If you’re a New York City publishing professional eager to learn more about how technology is changing how we think of publishing—and who isn’t these days?—Code Meet Print NY, a recent meetup event organized by digital investor Glenn Nano, offered a smart and informal gathering focused on “the intersection of texts + tech” with presentations from several literary/digital startups focused on creating new interfaces and business models for reading.
The event was held Tuesday night May 10 at General Assembly, a much-reported on “urban campus” for new media startups focused on culture, design and technology located on Broadway in the Flatiron district of Manhattan. Founded by Matthew Brimer, Brad Hargreaves, Jake Schwartz and Adam Pritzker, General Assembly offers both office space and a sympathetic and knowledgeable tech (and venture capital) community to a selected group of startups looking to further their project and exchange information with other startups as well as with firms further along in their development.
Nano founded Code Meet Print NY and approached General Assembly about holding the event and Adrian Ryan, GA's events manager, loved the idea. " I wanted to galvanize deeper innovative thought and action at the convergence of writing itself, technology, business, and publishing," Nano said. Tuesday's CMPNY event attracted nearly a 100 people for cold beer and power point presentations (and live site demos) on technology-driven reading ventures. The event offered presentations by a number of publishing/reading startups, some fairly well known by now, but nevertheless, interesting both for their business models as well as a flair for highlighting the distance between traditional publishing models and their own “disruptive” ventures.
Among the presenters Tuesday night at General Assemby were Richard Nash, hyping his new publishing venture Cursor/RedLemonade.com, which just went live online with its first books, and sniping at legacy publishing (“everyone at traditional publishing houses are afraid someone will submit a manuscript to them”). Jacob Lewis, Founder of Figment.com, an online teen writing community; and Benjamin Samuel and Anna Prushinskaya of Electric Literature, the digital literary quarterly—sitting in for founders Andy Hunter and Scott Lindenbaum—talked about both Electric Literature and Hunter and Lindenbaum’s new venture in location-based aural storytelling, Broadcastr.com. While these three literary/digital ventures gave formal presentations, also on hand were Brian Davis of Joyland Magazine and Mia Eaton of Lit Mag, the literary journal of the New School.
Nano, an early stage investor for the venture capital firm Centurion Venture Partners, advises as well as invests in early stage startups. He put the event together, along with the help of Amy Wu, for General Assembly, which is always on the lookout for ways to highlight the services and community it offers the tech startup community. Nano is a tech investor that loves reading and wants to encourage a conversation between publishing/literary professionals and like-minded tech folks.
“There’s been a lot of stuff about journalism and blogging,” Nano said, “but not delivery.” He said we need, “New interfaces; we need to look at the relationship between reader and computer and how we engage text and each other.” And that’s pretty good description of what the event delivered.
Not surprisingly, Nash, former publisher of Soft Skull Press, was thoughtfully outrageous, “the world doesn’t need another Soft Skull or another indie publisher, it needs 50,000 of them!” Lewis offered some very interesting statistics on the Figment community: 35,000 users; 75,000 book/documents; 500 documents uploaded every day from over 180 countries; 62% of teen girls and 39% of teen boys on the site say books are important; and 64% of its community visits the site at least 9 times a month. “We know a lot about our users,” Lewis said. While Samuels and Prushinskaya focused on Broadcastr.com, a separate venture launched by EL that features a new free iphone app oral story project (“an invisible layer of history”) that allows anyone to record an oral story that is then linked online to the geographical site where it was recorded. The two also outlined a series of content partnerships with 9/11 memorial, Fodors, SummerStage and others to use the new technology.
It looks like Nano hit a sweet spot. There's already a Code Meet Print TO planned for Toronto (organized by BookNet Canada's Meghan MacDonald) and Nano is making plans to hold the next Code Meet Print NY meetup event on July 12. He said we can expect another event focused on the ways that publishing and reading is being transformed by technology. “We’re looking for disruptive ventures,” he says, “we need to go places we haven’t gone before.”