Probably the most useful takeaway from The Future of Book Publishing panel, held Wednesday at the Javits Center, was that the future of the industry isn’t some faraway possibility. It’s actually taking place all around us, right now.
Panelists touched on recent industry data citing the continuing strength of the physical book (both its sales and its social character) as well as the growing importance (and continued neglect) of backlist titles and the maturation of self-publishing from a disruptive, maverick effort into a legitimate professional publishing category. Although most of this information has been offered at one digital/publishing convention or another over the last five years or so, it doesn’t hurt to remind the industry (again) that examples of its future are among us.
Follet/Baker & Taylor’s David Culley outlined changes in the library market and Follet’s long-term role in everything from creating learning software for colleges to running college bookstores (more than 1,200 currently) to developing software for libraries that can recommend popular titles.
Sourcebooks publisher Dominique Raccah highlighted the durability of print books. “Books are not like music or magazines or anything else; they’re different,” she said. Raccah noted the growing sales of print books (61% of Sourcebooks sales are print backlist) and the unique capabilities of the print format for sharing, whether as a gift or a conversation starter. Reading is growing, she said, and teens and millennials prefer print to e-books. On top of it all, she said, there’s been an “explosion of writing” and the unprecedented growth of self-publishing that offers “new ways to connect book and writers to readers.”
Although virtual and augmented reality applications for the book industry remain in their infancy, tech writer and author Dave Ewalt joked that the technologies “will destroy books completely!” But he also explained that AR platforms like the New York Times 360 video journalism and the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, will offer authors and publishers “a whole new way to process information and tell stories.” He noted that technology platforms like AltspaceVR have the ability to bring groups of people together in virtual space and may signal the future readings and even digital sales as the technology continues to develop.
Like most book industry symposiums, the panel stressed the importance of innovation, of turning competitive threats into opportunities to create new markets and new customers. Indeed the presentation by Renée Mauborgne, coauthor of best selling business title, Blue Ocean Strategy, reinforced that concept with a pretty good anecdote. Mauborgne noted that upon meeting her copanelist, Dominique Raccah, here at the show, Raccah immediately thanked her and outlined how Blue Ocean Strategy had transformed Sourcebooks.
Raccah, who is also PW’s Publishing Person of the year, had distributed the book to staffers at Sourcebooks and used it as a model for her own innovative strategies at the company. The future of book publishing is going on right now at Sourcebooks.