BNC TechForum Wrap-up, Part 1

Yesterday two of us from WLUP went to the annual tech forum put on by BookNet Canada, the agency responsible for driving technology innovation for the publishing industry in Canada. Although the day was dominated by the interests of trade publishing, there were a couple of presentations with an academic focus, and there are topics that generalize to all publishers (e-books, e-books, and e-books).

The morning featured some visionary thinking from big players in the market. Bob Miller, formerly of HarperStudio and now with Workman, talked about the importance of bundling, the failed experiment with non-returnable books (bookstores stopped ordering), and the co-operative profit-sharing model he implemented with some of his authors.

Richard Nash, founder of Soft Skull Press and his latest company Cursor books, talked about the social aspect of publishing. “Content isn’t king, culture is” is a quote I wrote down yesterday in my little notebook. He talked about Oprah and how everyone thinks publishers need her desperately. He believes that she needs publishers, because books connect people, and by championing a book, she keeps her audience past her hourly TV slot. He emphasized that publishers have to start thinking outside the pricing ranges they have traditionally been used to. He urged us to think in profoundly integrated ways, stop putting our roles into silos. Quote of the day (I saw it tweeted a few times) “The absence of audio/video in long-form narrative is a feature, not a bug.”

Dominique Raccah from SourceBooks identified three megatrends that will change our publishing future:
1. Everyone is always connected
2. Liquid, seamless media (think glass doors as computer screens like the FBI on TV?)
3. Economics – we must play with different business models
She stressed the importance of defining your verticals, using Google search as a reference. No longer do you search “parenting,” but “toilet-training,” “breastfeeding at night,” and countless other narrow topics. She used their popular Baby Name and SAT prep books as examples of what you can do with titles to match them to the right price point and market. Dominique also talked about poetryspeaks.com, a new website that features poetry and spoken word, by both published poets and enthusiasts alike.

Michael Tamblyn gave an interesting and entertaining presentation on the short history of Shortcovers and its new iteration, Kobo. He itemized the lessons they learned over the course of the year or so they’ve been in business and he introduced Kobo’s new e-reader. He emphasized that Kobo is a platform that can be used on any reader so that readers (the human kind) can take their books with them when they change their gadgets.

And that was just the morning. On Monday I’ll post about the afternoon sessions and my take-home from the day.

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