available in a variety of technological platforms. In the future competition will drive towards content across all platforms. But right now we have to create different offering for each different space.
"reports of the publishing's death has been greatly exaggerated" - to paraphrase Mark Twain.
There is an increasingly complicated fit of different players. Publishers and librarians seem to do some of the same things. Amazon is a publisher and sales space. Google and other technology companies
The traditional article, and monograph, are being challenged. And I have come up with the experimental concept "Phi". The internet has destroyed the traditional publishing model. Some try to extend the model of first copy to ebooks, some don't want to touch ebooks and just licence everything. So publishers are experimenting with business models including Freemium, bundling, etc. So don't be afraid to fail. At Elsevier our motto is "fail often, but fail early" because early failures are not that expensive.
Much as the music industry has moved to selling concerts, so publisher are using technology to create a reading experience. Augmented reality, additional media, non-linear reading are all possible. And previously books were isolated but being able to connect and intrgrate social interaction into reading and how we experience reading have huge and significant potential.
Some sectors are growing in new and unexpected ways, some are failing. The internet and the digital economy are not threats but are opportunities, especially for young publishers like you. Publishing now includes a whole new range of career paths, it needs nimble business minded people who try to relate and author to a reader. We employ engineers, web designers, social media gurus... We see new devices, reading on phones and tablets, some are even predicting the death of ebooks on ereaders by 2017. Should you worry about Amazon? Well once AOL had a similar dominance on the internet. You shouldn't not worry about them but the landscape favours openness and increasingly books have to compete with games, with rich media. I say a paper book never changes, it's dead on arrival. But ebooks can be ever changing, can be developed based on feedback, can connect to social media.
ebooks also allow us to understand how you read. There are privacy considerations but that data helps us build better experimental and experiential experiences. Now this chnage may all be scary, but it's essential to engage.
As this evolution continues, the better you understand it, the better you can make choices for your authors and your readers. We need to understand the needs of our readers but aloso the capabilities of technology, how we can better anticipate
A lots changing but the book isn't going anywhere. It's a chance for us to rethink books - what people will pay for them and, excitingly, the very idea of what a book is. As long as books serve to educate, to entertain and enlighten then the book is here to stay and will thrive!
And now for the second half of my talk, about me... should I read it or will you ask me questions...?
[By vote of hand the audience have gone for questions!]
Q1) If you were starting out today what would be the most important thing to do?
A1) If you were starting out interested in publishing as a career I would say you need some very specific skills around the function of publishing, offset with some aspects of character that you need. It's hard to be good at something if you are not passionate. So you have to be passionate about knowledge, about entertainment, about enlightenment. You have to be passionate or it doesn't work. But without those certain modern skills you won't have impact. You need to have the ability to ask great questions - that's where innovation starts. Then are you organised enough to do deep reasearch to have the facts to make the decisions. And if you have decisions do you have allies and partners to make it. And then do you have the stamina to last.
So those are the skills you need and they can be acquired no matter what subject you have studied. It's asking questions, research and analyse, and be able to work and communicate with a team, and to have that team behind you so that you have the energy to succeed. But I cannot give you a list of specific skills, a recipe. None of you if you knew me when I left school would think I'd be where I am here. I am Korean and the son of a diplomatic, I changed schools many times and language five times - I speak four languages but none of them well. I got into university with the lowest test scores previously allowed in. My SATs started with a 3.. . To think that thirty years later I am president of the Publishers Association, or that in 2003 I'd be president of Random House. But I didn't come from editorial side - I learned that. I came from the business side. And you can enter now from many sides, from the technological side etc. and who knows what sides in the future.
But I was prepared to do well.. I never said no to any opportunity just because it was hard. And I stuck with the people I wanted to work with. I never chose company, job title, location, or pay. Four times I've made changes and four times I made choices to work with particular mentors and sponsors. Why else move from "Executive Vice President" to "Management Trainee" and a huge drop in salary? But I trusted the person who asked me and that company eventually sold for $7 billion. And the other thing was I didn't want to be a domestic player, I wanted to be a global players. I didn't want my backyard to be small. If I was born with the priviledge of being born in the US, in Korea, in the UK... as the son of a diplomat I should make the best use of that! Thank goodness the world is very flat, very easy to get around. I spent 290 days a year traveling.
Historically location was easy, territories and languages and borders broke up the world into small markets. Like it or not ebooks cross borders. Sticking with people has really paid off for me.
Q2) Would you say that there was a defining moment in your life when you knew this was the correct career for you?
A2) No! Many defining moments - things in the categories of ideas, even when others told me I was nuts. Like print on demand. Now that was based on Amazon. Amazon set up on 1995 in Seattle, Jeff set up there for two reasons... one is that he wanted to be near a pool of software engineer, near Microsoft, and he wanted to be near a repository of stock, Ingram's warehouse. So that he could set up shop without having to have everything in stock but be able to sell everything. Because at that time Barnes and Noble advertised 100k books, or 250k books... Amazon could say "we sell 1 million". Problem was that Ingrams didn't have that many books in stock. Jeff wanted Ingrams to stock a million titles... so we thought about how that could happen... Could Ingrams hook into Simon and Schuster's database then calculate shipping times that way... good idea but with thousands of publishers, especially small publishers, that would be tricky, not all would have suitable systems either.
I had just come from Ingram micro and so we said what if we have a virtual inventory - an image, and then when ordered we could print them. Everyone said no, can't be done quick enough, no one will give you the copy because you can't secure the file, and it will be too expensive. We found existing systems to use. We went out to speak to all publishers and asked for books, the least purchased, and then explained how we would keep it as multiple files in different locations so it couldn't be stolen... We spread things across servers... but then can be assembled. And we were printing 300 page book, with colour cover, in 18 seconds for $3. If you were printing 1000 copies it came in at $1 so when you took out shipping, storage, risk etc. $3 was a great price. We came up with that because there was a demand. I thought Jeff was a nut for asking... but that was a defining moment. We listened to the customer. And that model became the model for the first ebooks. And now Ingram digital is the middle company for that type of material.
Whilst I can't say there was a single moment, there were many moments related to the people in the industry. Publishig is full of really really decent people - not all industries are. There is not a lot of back stabbing. The people keep me here, what they challenge me with. Yesterday I walked into a Ministry of Education and was trying to talk about the value of content - not of iPads, devices... and one person really got it. It's the people, the colleagues, the customers, the authors, the technology partners.
Q3) What is the greatest success or the greatest failure?
A3) In life or in my career? The greatest success in life has been meeting my wife. It's a rough world out there and handling it alone is not easy or fun. I have a partner who understands, who allows me to travel, who is increadible support and partner in any way you could define. I have someone at home to have the wherewithall to pour my energy into my world. My greatest failure has been when I have lost friends because of misunderstandings or selfishness. That's my lifes failure. Professionally the same can be said. To be around people at Elsevier, Random House, Ingram... to be able to give you names of people who have enriched my life so I can have fun doing what I do - and get compensated for it too! I have many small failures I have made... I have failed early many many times... ! But each of those failures were actually valuable lessons. And I try really hard to not make the same mistake three times - twice maybe - but not three times!
