O’Reilly Media’s Tools of Change For Publishing Conference will be held at New York’s Marriott Marquis Hotel February 22-24, once again bringing together a slate of publishing executives, digital technicians and new media prognosticators to discuss (and debate) everything from the intricacies of software development to the current state of big publishing and the rise of self-publishing, social media and digital reading platforms.

Keynote speakers to watch this year include Huffington Post founder and editor in chief, Arianna Huffington; Google senior copyright counsel William Patry; and a much-anticipated conversation between O’Reilly Media CEO Tim O’Reilly and technology visionary and developer of the Blio e-reading software, Ray Kurzweil, to be held on Tuesday evening.

This year’s show opens in the wake of the battle between Amazon and Macmillan over e-book pricing as the book industry struggles to define a workable business model for digital publishing going forward. And while the TOC is at least the third digital publishing conference to convene in New York City since November, Andrew Savikas, v-p of digital initiatives at O’Reilly and program chair for the TOC, said that despite the proliferation of digital confabs, he believed the “timing is great for this year’s show.”

Savikas said that the last two TOCs held in New York City sold out and attracted more than 1,000 attendees each and this year’s show was also on pace to sellout and attract about the same attendance figure. This is the fourth TOC conference and Savikas said, “we learn a lot each year, particularly how quickly change in publishing has picked up. Over the last 60 to 90 days we’ve seen the development of new devices like the iPad and the introduction of new pricing policies. The first time we held TOC, talking about POD or digital platforms was a curiousity, now publishers know it’s the main focus.”

He said that the proliferation of digital publishing conferences showed, “that we’re talking about something important.” He emphasized that the TOC, “brings something different. The other events emerge from the New York trade book industry; we held the first TOC in California to show that this discussion is also coming from outside the traditional book industry. We think we offer a longer horizon on the issues and can look at things that aren’t yet commercial applications.”

Savikas highlighted the keynote presentations by Huffington (“she talks about how you can make money with content-based businesses using alternative models without traditional overhead and approaches”); and Google’s Patry, a copyright scholar who he said would offer perspectives on both the Google settlement as well as a broad view of copyright in general. And he pointed to a number of TOC panels focused on e-book consumers, “we want a conversation about what readers want; about their behavior, where they buy books. We want to show that the conversation about digital reading isn’t just between publishers.”

Savikas also offered responses to some of the publishing issues likely to circulate around this year’s TOC. On the introduction of the agency model for e-book pricing: “that’s one way to do it. At O’Reilly Media we have a healthy direct sales business and we sell our e-books on the Apple App Store and on the Android phone App Market and we set the price. The Kindle is an important channel but direct sales is our best retail channel and Safari Books [O’Reilly’s online digital library subscription service] is our second largest channel. Publishers need to be aggressive in finding new retail channels.” And while he described the iPad as “a cool new device-toy,” he also said, “a lot of the issues around the device are already here with the iPod Touch and the iPhone. The iPad won’t eliminate the need to rethink publishing. What it will do is accelerate the move to the mobile web for reading.”

“Our sales data shows that many people are happy to read on phones. The notion that e-books must be like print books, only better, is misguided,” Savikas explained in response to a question about the role of dedicated reading devices. “People want accessibility and portability. Half of our e-book sales come from outside the U.S. from emerging markets where people are coming to the web for the first time using their phones. Publishers are overlooking an entirely new and much larger market where people are using mobile phones not only for reading but as a complete media center.”