Time to put my money where my mouth is…

April 11, 2007

I’ve just agreed to give a fifteen-minute presentation on ‘publishing in the digital age’ at the British Council on Friday, as part of their International Young Publisher programme (which, incidentally, I wrote about last year).

Frankly, help me. The other speakers are from the Oxford Brookes Institute of Publishing and the London College of Communications so I will be in excellent company. Topics that spring immediately to mind are:

  • Production: print on demand, phasing gently into ebooks
  • Content: microformats, microchunking, ephemerality of literature
  • Distribution: ebook readers, mobile phones, ipod for books
  • Creation: collaboration, wikis, networked books, web apps, user generation
  • Inspiration: $100 laptop, bookmobiles
  • Politics: copyright, DRM, APPGP
  • Web-to-print: blogs, blooks, moo.com/POD

I’ll stop there. I made that list by skimming through the last six months of posts and seeing what my interests actually are. I’d be really interested to hear what other people would suggest. If you had the best and the brightest of the next generation of publishers in a room with you, what would you say to them?


  1. try keynote apple’s slideshow software, much easier and nice to use!

    Comment by Eoin Purcell — April 11, 2007 @ 1:51 pm

  2. and the web to print is surely the most exciting!

    Comment by Eoin Purcell — April 11, 2007 @ 1:54 pm

  3. You think? That’s what the person I’m replacing was going to talk about, but frankly I think it’s the dullest topic on the list. It’s the Y2K version of collected newspaper columns, and it will be over so soon…

    And yes, hunting for a copy of Keynote now…

    Comment by James Bridle — April 11, 2007 @ 2:06 pm

  4. Hi James; Jeff from Print is Dead here; I would say you still need to tackle two big constituencies that will play a major part in the adoption of digital reading (especially in terms of addressing a general audience): the readers themselves, as well as authors/agents. Remember that, in the minds of most consumers, electronic books are still very much the answer to a question that they have not yet asked. So they still need to be convinced that this is something in their best interest, and if this is the case, how will this be achieved? What will make readers finally see utility (not to mention value) in digital reading? (This is one of the reasons eBooks failed six years ago; because no one was really clamoring for them.) Also, many authors and agents are still really skeptical of electronic publishing (i.e. J.K. Rowling), and fear that it’s going to be as disruptive to publishing as digital music was the record industry. And if that’s indeed the case, what can we do to convince them that, if digital delivery and consumption is as big as we say/think it is, why will this be a good thing for them instead of a bad thing? How will it help their business and their work and careers? Otherwise, your list looks great; good luck with the presentation. Also, have fun at the London Book Fair; sorry to miss it…

    Comment by Jeff — April 11, 2007 @ 4:24 pm

  5. @Jeff –

    Thanks very much for that – it’s a really good point.

    With respect to readers, I’ll talk a bit about ebooks, and more importantly about ereaders, as I believe it’s a hardware step that will change the ebook landscape, just as the ipod did for digital music.

    Despite the naysayers, I think a lot of writers are quite excited about the future – they’ve seen how it’s shaken up the music industry giving more power to artists, and more opportunity for the little guy. The real resistance is only the big guys who stand to lose a lot through piracy – see Apple Inc vs. Apple Corp…

    Still, I know reassurance is the key. Want to excite people too though…

    Comment by James Bridle — April 11, 2007 @ 4:39 pm

  6. I’d re-iterate the greatness of keynote. But it’s also worth (if you don’t know already) checking out what Guy Kawasaki, Russell Davies and Seth God-in say about powerpoint (or for that matter Keynote) presentations. And if you really want vitriol, read Perfect Pitch by Jon Steel. The point is that 15 minutes is very, very short. Check out the TED series (which I am sure you have).

    I know this is my agenda, but “publishing” for me is increasingly becoming about filtration and recommendation. What publishers do, and will continue to do, is cut through the crap and try to find a market for stuff they think is good.

    There has always been proliferation of content encouraged by technology – but for me, the future of publishing in the digital age is not about the tools (which, from one perspective, many of your topics above suggest) but the introduction of good content to people who are interested in it. Which is basically marketing.

    If we just accept that content, distibution, production etc are all fragmenting, but will remain their own industries, what remains important (to publishing as an industry) is how it continues to thrive by controlling access to quality content/writing at a time of unprecedented verbosity.

    Which prompts me to now shut up.

    Comment by peter — April 11, 2007 @ 7:57 pm

  7. I bought Keynote. I didn’t try and torrent it first, honest. I understand the horror of slideshow presentations, but I want images. There won’t be much text…

    @Peter – thank you. That’s all good. I agree with you about publishers ongoing worth in ‘cutting through the crap’, and I don’t want to dwell too much on crazy stuff. I will stick quite closely to marketing and using technology *now*.

    Please keep ’em coming folks.

    Comment by James Bridle — April 11, 2007 @ 8:09 pm

  8. Is this a book fair event. If so, or no, where, when, how? Or is it closed doors?

    I trust you’ll podcast it?

    Also, see:

    Comment by peter — April 11, 2007 @ 9:44 pm

  9. @peter – No, I believe it’s a private thing, for a number of people here for the Book Fair – alumni of the excellent IYPY programme.

    I’m not sure about podcasting it as I don’t think they’ll be recording it and I don’t have a good way of doing so, but I’ll put my slides online, or work out something similar.

    Comment by James Bridle — April 12, 2007 @ 9:13 am

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