The London Book Fair closed yesterday, and while reading the real-time reporting and some of the early analysis starting to emerge, it can be easy to get lost navigating the important issues that have come out of the Fair.
So, here is a quick rundown of London Book Fair press coverage, to help you get caught up to speed on what happened this week, a special supplement to our regular weekly roundup.
Looking Forward to the Future of Publishing
Book Publishing: Digital Revolution or Digital Evolution?
On the forefront of London Book Fair coverage was this question about this transitional time in the publishing industry. At the CEO Keynote—featuring Y.S. Chi (President, International Publishers Association and CEO, Elsevier S&T), John Makinson (Chairman and CEO, The Penguin Group), Brian Murray (President and CEO, HarperCollins), and Li Pengyi (President, China Education Publishing and Media Group)—the answer to the question seemed to be “yes.” But regardless of whether these changes in the industry are a revolution or an evolution, the implications for the retail landscape are clear:
Chief among those implications is that the publishers’ best customers are no longer visiting bookstores. That raises issues of discoverability and marketing. In addition, a world with potentially more than 100 million e-readers raises piracy concerns.
Will Publishers Soon Be Irrelevant?
A provocative panel, as reported by FutureBook.net, on “The Great Debate: Will Publishers Soon Be Irrelevant?” featuring Richard Charkin, Executive Director of Bloomsbury Publishing PLC and former CEO of Macmillan; Cory Doctorow, author and editor of Boing Boing; and Andrew Franklin, Publisher and Managing Director of independent UK publisher Profile Books.
“Provocative” might be an understatement, actually, based on this description of the Q&A session by Publishers Weekly:
In the Q&A period, the audience seemed quite moved by the team of Doctorow and Bridle. Some took umbrage at the “mad author” stereotype. One observer noted the age difference between the debaters and said it perhaps pointed to a new guard coming in. Another questioned the number of jobs publishers are now outsourcing overseas, and the editorial and marketing work they are shifting back to the author. Little, Brown’s Geoff Shandler asked who, if not publishers, would invest in serious books? Doctorow suggested that there were surely more than five or six big firms that could recognize the value of what publishers do. Charkin concluded that the debate itself was indicative of publishing being in a healthy state. Bridle disagreed, saying publishing was unhealthy, and insisted publishers needed to focus more on serving readers.
What’s the Future of Digital Publishing?
Covering the Digital Conference on Sunday, Andrew Albanese & Nicholas Clee at Publishers Weekly summed up the key takeaways of the day-long pre-event: “Platform is key, distribution will be a challenge, but the digital numbers are finally beginning to live up to the hype.” In contrast, Philip Jones over at TheBookseller.com came away from the event with these ideas in mind: “Enhanced e-books are dead, discoverability is the most important issue facing e-book vendors, while pricing strategies should be measured against other digital content, not physical books.”
Navigating the Global Market for Books
Of course, an international conference like the London Book Fair sparks discussion about the global publishing industry, including this piece about the lack of statistics in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Arab world. From the article in Publishing Perspectives:
Apart from the difficulty of getting reliable statistics from many countries, deciding on appropriate measurement criteria is another challenge. [Consultant Rudiger] Wischenbart has settled for three: Publishers’ annual revenues; Market value (based on consumer prices); and the number of titles published annually (new editions and re-editions), expressed as “number of titles published per one million inhabitants.” (Figures range from 26 in Chile to 51 in Egypt to 2,830 in Finland).
From another perspective, Philip Downer former CEO of Borders UK, provided an op-ed piece for Publishers Weekly that provided a general look at the future of publishing:
It’s the worst time to try and predict the future, but despite this uncertainty, the trade is not without optimism. The future will be different, exciting and full of opportunity – if only we could be certain what those opportunities will be.
Can the UK Book Market Embrace the Digital?
Amid Kobo’s announcement at the Fair that it was expanding into Europe, still the adoption of digital books in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in Europe has not matched the speed of the US market. And, according to Publishing Perspectives, discussion of digital publishing at the London Book Fair seemed light:
Speaking to the North Americans here in London, there is the distinct feeling that the UK publishing community has a way to go before they are fully invested in the digital domain.
What’s in Store for the Russian Book Market?
The publishing industry landscape is decidedly different in Russia, this year’s Market Focus at the London Book Fair, where the role of digital publishing seemed more apparent. Publishers Weekly has a great, in-depth article about what Russian publishers are looking for in terms of rights deals. Publishing Perspectives has a run-down of related talks, which including discussion of Bookmate.ru, the largest legal distributor of ebooks in Russia.
Another heartening news item from Russia is the digitization program at the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Library, which as Gary Price at Infodocket.com points out, will offer a fully digital collection of the archival collections. From the original article at The St. Petersburg Times:
The library hopes to revive library services in Russia and to become a hub for all other libraries in the country. Its main goal is to link up with all the libraries and specialized archives in the regions. For example, it is expected that in the future, the dissertations of scientists from the country’s universities or historical documents from provincial archives will all be available in electronic versions at the hub.
That’s just the nuts and bolts of what happened at the London Book Fair. For a more in-depth discussion of some of the debates sparked by events in London, such as digital rights management, ebook piracy, and subscription-based business models, continue on to our regular weekly roundup.
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