But I have to ask all of you... DO NOT PLAN YOUR CAREER! Let things happen to you and have the confidence to make the decision at that moment. Yes, have aspirations but don't let them be defined so narrowly that you will say no to opportunities that don't look great at this moment. great opportunities come at extraordinarily inconvenient times. My boss at American Express bank and I were returning from a meeting and I was reading Le Monde, he didn't realise I spoke French - my first language - and he said he'd just fired the president of the French American Express Bank. What did I know about running a commercial bank. I was 27. My wife had just had our first baby - a year after relocating to the UK. Inconvenient. But my wife said "go, I'll follow shortly".
In 1994 I had a call from from my mentor John Ingram, he said "Happy Birthday! You are 30 now, and now you're mine" and I said thank you but I don't remember that... I was in Singapore but I had said years before that I couldn't work for him before I had made it on my own. My wife had just delivered our second baby. The salary I had was half a million dollars and Executive President, I was going to $70k and management trainee role. I spoke to my wife, she said "you made a promise". Inconvenient? You bet! But the rest is history...
Do not plan your career, meet people, help people, opportunities arrive. Take some risk when they do. Don't say "well that's not my field". There are things you won't want to do but do be open-minded, do let things happen... you could be the next president of Paramount Pictures... or you could be the next Oxford councillor. Does it matter? As long as you have impact...
It looks like I deviated from a career path... I didn't... it was just a very wide path - enlarge your path!
Q4) Have you thought about what's next?
A4) These are the questions you dread answering. I told you I have aspirations, I haven't achieved all of them. One of them is serving the public, the other is teaching. The rest I can say "check". My family had had generations (I'm the 48th generation of Chi) that have served the public. I tried to be a diplomat, but it didn't work out. I'm ready if a government or NGO is interest. I'm serving my fourth term at the Publishers Association but it's not the same, I want to do public service. The other thing I want to do is teaching. Not university level... I want to teach high school and always wanted to since I was 10 years old. By the time someone comes to university character is already formed. I want to be there when character forms. As a father of grown kids I know that's when character forms. I want to teach, I want to coach sports, I want to be a house master. I would say 70% of the people who really had an impact on me were when I was a kid. I do mentor now, mainly over Skype, but I would like to have an opportunity to teach. Probably some time soon when I still have the energy. If any of you have families who are teachers, when you go home, say thank you. I have walked away twice from my job to retire, and twice been brought back. But next time no, I want to teach. My wife and I have tried to help through foundations etc. but it's not the same as pouring yourself in entirely like that. And in the end I may get lucky again... I am the luckiest person you will ever meet in your life!
Jonathan is now letting us know about the rest of the day and thanking our key sponsors again, Atwoodtate and Oxford University Press.
And so to a break, and the first break out session. The liveblog will be coming from the gamification session...
Gamification in Publishing: Going beyond the book - Becky Degler, Wiley, and Padmini Ray Murrary, Stirling University
Padmini: I teach publishing studies at Stirling University - and I made a game!
Becky: I'm Becky Degler, and I'm a web publishing manager at Wiley. I have been in publishing around five years now. I came into publishing following my PhD because I was young and idealistic. I started wanting to be in editorial - I thought "hey that's where they make the books". I started with a short term contract in digital rights at Wiley. I moved to digital services. I had no digital services. I'm a literature background. I'm not an early adopter or techie geek - I am a gaming geek. My first response to being asked to being in that team was "really?!". But they want problem solvers, creative thinkers. And that's what you need. Build up those skills and you are good.
So what do I do? I don't work with books or authors... I work with academic societies - kind of like the SYP - and one of their primary purposes is to build community, nurture the next generation, they do conferences along those lines. They want to foster the knowledge in their disciplines. So they are economic gurus who want to enthuse 18 year olds... So I work on digital products. I build them tools that let them do it. I love the people I work with and I love my job!
So I'm going to talk about gamification, thinking like a game. There are various teaching materials using games - building critical thinking skills, literacy skills etc. It's about making traditional work more interactive. And then the area I'm really interested in is Game Thinking. What can we learn in the academic publishing industry from gamification that will let us do our work better.
So I wanted to talk about the phenomenon that is games. Even if you don't think of yourself as gamers... it is most likely that you are gamers. Everything is gamified. if you use Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, any loyalty card... you are participating in a gamified system. So it's all around us. It's interesting to see how these phenomenons can help us think about publishing. And in generation G, the upcoming generation, there are some interesting stats. 500m people spend 1 hour a day gaming.3 billion hours a week spent online gaming globally. 10,000 hours is the average time a child in a gaming culture (us, uk, japan) will spend playing games before turning 21. If you buy into Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hours concept these kids have mastery of games. And that amount of time is pretty similar to the amount of time children spend in secondary education. They spend more time gaming, than learning everything schools have to teach them. And that matters to me because I want academic societies engage with an audience. If that's the audience we need to attract those stats matters.
And the average age of gamers is 37 - it's not as youth orientated as we think about!
So gamification isn't just about building games into products, it's about how that gamification comes in. When we look at what this looks like its 25% technology, 75% psychology (Zichermann 2011) - if you can get people to come in, to come back, you're there! So I'm going to talk about Motivation, Meaningful Behaviour, and Rewards...
So, a demo... but first a story. When I think about motivation... I'm a book nerd and a gaming geek, a huge gaming geek. When I did my PhD the thing I used to relax, to reward myself, was a game. When I couldn't figure out a problem or an approach I'd play games. I played a whole range, GTA, but the game I found most interesting and went to in my worst times was Guitar Hero. I am not musically talented in any way AT ALL. And yet I was obsessed, during my PhD, with this game... if it tells me which buttons to push, I can do that! Can't keep time, can't read music, but could do that. It made something that wouldn't usually be appealling, really motivating . It made me feel good about myself. Getting the meter to go all flashy made me feel good. You don't get those in your daily idea... it wasn't like when I got an awesome idea in my PhD things went really flashy!
If you haven't read Jane McGonigal's Reality is Broken (2011) she thinks games make us better than we are in the real world. For a number of reasons... games give us clear clear objectives. So if you think about Mario or Angry Birds.. you get a clear simple target. Games give us Attainable goals... they never give us a goal we cannot complete. And you can practice those skills from level 1 in order to attempt level 2. You don't jump from level 1 to the Boss level. If you ever replay a game you'll see that the earlier levels seem so easy, you've been taught that stuff by the game. But games also give us Help and Support whether in game or online in discussion spaces. One of the other things I find interesting... the largest wiki in the world is Wikipedia. The second largest is a World of Warcraft wiki! There's tons of help out there. And games are Fun!
So all together that stuff increases your motivation. So you'll tackle challenges in a game that you wouldn't do in life. games are voluntary. We say "give us problems, I want to solve those". That's not how we behave in life! In gaming that turns it around, you take on that problem but oh, think of the rewards... !
So another great writer to read here is Zichermann (2011) who talks about Rewards - SAPS (Status, Access, Power - decisions to make in communities etc, Stuff - free things, occasionally even real) and frequency of report. There is a real cycle of rewards. When you are completing a PhD or writing a paper or going for a job that happiness is at the end, but in games it's frequent, it's minute-by-minute. You get a burst of dopamine! (same high as crack cocaine, just saying!) and that really makes you feel good and motivates you!
