Pablo Defendini, Catalyst and Innovator
By Marian Schembari, Contributing Editor, Digital Book World
Interviewing some of the digitally savvy minds in publishing (starting with the advisory board of Digital Book World’s brand-spanking-new community) has been intimidating to say the least; a group of publishing dinosaurs they are not.
Here are the facts:
- Spent 7 years as an art director in the advertising industry
- He’s a relatively new addition to the publishing industry (started as a junior designer at Tor in 2006)
- Self-described “science fiction and fantasy geek”, Tor was “a perfect fit”
Like Don Linn, Defendini found that being a newbie provided a different – and often beneficial – perspective on an industry that is so rapidly changing; not being invested in the traditional ideas of what should and shouldn’t be done, they both felt free to challenge the status quo.
“[I was] old enough to have plenty of professional experience in other media industries,” explained Defendini, “but naive enough about publishing to tell the emperor that he has no clothes. The last two years, particularly, have been an education unto themselves, with regards to how the business of publishing actually works. A lot of the preconceived notions I had as a consumer have gone by the wayside. So I can relate to all the pundits from outside the industry who more often than not have completely wrong-headed ideas about how the industry operates—I was them just a few years ago, you know?”
There have been the obvious changes, like more engagement with readers via social media, but Defendini says that “at the top of 2010, we’re poised to see lots and lots of big, earth-shattering changes.”
And as author Jason Pinter noted in a recent column for the Huffington Post, “Is This The Most Exciting Time Ever For Book Lovers?“, these changes aren’t necessarily a bad thing: “I cannot remember a time when so many people were discussing books themselves, the future of books, and what it all means for everyone involved.”
Which changes does Defendini really love?
“Well, for starters, despite what doomsayers are going on about, more people are reading now than ever before! It’s just that they’re not necessarily reading in the same places: more are reading online, reading in shorter bursts, on mobile devices, etc. I love that the social web has closed the gap between authors and their readers, and that it offers the potential for publishers to do the same with readers, too. I love that books and publishing are becoming fodder for dinner table conversation again.”
And the changes Defendini hates aren’t actually the changes themselves, but the publishers who are resistant to them.
“I hate that legacy publishing is being very slow to identify where and how people are reading now, and are being very slow to take advantage of all the wonderful tools at their disposal for connecting with readers in meaningful ways.”
He loves that he’s “smack dab inna middle” of the biggest transformation books have seen since the early 1900s, but hates that so many parts of the industry act as hindrances to that transformation.
“Grandfathered business relationships with partners that aren’t up to dealing with digital realities; lack of urgency and desire to learn new things from many people in the industry; existing inefficient workflows…. there’s lots of bloatware in the industry.”
“On the flipside,” he concluded, “there are some really smart, interested, dedicated, and passionate people, too.”
I couldn’t agree more, but at the same time, since I’ve entered publishing (a mere 6 months ago) I’ve personally only encountered the latter: the catalysts, the innovators and the badasses. Like Defendini.
And Don Linn.
And Jane Friedman.
And many others I’m excited to be interviewing in the coming weeks.
Pablo Defendini is the producer/showrunner of Tor.com, and a general rabble-rouser. He was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico (one of the most SFnal places on Earth). He worked in advertising and media production before becoming Mass Market Designer for Tor Books, from which he made the jump to his current position. He is secretly a Cylon.
Marian Schembari digs social media and books. Usually at the same time.