This year's Global 50 CEO Talk at the Frankfurt Book Fair, held on October 19, branched beyond the book business in its traditional sense by bringing together the heads of two of the world’s largest digital (and nontraditional) publishing platforms: Wattpad Webtoon's Ashleigh Gardner, and Rakuten Kobo's Michael Tamblyn. The two discussed the importance of building online readerships, alternative business models, and the value of the self-publishing market. The conversation was moderated by Austrian publishing consultant Rüdiger Wischenbart, with questions asked by editors from five trade journals: Publishers Weekly's Ed Nawotka; Bookdao's Carlo Carrenho; Livres Hebdo's Fabrice Piault; buchreport's Thomas Wilking; and the Bookseller's Philip Jones.
Speaking to the state of digital publishing, Tamblyn said that “it’s not that e-books are flat to down, it’s that [traditionally published] e-books are flat to down.” He added, in a quip that the lawyers for Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster surely would have appreciated him making before the trial in August: “One in 4 books we sell in English is a self-published title, which means that effectively, for us, self-publishing is like having a whole other Penguin Random House sitting out in the market that no one sees. It’s like the dark matter of publishing.”
Gardner agreed. “What’s so exciting to me is the volume of content being produced,” she said. “I think people tend to assume Gen Z doesn’t read, but,” she said, considering how much text they read every day on their smartphones, “they’re the most literate generation we’ve ever had.” She added that she saw interest in work in translation increasing in her business: “When we’re seeing what’s happening across every other entertainment platform—look at all the cross-cultural hits Netflix has had—I think we’ll see a much bigger translation market in the English market.”
The full video can be viewed here, and is embedded below.