So the other element. The important bit. The Meaningful Behaviour. So what's the point of applying gamification to publishing? Well games try to encourage you to do certain things... you can use that to encourage behaviour in the communities I'm working with. It might be coming to a conference. What's your motivation to come? To present? How do we encourage and gamify that to engage the audience? And the idea of the Easter egg of games - the rewards when you put in the extra effort. most people don't mind, but your master users will care. They won't care what your goal is, they are hooked. But I love the idea of the Nike running app, it helps you train - it tells you how you improve, what stats you have. Why are they doing that? Why invest millions? Well beneath that if you run more and better you'll buy their shoes. That's their meaningful behaviour. You don't see that in the app though, it's just there.
It doesn't matter if gaming is your thing, you can use those principles. But more than that use your passions in your work. If your thing is sport or fashion or whatever think about how that motivates you, shapes your thinking... but the thinking, the ways to build a win, that stuff makes you unique and good at your job.
Over to Padmini...
Padmini: I am an academic, I worked in publishing whilst completing my PhD. And I've been funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council funded me to go to India to develop a publishing related game. And whilst I started thinking about this I started to think about gamification and publishing. One mistake we can make as publishers can be... that reading is not the same as playing. An interactive book is not a game. Reading invites you into a world created by an author. But when you are playing you are creating a world, you are achieving awards, finding your way, creating a world you are more in charge of... the most unsophisticated of games, like Candy Crush, isn't about narrative. If you create games like that does that met our expectations...
So what you expect to come out of a computer game presented as that - on a console say - your expectations are different. So Johan Huizingga wrote a book called Ludo Humanis and he talks about playfulness being much older than culture or games. So (just) interactivity does not equal a game. digilit or interactive fiction... that's not what publishers should think of as a game. We have to not be squeamish. Interactive fiction won't get publishers into the multimillion dollar gaming industry. How do you go beyond that and make the most of your intellectual property.
When I was in India I came across a little box called a Kaavad and a story develops as you unpack the box. That ultimate unravelling is what we read for. In games that is sometimes what we seek. But games are not always about winning or losing, also about motivating yourself through your own world. This shrine, this metaphor of bringing the stories to the temple seems appropriate to publishing and gaming to me. So this box represents epic stories and they would be carried around by the master story telling. The panels sketch out the story... but without the storyteller you have no idea of what the story is. That is my issue of interactive fiction, it just bogs you down in interactive fiction.
So in fiction you can have linear stories or you can have stories jumping off in lots of different directions. Perhaps choose your own adventure though that has had its day, I would argue that we need to think beyond that...
In terms of intellectual property it can be about character. If you've played Portal what is the best thing about it? Glados propels it forward - a sometimes difficult character that really leads you through. Or if you take The Stanley Parable you have a game with a character who follows instructions on a screen... but then... something goes wrong... [we are watching a video] and I'm not sure if it's apparent but this is a video of gameplay... when the narrator tells you that Stanley walks around... you know you should do that. But like Portal we have an unreliable narrator. The character we should make most of in publishing, pulling out of our intellectual property. If there's something games teach us it's empathy. We put ourselves in the mind of the character or the narrator...
So the games which inspired us when building our game were Portal, Journey, and Machinarum - a beautiful game with real personality that runs through the game. Games are about enhancing the characters we already have. Pull out side characters, or characters whose fate ends with the book, and do something interesting with us. And do it in interesting ways.
So our game is Meghdoot, which is made for Kinect. And we wanted to base the game around the affordances of the console - including body and voice capture. And we felt that text, movement, speech, really were the key types of story telling in India.
And with that some questions!
Q1) You talk about the route you take being potentially different... does the route you take effect the result in games?
A1 - Becky) In some games there are... games like LA Noir... but it has to go with the story. LA Noir is a detective solving the case... if you ask the wrong questions it changes what you have to do. In Farenheit... you controlled breathing, you could accidentally kill important characters, you could change the ending...
Q1) And how does that impact a publiser?
A1 - Padmini) It's risky. It requires the author to get on board. To get them to take side characters in other places. Could ask other authors to be part of that - Doctor Who has many writers for instance. But contractually that's tricky. Rather than working with games companies it would be good if publishers began to have in house games developers.
Q2) Two questions: should we make an effort to make the game beyond the text. I was playing Pottermore, it gets boring easily as you cannot go into areas not covered in the books, it leads you through. The other question is.... I used to write fan fiction... so what happens to Hogwarts graduates for jobs so is there potential for games in fan fiction?
A2) I think that first issue is poor games design. And there is good potential for fan fiction games.
Q3) What is the cost for this sort of thing.
A3) Kinnect with Apple Mac without the XBox - used to be doable cheaply. We used Unity, an open source platform. It wasn't expensive. We looked for royalty free stock images, we took our own images in India. We had 3D modellers and an Art Director and two coders and in a few months we put together 3 or 4 levels of the game.
Q3) It looks a little like 39 Steps
A3) And we were first! But that's one of the better games
Q3) There is lots of adventure game potential
A3) Yes but we need to think beyond that. We need to think beyond adventure. Journey is a great example of that...
Q3) The direction of Tell Tale Games, the Walking Dead etc. was barely a game, it had interactive elements.
A3) My concern is that publishers look to make things interactive - clicky - but not to actually make a game. Black cloud was interesting for that. Adapting narrative we tend not to think about game play and mechanics. GTA has characters well fleshed out, for all it's issues,
A4) Of course. But it's about publishers talking to authors and approaching them about those characters. And to think about those challenging issues around contracts.
Q5) You have those gamified communities used to assist your publishing. You have expert gaming... how do you use those skills to come back and skill you to approach your community?
A5) I'm not sure there is a clear answer. Creating that community plays to the dynamics that kind of reverse the existing power structures. It shows that generation that they have an impact and can make contributions. One issue with these communities is that you come in and have to listen, and they are the experts and it can be hard to feel able to take part. So it's an excellent element to bring in.
Q6) Gaming in the past were like RPG and really popular. Now we are moving to these Candy Crush type level games. How can a book fit into that type of game. Any thoughts?
A6 - Padmini) Will Atkinson from Faber was speaking at Sterling recently and he gets annoyed when publishing is compared to music. I think the comparison with video games is really useful. Those types of social games bring in new audiences who wouldn't think to game - the middle aged woman. Given the size of the industry - gaming is Scotland's principal creative industry. Gaming is growing... and it's a catholic enough church. There will always be casual reader, and those that want to spend time with a book...
Q7) If a publisher makes a game is that more authentic than if your book becomes a film? If it's the same company will a publisher have more authenticity.
A7 - Becky) As an individual I wonder "what is authenticity?". The author has the power to control these things but I like that the authority of the author is being challenged...
Q7) But then why do publishers have an advantage?
A7 - Padmini) We have intellectual property. But there is convergence - games have books now too, there will be merging together. And publishers really want to do this stuff. And it's not just about the book, its the richer world around it - the spaces created by a Jasper Fforde or Terry Practchet.
