Most seats were taken at the opening keynote for the first Tools of Change conference in Europe, taking place on Tuesday, one day before this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair. Sara Lloyd of Pan Macmillan kicked off the event, continuing a speech she gave at the TOC in New York in February and formally dubbed in Frankfurt “Revisiting a Publishing Manifesto: What Does the Future Look Like for Publishers?”
While some attendees may have been grumbling about the wi-fi outage at the Radisson Blue Hotel, where the conference took place, only a smattering of attendees with netbooks and laptops seemed affected, and most were appeased by O’Reilly’s offer of cable hookups.
Lloyd, digital director at Pan Macmillan, said she wanted to pick up on the “broad brush strokes” of the talk she gave in New York and spoke about the origins of that talk, which grew out of the reaction she saw to a lengthy 6,000-word blog post she did in 2008 at the company blog, thedigitalist.net, called “A book publisher’s manifesto for the 21st century.”
Noting that she was spurred to write the post because she was tired of hearing publishers talk about the future and wanted to see the industry start talking about what it’s doing now, Lloyd said she looked at the manifesto now, a year after she published it, and found the revolution has certainly begun. Reeling off statistics that speak to how quickly the digital landscape is evolving for content creators—everything from the fact that U.K. cellular company Vodafone is now the second largest retailer of digital music in the country to the news that, on day one of its release, The Lost Symbol Kindle edition outsold the print edition—Lloyd asked, rhetorically, where this leaves us.
For starters, she thinks, those in the publishing space need to hire new kinds of people, move more business from offline to online, and learn new skills. Pointing to the three big players in the digital space now—Amazon, Google and Apple—Lloyd said it’s a mistake to think the market will be device-led and that, rather, the focus needs to be on platforms. For publishers, the looming reality of a global supply chain—made all the more immediate by Amazon’s imminent introduction of the international Kindle—presents undeniable problems. Nonetheless, Lloyd thinks publishers need to do three things in their day-to-day: add value, become expert digital marketers, and provide better service.
On the first front, Lloyd said that publishers, which have always quietly added value as filters and enhancers of content, need to “think about digital as part of the whole.” On the digital marketing front, she noted a colleague’s comment that “publishing is about reading and talking about it.” With that in mind, she elaborated, publishers need to make their books searchable and available online. And, on the service end, she said publishers need to do the “hard things” for their authors that can be at times tedious and time-consuming: negotiating the supply chain, protecting their intellectual property and producing clean metadata that “ensures the content we produce can travel unimpeded.” Lloyd closed with the following quote from Seth Godin, which stands as both cautionary and a call-to-action: "Things you can learn from the music business (as it falls apart): The first rule is so important, it’s rule 0: 0. The new thing is never as good as the old thing, at least right now. Soon, the new thing will be better than the old thing will be. But if you wait until then, it’s going to be too late. Feel free to wax nostalgic about the old thing, but don’t fool yourself into believing it’s going to be here forever. It won’t."
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