Friday, March 13, 2009

From Production to Interaction

For those of us who are in the business of keeping abreast of industry trends, this week will rank as one of the busiest, filled with all manner of diverting events.

It started tamely enough with the American Book Producers Association's annual conference, which had actually been moved from the end of last year to March 10 in hopes of attracting a larger crowd (it did). As usual, the morning sessions were devoted to walking members through the nuts and bolts of the business, but in the afternoon, two panels brought a group of publishers and consulting types on to the stage to opine. In the first panel HarperCollins' Carolyn Pittis got a discussion on "The Internet and Electronic Publishing" going. Everyone had a story to share, including Seth Radwell, recently of Scholastic, who talked about a survey he's been involved with on converting readers to ebook buyers. It shows that the barriers to ebook purchase are cost (61%) and lack of experience with the product (57%), followed by two lesser issues personal preferences (40%) and convenience (37%), resulting in only 1% of the 55% of those aware of ebooks actually completing a purchase. However, 'Try it, you'll like it' is true -- more than a third of those who tried, bought. The digital panel was followed by a "Trends in Publishing" panel, where Bob Miller, David Steinberger, Doug Pocock and Don Weisberg shared their insights about dealing with the changing landscape (stressing focus/niche/quality) after Google's Roland Lange had attempted to turn the panel into yet another informercial for Google Book Search.

That subject was front and center on March 11 at the annual AAP meeting, which included a demo of the new Google Books Registry ( along with an interview with Google's Chief Legal Officer, David Drummond. But with Bill Clinton as the surprise speaker, it was hard to concentrate on much else. Still, John Sargent said a fond farewell to AAP CEO Pat Schroeder, but not before ribbing her for signing her name at the bottom of letters, accompanied by a smiley face. (Is it a surprise that she's retiring to Celebration, Florida?)

Now comes the interactive side of the week -- South By Southwest, where developers, social networkers, and the occasional publisher will mingle in between panels on "Online Comic Books," "Remixing the Museum Exhibition" and "SEO for Startups." Penguin is throwing a party for Clay Shirkey right after a panel on "New Think for Old Publishers," and Sourcebooks' Dominique Raccah will undoubtedly be hanging out with Taunton's Don Linn, Cookstr's Will Schwalbe and Fourth Story Media's Lisa Holton -- all old (or ex-) publishers who think very, very new.


Mark Roy Long said...

It's good to see that Carolyn Pittis is still at HarperCollins (or whatever its official designation will be). I heard her speak at a conference last year and she was so right on about different social networking elements she was working on it would have been a shame if she'd been among the many who were purged.

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