A7 - Becky) Many people just want a book...
Q8) Any particular IP?
Comment) Treasure Island works well. And it's out of copyright!
A8 - Padmini) I'd like to say comic books... but that's cheating. I'd really love to see Woolfe as a game... Mrs Dalloway could be a great game. I really love an art game, a serious - perhaps not in the strict education or training sense. Our game kind of is a "serious game" - designed for use in museums as in India interpretation can be quite traditional and dull.
Comment) Have you seen the Jane Austin online game - where you navigate the world.
A - Padmini) I saw the Kickstarter - it looks great.
Q9) I work in eduational publishing and I'm wondering how we make that edutainment, that sort of stuff work... ?
A9 - Becky) For my community we can't put a game in an academic community site... for meaningful behaviour it's about learning achievements...
A9 - Padmini) We want kids to play with hardware... we have 3D scans of objects and we want the kids to make their own arduino controllers so they have a real stake. For coding or mechanical skills.
Comment) Also worth looking at the work of Nicola Whitton's work on gaming and learning.
Q10) Are there any games that should be books?
Comment) There are novelisations of Assassin's Creed, written by award winning author using a pen name but selling many more Assassins Creed books than his "real" books. I'm not even sure if the guy who wrote the books even played the game actually...
Q11) How much time does it take to code in Unity Engine?
A11) Our team had one Unity programmer and one Kinect programmer. There are 1 year Unity programmes at Nottingham University. And there are easier tools. Twine is a spectacularly simple non-linear narrative tool and it's another open source tool.
A11 - Becky) Loads of non formal places. Like Codecademy, and you can make games
A11 - Padmini) Dash too.
Padmini) How many of you play games? What types?
Comment) I play RPG, particularly Steam
Padmini) I think that is interesting, the idea of whether a Steam-like platform - which has radically reshaped games distribution - could work for publishing.
And with that we are off to lunch! We will be back later from a yet to be decided session (the choice has been given to the #SYPC13 twitter folk!).
Make Good Stuff - Commissioning content digitally - Nick Coveney, Hodder Children’s Books, and Eoin Noble, Faber Digital
Nick is starting us off...
You may have heard of the "How to Train Your Dragon" franchise... so this session will be "How to Train Your eDragons"... and I will be talking about digitising the latest book in that series. I do not apologise for my cheesiness.
So, when is an ebook not an "easy" ebook? When it's an eDragon! But the thing is it looks like a bog standard job. It's not about the content but about the way the technology that interacts with the content. We have a great open ePub 3 standard but really only one ebook reader properly supports ePub 3.
So one of our favourite series actually started as a childrens illustrated book, but now spawned more than 12 books. Our copies have sold over 630,000. That's just part of the sales. The audiobooks are narrated by David Tennant (the 10th Doctor). They have also inspired the Dreamworks film franchise.
"Di giganticus Ow-indi-brainbox"... how can we take a book like that and make it look good both on tablets and ebook readers. If you use a fixed format like epub then you are cutting out e-ink devices, and most of your readers! That was our headache.
So how did we tackle this?
Step 1: identify your dragon...
make sure that you have defined exactly what the most challenging aspects of your digitisation project will be. The book isn't a simple project here, the artwork spreads over pages, it doesn't obey bleeds etc.
Step 2: Captyre your dragon
Once you know exactly what the big issue(s) sffecting the digitisation of your title you can look at the options you can adopt to get most control over the presentation of your content. We worked with our author, their agent, our US counterparts Little Brown and a conversion house. And we talked about how we could shrink or move or use different text to make the ebook look like the book. Dragonese has it's own special font in the books, hard to know how to deal with that. We decided, accessibility aside, we wanted to give people the same amazing fully fledged universe, we wanted to maintain the integrity of the images...
Step 3: tame your dragon
Normal books can be simplified to Publisher, Conversion House, Publisher (checking), and eBok retailer.
For us the process was much more complex. We looked at the book page by page. Our conversion house provided us with options. Usually a conversion house provides a single ePub file. But we knew there was a new format, a propretary format for the bigger ebook retailer. We'd get both option. So it started with and iteratively returned to the author and editorial devices. Cress loves modern technology but wasn't happy about changing her stories to bring them onto new devices. If we could ensure something worked for everyone that would be great... So eventually we had a final copy that went internally to our Production team and onto the eBook retailer. And the Conversion House did a great job here. And the result was success, you get some quirkiness... you can't reflow text unfortunately, you can zoom it. But you can't resize font unfortunately.
And now for something completely different....
Coming soon... Strictly Come Dancing!
This iconic brand.... will soon be a Sticker Activity App. It will be on sale once Apple approves it!
So I have prepared a demo here. You can add stickers, you can add dress up stuff, you can colour in and design your own costumes. You can have a play.... you can add silly wigs! Also a trash can and Undo. And you can paint all over and then erase out (if you so wish)!.
And you can take photos. Save to your device. You can tweet, print or email your handiwork.
So, a demonstration... these images are all double page spreads. The main features are sharing. And we are very excited about it.
And we've done a lovely invite for your own Strictly Fashion party. And there are over 300 stickers in every book. There is a boy in every one also!
So... if you ever move into the amazing world of kids apps...
1) Find the right partners - we have been working with Made In Me. They have created some fantastic apps and they are a BAFTA winning company.
2) Push the boundaries and make sure it's GOOD. If something is worth doing it's worth doing right. So if it's a sticker activity book it needs stickers and activities!
3) Put the FUN back into functionality. All good apps are fun and engage the user. You've just got to make sure it's fun. Even a calculator will be more appealing will be fun.
4) Make sure that you have all of your PR materials ready to go - apps can fail to get the attention they deserve.
5) Speak to the online communities that are your target market to engage with the app
6) Get as much coverage as possible in as short a time frame as possible - that will boost your chance to get focused in key categories in the ebook stores.
Coming soon to etailer near you...
More dragon books and My Cat Pip
And now over to Eoin Noble of Faber Digital
Make Good Stuff - Eoin Noble
So I got here through buying too many of the books I was stacking in Blackwells when I was a student! I'm going to give you some information on my background and career...
I worked for my student newspaper, whilst an English student, and learnt the delight of Quark Express. And in the holidays did any work I could get... I swam in slush piles, I sent out dice to choose your own adventure fans.... And after University I got my first job in a legal publisher, working as a production assistant. And that team needed a web developer... I was cheap, they were perhaps lazy, and I learnt a lot... and made some bad websites too! And I came to an SYP conference... one speaker advertised an internship at his start up. We started making apps. I learnt a lot about ePubs and things like that... And this was when there was one iPhone. Pre iPad. And that was a few years. And now I work at Faber Digital. We are unusual in digital departments in only doing the weird stuff - like Nick - not the day to day stuff. So that's how I got here...
How's the view? Well Nick showed you some bespoke apps. We've done some apps - you may have seen The Waste Land. Our preferred method is to partner with developers - we share both upfront costs and revenues as everyone is invested in the process. Occasionally we pay up front for developers. When we do pay upfront we pick extremely carefully and we have to know they are incentivised in some softer way... fans of the book or project... it can be cheaper to pay up front but we want them incentivised. We are not onsessed with branding and codebases. It's not naivete. If you get bogged down in ownership then it slows things down and developers don't want to work on someone elses code from another project.
