After a successful inaugural session at last year’s Frankfurt Book Fair, O’Reilly Media’s Tools of Change conference will return with a bigger show at the 2010 fair. Among the featured speakers are Jeff Jarvis, Buzzmachine.com blogger and author of What Would Google Do?; media theorist Douglas Rushkoff, author of Life, Inc.; and Richard Nash, founder of the digital startup Cursor. Breakout sessions will include Google Editions, standards, and the true costs of “going digital.” PW caught up Andrew Savikas, the v-p of digital initiatives at O’Reilly Media and ToC program chair, to talk about this year’s event.
Any reflections or highlights from last year’s ToC Frankfurt, and expectations for this year?
Last year’s attendance exceeded our expectations, and this year we’ve moved the event to the nearby Marriott to give us more space, and to try and address some of the feedback we received about the room sizes for the breakout sessions. We expect this year’s event to be bigger than last year, both because of last year’s success, and because so many publishers worldwide are trying to figure out how to adapt and respond to the challenges and opportunities presented by the very quickly changing digital publishing landscape.
Indeed, the digital market is a fast-moving target. Can you tell us a little about how things have changed just since last year’s Frankfurt Book Fair?
Digital is quickly moving from a secondary consideration to a primary focus for many people and companies in the industry. I think the volcanic ash interruption of the London Book Fair got a lot of people thinking about what it really is they should be trying to accomplish by attending an international book fair. I sense a growing understanding that in the context of the rapidly changing digital and mobile landscape, coming together primarily to negotiate territorial rights for print books needs to be complemented with rethinking the role of territorial rights, especially as customer expectations run headlong into common business practices within the publishing industry. It’s hard for readers to understand why they can’t find or buy a particular title in digital form because they happen to live outside of where the primary market is for the print version. At O’Reilly, we continue to see the majority of our digital sales come from outside the U.S., and those are sales we’d be unable to capture without the rights and the capability to publish and distribute globally.
2010 has been quite a year—from the iPad to the Wylie/Random House spat over digital royalties. What trends or issues do you see on the horizon?
Where to start! For me, the biggest changes since last year’s ToC Frankfurt are the introduction of the iPad from Apple and the explosion of growth in devices running the Android mobile operating system, which now includes a number of iPad-like tablet devices. Google has said it’s activating more than 100,000 Android devices every day, which is an awful lot of potential customers for useful and relevant digital content and media. Apple’s agency model has shaken up the pricing conversations many publishers are having internally and with channel partners, and many mobile apps and Web sites are showing how the capabilities of mobile devices can really be used to accomplish the same “job” that customers previously may have used a book to do.
ToC has grown big time in the U.S. Why do you think it has become so popular in the U.S. and do you expect similar growth in Frankfurt?
I think there’s a real sense that the market is changing so fast and it’s really challenging to keep up. It’s too early to be certain about anything, except about the inherent uncertainty, so people are looking for places to share ideas and knowledge, and to learn from the success and failures of innovators within and outside of the traditional industry boundaries. While I expect the New York show to remain our flagship ToC event, I’ve spoken to enough publishers in Europe, Asia, Australia, and South America to know there’s a real hunger for the kind of forum ToC provides for learning and sharing. I do expect ToC Frankfurt to continue growing, and I also expect we’ll do ToC events elsewhere around the world as well.