The popular Tools of Change is no more, but in its place a more intimate digital conference--CONTEC--kicked off what Frankfurt v-p of conferences and entertainment & media Holger Volland said was going to be “a good mood” Frankfurt Book Fair.
In his opening, Volland noted that attendees at this year’s event were arriving with positive expectations, and the fair’s numbers this year were in line with last year’s, including more than 7,500 exhibitors, a record number of agents in the LitAg center, and more than 300,000, including consumers, people expected to attend the event over the next week.
The first “official” event of the 2013 fair, CONTEC began with two keynotes that nicely reflected the state of the publishing business. First, John Wiley president Stephen Smith offered a view from an established company that is remaking itself. For the 206 year-old publisher, digital offers higher value, Smith said, and is delivering more content to customers than any time in the publisher’s history, while offering higher margins and more attractive cash flow.
“The digital revolution we’ve talked about for many years is no longer on the horizon, it is here, we are living in it,” Smith said, noting that more than 50% of Wiley’s revenue come from digital products and services. “But while there are many good things about the digital revolution, it really isn’t going to be enough to take us where we need to go in the years ahead.”
For Wiley, a long-established professional brand, the challenge is “to continue to innovate to break out of mature sources of revenue," Smith said, “and find ways to unlock the potential that exists within our content.” Specifically that means developing new products and services, with an emphasis on the word “services,” Smith stressed, that “go beyond content.”
For example, Smith explained, for Wiley customers in the field of chemistry, it is no longer enough to be merely a provider of content. “We need to provide them with solutions to their everyday pain points.”
Smith was followed by German author and technologist Sascha Lobo, who will announce his new startup, sobooks, at the fair. Lobo’s new venture will focus on “social selling” for e-books on the Internet. Describing the current e-book formats as “ancient technology,” Lobo bemoaned the "huge discontinuities" in the processes of buying, selling, and discovering and discussing e-books.
“The future of the book is on the Web,” Lobo stressed. “I’m convinced that in some years that reading e-books will mean being on the Internet, and you won’t be able to tell the difference.”
Bringing together a mix of publishers, technologists, venture capitalists and start-ups from around the world, CONTEC is hoping to build a new digital pre-conference at the Frankfurt Book Fair, after O’Reilly suddenly pulled the plug on its Tools of Change conference. So far, so good. With ToC’s Kat Meyer contributing to the CONTEC programming the show has a ToC feel to it, with an emphasis on startups, and tech views from within the traditional publishing world, as well as from new media ventures.