And some of these are more like platforms... so we've recently created Drama Online that pools our own and Bloomsbury's collections of plays for academia. Apart from being able to search all of drama online. And to see secondary texts mentioned in the book. To look at the number of lines per character. New ways to examine the book... (or play).
But before any of that you need a data structure. The conversion house needs to know how to convert PDF files to XML. So a simple XML tag might be:
or you may want to specify that it's a <Mexican Fighting Frog>. Tags describe things in the text. That's useful.
So when we look at a page of a play... we can see Act II and Scene 10 and understand that as humans. And that's easy to specify to the conversion house. The problem comes when you look at works referenced in the text itself. Or when a character appears in the scene - how do we work out who "He" is. We can't rely on an algorithm to do that. And that's bringing in editorial team. That team can make decisions on, for example, whether stage directions need brackets or not. To get the fun stuff there for readers, the editorial team and that nitty gritty have to be write. Many people have to get this stuff right at the beginning. It's not a one person job.
There is definitely a swing towards these sorts of products, rather than one-off apps. Various reasons but the cheif problem is confidence. Publishers have lost confidence in building shiny delightful products. As people working in digital we work in two ways. Either people come to us with content and want something shiny done with it. And the other way is people who have a shiny thing and want our content - they are usually start ups. These are rarely new works but use existing intellectual property. It's easy to see how we fell into that but to make great projects we need to solve not only our problems, but also our readers problems - we need confidence, skills and experience.
We've had some experience with this at Faber with Richard Williams' The Animators Survival Kit. It is a 12 piece DVD and an ebook. It is like the Bible for animators. For this we created a really high priced (£25) product and market it directly to this particular niche. We relaid every page in the book, and spent a lot of time with the video player. And an "onion skinning" option to view the process...
The feedback from animators has been amazing. A lot of animators use the app and their iPad as a lightbox to trace these images. Having an intense small audience you get the feedback. Having a defined audience and premium price means you can take out a lot of the risk. It's not about selling loads of copies... And we want to do more like this, and to do more works from scratch.
We have done this with Solar System. Working with TouchPress and original commissioning from author Marcus Chown.
Another mental one... novellist Ian Pairs came to us with this writing environment... a node structure for all of his chapters... he came to us and said that he wanted an interface for this... we have big hopes for this. If it's a success we hope it might be a new way people like to write or to read. It may not work but we need to try, you never know...
And this is where you guys come in. You have to be reassured that your ideas and your confidence will invigorate what you are doing. Look at cool stuff like Nick and I have shown you. But don't think that all the ideas are sewn up, that all the audience are out there.
Ted Nelson said "the compter world is not yet finished, but everyone is behaving as if everthing was known. This is not true. In fact, the computer world as we know it is based upon one tradition that has been waddling along from the last fifty years, growing in size and ungainliness, and essentially defining the way we do everything"
Be confident that you use the web in new ways and new ideas and ways of doing things change all the time. And don't be put off by other people having budgets or computer science skills... make the best of what you do and what you enjoy. Tinker and play! On the subject of code: do not be afraid. You don't need it but understanding a few of the moving parts will give you an edge, especially when negotiating with people. Code gives you that edge.
I hope this gives you a flavour of what we do... if this is an area you are interested in, you are excited to try getting into it.
Some useful resources:
A quick word about Faber, we don't do work experience anymore, we do paid internships associated with MA programmes. And those involve work in lots of different areas so they are really useful.
Q1) Nick, you talked about turning existing content into ebooks, how are you thinking about illystrations at commissioning stage
A1) We have a long tradition of illustrated childrens books. And we wont tell an illustrators not to do things that won't look good on a device. But we try to make people aware earlier on, to provide guidance and knowledge... no-one can say we didn't warn them.
Q2) Question to Nick, the Dragon book... did you make it for all devices?
A2) We output two files. One had to be bespoke and is proprietary. But is a perfect replica of the fixed format file (ePub). So we needed to work more with the proprietary devices because of various screen sizes. Unfortunately you cannot use that app on Macs or PCs but fine across devices. We created both versions simultaniously...
A2 - Eoin) But not scalable.
A2 - Nick) No. But appropriate for that title
Q3) What would you say are key skills for editor working with digital?
Q4) Is the enhanced ebook more expensive than the print copy?
A4 - Nick) Yes but varies case by case... ebook retailers can run promotions, undercutting, etc. I think our enhanced titles are higher by 50p or 99p ish.
Q5) How do the rights for these books work out. Is the new format, device, features.... what happens?
A5 - Nick) We used ePub 3 is an open standard... platforms trying to get closer to supporting ePub 3. On the horizon... but then a new standard will come along... as long as backwards compatibility... they appreciate that that has to be the case. All versions should absorb groundwork and take into future versions. Rights wise enhanced rights are different. But we negotiate those with author and agent
Q6) In terms of coding and technical skills - will publishers provide training or do you have to do that.
A6 - Eoin) No. We use XML, looks like Quark Express but spits out the right formats. But people do learn on the job. But we don't have a skills programme and thats an issue in small companies and industry wise.
A6 - Nick) Bit different for me. A bigger company, loads of tools... learned in three and a half weeks how to code an ebook. I'd just done a fancy degree but none of that prepared me for digital. But actually the code is relatively simple. Basics are easy but goalposts change.
And with that it's a swift hop over to the other side of the building to talk data and metadata!
Reading the Data and Knowing the Numbers: How the ISBN Drives Publishing - Karina Luke,
Karina Luke works at Book Industry Communication Ltd. Prior to that I worked at Penguin. Its good to see a reasonable audience interested in data and the ISBN. I've been in the industry for 20 years... a bit about me. I got to publishing via architecture. I graduated in architecture in 1992... just as the UK went into recession and no-one was building anything. It seems a strange combination... but I think the jobs I've had feel like they have related back to that degree... around operations, testing, looking holistically at the supply chain really, but in the book industry. I started in Dorling Kindesley and I got that by accident. I think quite a few people of my age have fallen into publishing... things have changed a bit now... when I started at Dorling Kindesley I had no idea what a publisher was, or the difference between a publisher and a printer. I just knew not to say "I love books". I started off in international sales rights, and learned a lot about rights, about production... I needed a much more thorough knowledge in order to negotiate with the customer effectively. Having that knowledge of the process, the interdependencies... I found that useful in being a sales person.
So having been exposed to all areas of the industry I wasn't sure what to do. Then I took a maternity cover role in customer operations for Penguin. This was UK based and very much about nitty gritty of publishing process... I actually ended up there 12 years. And then a natural progression I went to stock control and inventory management. Heathrow moved it's facilities to Rugby... it was challenging... I learned such a lot from that. You learn a lot from mistakes and there is no harm in that. So as head of stick control at Penguin I learned a lot about the physical side of stock control... and a few years later ebooks popped up. They sounded similar but digital... You still have a (virtual) warehouse, you still have to get the book to the reader - it's not magic. And seeing the changes in the business was interesting. There was a temptation to apply the physical workflow to ebooks but they are different, they have different challenges. So I let it be known that I wanted to go into ebooks from an operational perspective... how do you get the data out, how does DRM work, how does that happen... back to architecture! I think my journey... and being now at BIC... from having experienced the physical and virtual workflow... and seeing process of conception to delivery... I was thinking what will I do now... And then the job came up at BIC. And BIC deals with infrastructure for the whole book industry. I thought that's perfect!
