Bookbuilders of Boston is a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing together people involved in book publishing and manufacturing throughout New England. Our blog describes industry events that we sponsor or attend.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Change Comes to Publishing

When writing up industry events for the blog, I try to summon the standout themes: the recurring emphasis. I’m happy to start this post about “Making Information Pay” with an observation made by my colleague: “From what I have seen today, publishing is hiring. 

Fran Toolan and Andrew Savikas (?) (center, back)

At least three conversations we had at breakfast involved people who have been with their present employers for one month or less. And that’s not even counting me! So, we start with some optimism about the state of the industry.

Another common theme among speakers was the need for new systems (shared databases) and standards (such as EPUB and ONIX). The importance of electronic content means that it can no longer be produced in a separate workflow, as an afterthought to print. Data is of increasing importance, and there is a frustration with the workflow silos that impede access to information across various publishing departments. It feels like a bit of a tipping point for old-guard publishing culture, and everyone understands the challenges of this change.

Executive sponsorship of change is critical, according to Andrew Savikas of Safari Books Online and O’Reilly Media, especially since some necessary transitions will not yield impressive ROI in the short term. Several speakers also advocated a period of experimentation with various approaches as opposed to a wholesale overhaul. As such, the present environment is not for leaders faint of heart—commitment, belief, and persistence are essential.

The stakes, however, are becoming too high to ignore. There is a growing market for “chunked” content (as opposed to whole books or even chapters), and book publishers are often not in a position to exploit this potential revenue stream. Increasingly, said David Marlin from MetaComet Systems, rights management (“content curation”) at a granular level is critical to the longevity of a publisher’s brand and its author relations.

Director of the BISG (Book Industry Study Group), Scott Lubeck, ended with the group's vision statement, which seems both current and apt. In part, the group seeks to help "build and support a new industry network enabling new opportunities for profitable growth." There was a sense that Thursday's attendees were eager to rise and transform: it is an exciting time to be in publishing.

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