\At publishing events as recently as only a handful of years ago, the mood was often derisive towards ebooks, digital publishing, self-publishing, and anything else that challenged the status quo. The sentiment slowly melted into cautious optimism as ebook sales began to account for more and more of publishers’ profit margins and as self-published authors began to make headlines for their success. But the mood at this year’s London Book Fair kickoff event, the Digital Minds Conference, is more than welcoming of digital publishing and all of its features; there now seems to be an air of almost acknowledging the more work needs to be done quickly on the digital front.
Earlier today, a lot of the focus was on publishers working with start-ups and the need for adopting the “start-up mentality,” one in which a structured business plan is less necessary than a focused goal. The advice was that publishers use reader feedback to drive the direction of their work, rather than producing content and trying to adapt readers to it.
Editors were encouraged to adopt a digital strategy, not as something that gets added on after the concept of the book is created, but instead with more of an intentional focus and vision. While not required to be able to develop every aspect of an ebook, industry professionals were cautioned that they had to develop at least some level of technological know-how in order to stay current and relevant.
In a panel on copyright issues, some of the confusion surrounding copyright was made more clear by understanding that copyright law is not keeping up with the timeline of technology. That simple statement can actually be applied to a number of frustrating issues in digital publishing, including the snail’s pace of ebook lending and digital textbooks.
Some of the most refreshing remarks in different discussions came from the acknowledgement that it is ultimately the readers who are going to determine a publisher’s success or failure. Smart publishers are going to look to the online communities and feedback to gauge reader response, and then build content to that response. Enhanced ebooks were called into question because too often they are built by a team with an expensive vision, rather than as a response to what consumers would like to experience.
The Digital Minds Conference continues through today in conjunction with the London Book Fair.