So to sum up this section... you won't always end up where you think you will... twenty years ago I thought I would be an architect. My job is great, it's a pleasure. Find the thing that you love and do it. That's the thing you will excel at. Do what you are good at, do more at it... no-one trained David Beckham to be a goal keeper... they saw he was good at scoring goals and let him do that. And you may find your role isn't where you find that thing. You may enjoy part of the role... could end up in editorial and find you enjoy the relationships... so PR might be where you should be. Learn something new every day and be passionate and you will be successful. I also think everyone in the industry needs to understand the chain of events that gets the book to the reader... now more than ever you need that basic grounding of what happens and where does it happen... so you don't make promises for things that can't happen to that schedule... The answers you get from specialists can impact your suppliers and your company reputation. When you start a job you can find you end up specialising just on your task, not the bigger picture, but that's important to do...
BIC... We do BIC codes but also more... On our board we have British Library, PA, BA and CILIP. We are a membership organisation and our members include wholesalers, retailers, data aggreagtors, etc. We are set up to improve supply chain efficiencies and best practice. To save the indusry money. We look at Physical supply chain, digital supply chain, e-commerce, technical standards, accredition schemes, events and training, IRI, product information. It's about best practice and training and we have a number of training courses coming up...
So.... what does the ISBN stand for... International Standard Book Number. 13 numbers. And it was established in 1970. It came about as in the late 60s book suppliers wanted to transact electronically... that's where it came from...
So what does a number mean:
So the first three are a prefix.
The next digit is the Registration Group - that's a country, a geographical region or language grouping of publishers participating in ISBN
The next two digits is a Registrant
The number identifies a specific edition of the publication in a specific format
Check Digit is a mathematically calculated algorithm that calculates what went before.
So here... English language. Random House - Black Swan. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry - PB
How many countries use it? Over 160 at the last count. And why? Welll to coordinate and standardise the internation al use of ISBNs to identify uniquely published books and formats...
OK but why does that matter... well its like the foot tag of a homing pigeon - its for identification, for ownership, to study behaviour, and to gain information.
Similarly ISBNs are attached for it's lifetime. And the identification of that product is critical at every stage of the supply chain. And that is a unique identifyer.
It says who the publisher is, where they are, who the author is, what rights are available and where it can be sold - territories.
Once you have that ISBN you can study behaviour - how it's selling, where, peak buying period, how many are in stock, who is buying th ebook, is it being returned, is it in print. And that information can also be shared to the outside world...
Where does the ISBN go? To the ISBN agency, to publiser, to data aggregators, to retailers, to distributors, to author, and to some readers..
How does the ISBN "go"? Depends on publisher size. One way is through ONIX, a standard XML file that only needs sending once. Or an Excel Spreasheet - fine but can find that your recipients have different requirements (e.g. column order). So we recommend ONIX.
What about metadata? What IS metadata? Well it's data about data... or (in our case) descriptive bibliographic information about your books. Where does it come from? Different parts of the organisation... but think differently... don't think about it as Metadata... it's your sales force! It's how people know what you are selling, it's how you find things! The way people find content is looking online and searching - that's generally information from the publisher...
Would you employ or buy from someone who can't tell you anything about a book... that's what your metadata should overcome, it should be an integral part of the publishing process.
See Nielson BookScan Research and White Paper: the Link between metadata and sales.
Good metadata is really clear, it tells you aboyut the book.... which woul dyou trust to buy?
BIC Accreditation shows how publishers perform with regards to their metadata. So the BIC Basic award requires ISBN, Title, Product Form, Main BIC Subject Category, etc. 11 items in total. We recommend getting metadata out to aggregators about 4 months before publishing. If writing description... you need to really thing about it... where is it set, what's it about, plot teasers... that's potentially a first chance to tell someone about your book...
So... raise awareness of metadata and get it right, first time. So ISBNs and metadata - yes!
If you take nothing else away let it be Metadata = sales.
So to go back to the bird... your book is one of thousands... make sure you can track it and that others can find it...
Kobo - Lindsay Mooney
I am the vendor manager for the UK, I am responsible for almost everything we acquire in the UK, about all the content we acquire... I cannot emphasize enough the importance of metadata...
A bit about me I've been in the industry for about 10 years, started as a physical book buyer for the BCA, buying rail books and celebrity biographies. Then about 8 years ago moved online... launching B2C sites.. I've been at Kobo for just over two years.
So I will start with some background. Kobo launched in 2009. Building on the past - backgrounds in publishing and book selling. We have been described as one of the three powerhouses in ebooks. We have about 4 million titles in the UK right now, a shed load of data... We sell into over 190 different countries... so getting rights correct and having different currencies is hugely different. In the UK we are pretty much the cheapest ebooks. Strong territorial pricing strategy is really important.
So how are ebooks different from traditional publishing? Traditionally print runs descided without any sales. But for ebooks pre-orders as a benchmark - books are sold up to 6-9 months before publication. And that can benchmark physical comments. On books prices are fixed, they are printed on the books. ebooks that's not the case. We take data from publishers every day... impractical but you can use one day sales and other promotions... Traditionally one ISBN, one currency. For ebooks one ISBN may mean 10 prices... e.g. UK os £4.99, $7.67 AUS would be a direct comparison but the market price is more like $12.99 AUS.
So, we have a wealth of digital data at our fingertips. We are data geeks to try to help publishers and help our own sales. And we can see it informing the publishing decisions made, the work comissioned. For instance Faber commissioned a QI App. In Apps you have a wealth of analytics which can be used. Huge amounts of analytics. A lot publish apps and don't use the data. But Faber did, they looked at popular chapters, and ignored chapters. They essentially reverse engineered their print version.. based on analytics they only published the best bits of the app. Not just apps this applies to... We have sales data... and we know where people buy the book (e.g. postcode level), we know when you brought the book, the price you paid, the devices you use - we have bookmark data and that's where you start to see behaviour... we know where they opened the book... I talk to publishers a lot about how they might use it... for instance most assume you open every ebook you buy. Lots of people buy the ebook and never open it. A general rate would be 50% of ebooks purchased being opened.
Then we know how long did they spend reading it... if someone spends hours at a time gthen they are engaged. We know if they finished it... again a surprising number do not. A really good completion rate is 70-80%. Authors averageing 90% are very notable. And so that data gets us to what readers actually like, it's hard to know if they like and enjoy the book. With that data would you change commissioning and publicity? So you have two debut authors with similar sales but you only have budget for just one author which would it be... would data be useful or would relying on gut be acceptble?
So... if we had this data.... Open rate 49%, completion rate 40% completion time 3 weeks. Author 2: open rate 70%, completion rate 75%, average time to finish 6 days... with that data... you can see they enjoyed the second one more... they will share it, you can build it...
So author 2 has the deal... fast forward to near publishing data... can you use consumer insight to make this a bigger hit. Publicity doesn't need data right?
No, obviously data matters... you can look at sales data - like top cities for sales. And you have an author tour... well you'll connect those dots up to build success... and then looking at marketing... no chance of a big blanket spend... maybe a few materials. But without budget.... data on the previous title showed that people brought at 8pm. Get some email marketing, social media... but marketing and social media activity planned to capture activity around this time... won't work for different genreas as we know, say, romance and crime sell at different times of day.
Something we have found works really well... price promotion of first book to encourage sales of the new book at full price. Not huge price discounting. But metadata driven... ideally drop price of back catalogue title via ONIX etc. We see that massive spikes in sales from that tactic...
But data matters across the board, regardless of the department. Data can informa all areas of publishing. It can be encouraging for editors to see that there are improvements over time...
Use as much data as you can.
Q1) You sell this data to publishers? Subscription model?
A1) Right now we work with a number of publishers, we go in, we talk to them, we have portals for that. They log in to see it. But that's sales etc. not activity data as that's more manual. Right now only the top publishers get the data. Because the process is fairly manual.
Q2) Are you looking to expand in the future?
A2) We'd love to! Right now it's once every few months process...
Q3) What about privacy?
A3) We never look at individual users. It's always anonimised as x number of readers are this far through. We do a lot of stuf with social readers, sharing to facebook etc. that can be turned on and off. We don't sell any data to anyone. The only people who get data back are publishers - and we want to help them increase data.
In our final panel session we will consider the future of book selling. Our chair for this session is Samantha Missingham. And we start with...
What does the future hold? - Matthew Cashmore, Blackwells Digital
I'm not talking about the future of book selling. I'm talking about the future of our industry as a whole as publishing and book selling are the same thing. I have been fortunate to be involved in other industries, radio, television, at times of change.
So here is a picture of huskies... and they represent technology. It's easy to say that "change = technology". I'm a technology guy but actually technology are your huskies, if you have the right ones, in the right set up, they will drive your business. If they do the wrong thing they will turn your business over... Technology amplifies what you are great at... and what you are shit at. Everyone loves that picture of a sunset... if you share a picture of you vomiting in the street it still has the same amplification effect...
So digital reflects what you are good at and what you are bad at. But most importantly what you are passionate about. There is no person in this industry who is not trying to recruit for culture and train for competancies...
And there is nothing new... we have been experiencing change forever... since there was business there was change. In the industrial revolution we saw the point at which the machines dictated the speed of what we do, and when we started getting into technical standards... we can get into discussions around new standards... you can get all irate that there are 10 new standards... we should create a new one... oh it's 11 new standards!
TV is dead! No! It's not! Industries go through change... first you have fear. Then you have overreaction. I was on an Edinburgh TV panel... the theme was TV is dead. I was arguing that technology changes how we do TV, the art of scheduling may be dead, but the art of television remains. The format shifted and the format changed. And that happened in the UK by having a bit too much arrogance... that led to red button interactivity. It was led through the industry not the audience. But interactivity actually driven by consumers is through Twitter and second screen...
Radio is dead! I was on another panel at Edinburgh a few years before was that podcasting would destroy radio because it was democratising radio... in the first few months of podcasts it was very much bedroom production. I started my career with a podcast... London Bikers... and it was number one for four weeks... and then Rickey Gervais turned up. And why was I knocked out? Because he produced brilliant stuff. It was about content. It had to change but when the BBC figured out that podcasting wasn't a new service... but a new way to deliver content. And commercial stations cottoned on... people like me were knocked out. Radio is not dead.
Music is dead! Possibly a bit too young but... I'm going to give you an example of industry adopted new business models. Music industry did well... In a way they got format shift well. Started putting music out on memory cards and USB sticks and mini disks.. they didn't listen to customers but they tried. Often said that music needed to make money through tours and t-shirts... they knew that, as far back as the 70s. So one of those iconic rock acts, the one who wanted blue M&Ms... that one... Those tours... they went on much bigger tours, to venues which had never had music before. There were proper details in the rider about set up and sound checking. So bands put something in that would let them know that the people at the venue hadn't read the rider properly... and so they cancelled that night's performance to check everything properly... not because they were being divas!
The other thing the music industry did recently... Eastern Europe. The music industry NEVER made money there, aside from tours. But five or six years ago when piracy had run it's course. Universal offered to give all of their music for free whenever you sell a phone, and they got a one off license fee. And they had a whole new income stream with a whole new business models...
We've seen companies come and go and fail.... high streets closed... literacy rates through the floor...
What's the bloody point? (this is the part that got cut off at Future Book!)
Books are dead! Quite literally... leather... whatever... I was in Winchester Cathedral looking at a bible written by hand on the skin of 250 calves. There is a nipple on one page. There are many in our industry who would like us to produce books that way... but things change...
But first a test... When was the first proper TV station launched in the world...? In the UK. In 1924. From Alexandra Palace. To a 6 mile radius. In "glorious high definition" on 426 lines. I know A LOT about that broadcast. Radio... When was the first radio station launched in the world... 1917, in the UK. BBC radio started in 1928. Not long ago the UK was leading. Screw the Americans... we should remember that we are brilliant at this stuff...
Recorded music... Detroit, DECCA, 1930. We have a shop that's older than these entire industry. We have been changing for 300 years... Thomas Cromwell was the person who brought printing presses to the UK to print the bible, and to print propaganda about Anne Boleyn in 1524. We have printed in calves, on paper so expensive that it had to be reused, on paper... we have the invention of the speaking tube at Blackwells... still there! When Blackwells makes it's first Billion in profit I'm installing them in all our shops. If we behave like victims we will be treated this way. The only new thing right now is that technology is driving the speed... we can get on board and tie our huskies to great content! Or we can do this haphazardly. We have to be architects of our own change and our own future... and to dictate what that should be... but that's a lot of arrogance... and we've seen that that can be an issue for other industries...
Blackwells, I've been there a year, they were losing money... they decided we had the first transactional book website in the UK (1995), we were the first in the world to have reserve online and collect in store. And we have the book buying process sing. OK so now that's good lets invest in our digital future... so they have employed me! We've basically been making new reins... new processes, new servers, new business models, speaking to publishers...
When people were in the shop and wanted a book and you didn't have it you'd get sent to Amazon... because the shop wouldn't get the sale and the website didn't work. So we made the website much better so they are proud, we made localised versions so the store gets the sale, they are incentivised. And we've invested in CRMs so we can tie up in-person and in-store experiences and recommednations, the big data bit. We have an app that that spreads to... we have set up a new scanworks to do pure R&D. Invest in brilliant people. We want to combine the business, really clever technical people. These guys went to a hack day Above the Earth and won with Turf, a location based talking app, to distribute stuff to your audience. really clever. New tool systems.
So, to succeed... a touch JUST a touch of arrogance. Do not forget that you are experts at what you do, sometimes you know more than the audience. A LOT of R&D and a LOT of user design. Things have to work and look beautiful. Finally you need a pinch of luck.
Now over to... Alex Ingram
The future of bookselling is not just bookselling... and not just books... over the long term history its not just about purchasing. Book selling and publishing have been distinct. Book sellers have been bad at that, publishers slightly better... There are narratives out there... the dominance of Amazon, the death of book shops, and the death of books. And we have the dominant media narrative that chain shops are bad... But we don't care about book buyers or head office staff in chains losing jobs, we only worry when a chain goes out of business... but book buying matters, this is book knowledge.
Book lengths used to be governed by what could be printed. May have looked editorial but was economical... and we shouldn't be suprised that what happened in print, is happening again in digital. For instance Apple iBooks Authoring tools... it is directed to speciliased non-traditional content, not scalable stuff. But there are economic models effecting the industry. We have to be aware when thinking of the industry as a whole.
And when we think about Amazon... we have seen calls for government intervention. I have a problem with that despite having issues with Amazon... it has grown partly because of government incentivising them to build a warehouse in particular locations. A cautionary tale... thinking about using others' tools and how those are used would see book sellers behaving like publishers... In WWII we saw paperbacks emerging as dominant in light of paper rationing. Penguin wasn't first but they made them popular. That was a major format change. We would do well to look back on that... Paperback history is better documented in the US. Paperbacks there didn't really take off until 30 years in in the 1970s. Book selling has always been under change...
What does worry me is how few people are employed in a book shop. Shops used to employ 10s or 100s, to one per floor. We have seen people running sections across multiple stores, not understanding one shop well. Although it's an opportunity for consistency here. There were probably too many staff in Waterstones looking back... but I see people trying to predict sales based on what sold before. There is a fair element of throwing mud at the wall and seeing what sticks. In Michael Bahskar's The Content Machine. Book selling is a filter but you can end up being a filter of a filter... the interesting sign of that is when you see the "pornographic panic" in WHSmith. Book sellers try to have a clear policy , e.g. "we do not sell pornography", that is so hard to actually stick to.
And there is a myth that book sellers might have read everything that they sell... could that be expected from digital because it is possible. And we also see non traditional book sellers becoming book seller. Not just Amazon but Lewis' based on it's adverts.
Is there a future for book selling? Yes. Is it entirely digital? No. Has technology changed it? Yes.
Book selling changes all the time... it will get weirder... there is opportunity to grasp that change and do something different. There is a real opportunity to do something quite dramatic that we haven't seen before.
Over to our chair, Sam...
Sam is starting the discussions with some polling of the audience's buying habits... I think you are probably unrepresentative! You do not represent the book masses... but Amazon are the giant elephant in the room... a force for good or for evil... When I worked at the book seller 70% of those working in publishing buy from Amazon and they also said that they hated the idea of an Amazon only future...
So, Lindsay, what is your plan for outdoing Amazon? Any weak points in their strategy?
Lindsay) We do one thing well. We don't sell cat food. We work with publishers. We are friendly. We do things differently. The UK is going the same way as the US, their market share is getting smaller. They are a slick retailer. The supply chain is enviable.
Matthew) But Amazon are massive... but 10 years ago they were disruptive... but they have been going 10 years... they are set in their ways... we have the opportunity to disrupt! Their share is going down. Every time the figures of share come out, it's coming down. It's Kobo, it's Nook, it's becoming clear that Amazon is not a nice company. If you look at public perception of Amazon before the tax story versus after.
Commentor) People don't think that way! They still buy from them!
Matthew) They do still do a good job... We will beat Amazon in the UK through better processes, through better service. Don't enter the industry hating Amazon. But don't enter the industry thinking you can't beat Amazon. That's the difference.
Alex) I was at Waterstones before they got into bed with Amazon to sell the Kindle. There were plans to sell the Nook at one time. Waterstones hired a digital team of 9 people. About 8 people have left. I wasn't one of them... but long term it's difficult... Amazon has turned the relationship into an open programme. Waterstones is not an intenational book company, less so even than Barnes and Noble. Either it tries to be an international print seller. Or it tries to be about books in both formats. I don't see a future for them working for Amazon long term. We have to be careful not to damn companies for selling stores, particularly stores that are not working. We have long zombie stores on long leases... you subsidise effort where no income. We should give some credit for closing some stores like that... But I am concerned that Waterstones are trying to extend a model that works in London, it doesn't seem to have a local strategy.
Sam takes another poll: are we optimistic about physical book shops? Yes, most of us are.
Q1) Talking about market share... actually globally what about literature deserves to stand up against TV and Film... what is the technology and change that will honour that core of literature.
A1 - Sam) I will just comment on something Kate Nosey said... right now reading is the most boring thing a kid can do on a device... that's a real issue... we've had the Tesco tablet taking those mainstream....
A1 - Alex) I have a young nephew... what relaxes him and gets him into bed at night is a print book. Digital books do not do that, they get him excited. That matters. those formats have different places. We need to understand that better in terms of reading and not just in terms of purchase.
Q2) Are the seeds of Amazon's destruction being sewn by other big retailers, like Rakuten, who sell more than books.... should we do what we do and let those industries do their thing...
A2 - Alex) For destruction it would be like the banking crisis, something we can't see. But for changing sales etc. then yes, those different players will have impact. Rakuten are interesting as they are very different models. Very different business models might bring efficiencies as well as the choice...
Q2) Amazon doesn't work in India for the same reason.
A2 - Matthew) Publishers are supporting different models now... they see that disruption isn't neccassarily a bad thing... The reason there are competitors to Amazon... Amazon has a string of initiatives that link in... if something breaks they can switch in... you can't disrupt them through a string of chains... I don't agree with that premise. Their margins will be more pressured... by a chain of people doing little bits of that chain. Blackwells can really attack our own niche. Other players can do that too. As consumers become aware of choice... I think that starts to shift... that's why Amazon behaves differently now to ten years ago...
Comment from Sam) Don't think you will beat Amazon at everything... Jeff Bezos talks about how he does strategy...
Q3) Discoverability... Blackwells and Kobo do lots of work on improving website... if I google and only Amazon only comes up... or if I search on Kobo's own store and can't find a book that's an issue...
A3 - Lindsay) For sure that matters, and our web team works on that all the time
A3 - Matthew) You have to understand that, I have spotted a reason for Blackwells not showing up in search...
Sam) A company in the states called Oyster have set up a subscription $9.95 per month for ebooks. Is it going to work.
Lindsay) No. Not based on their adverts...
Matthew) I don't know. I hope so. There isn't a yes/no answer... who watches Twitter's commercials?
And with that the debate closes... A raffle is drawn (we've all been entered!)... (And Matthew runs into the night to catch Doctor Who in 3D!)
And Jonathan closes by thanking us all for coming:
Please do look out for a feedback survey. We really want to know so that we can improve on it all for our next conference in London! Thank you again for all of our sponsors... particularly Atwoodtate and Oxford University Press, our platinum sponsors. And do take a look at our website for the full list of our fantastic sponsors!
Emma: Huge thank yous to the whole conference team... so huge thank you's (and flowers!) Thank you again for coming. Do come to our after party drinks! And do get in touch with any of the committee, we'd love to see you again!