Publishers See a Disruptive Future at the Editech Conference in Italy

Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.

Italian publishers gathered for the 6th annual Editech conference under the title “Sailing against the tide: Publishing in disruptive times.”

In talking to publishers in Milan over the past couple of days, I’ve been told that the market here might be two-to-three years behind the U.S. market in digital adoption and industry change. That suggested time period could indeed be too long. I could see little difference in the amount of smartphones, tablets and devices in the hands of Italian consumers than I might expect to see in the U.S. or the UK.

Whatever the timeframe, the Editech conference was approached with enthusiasm by delegates wanting to learn and embrace this change. To that end, the programming for the day was largely built around experiences from US and UK markets which might now be expected to unfold in Italy.

This left me thinking what a good opportunity it was for those who could leave the conference and act on some of the ideas presented. What would I have done differently if, two years ago, I had better indications as to how the market might change and the trends we would see develop with data to support?

Digital disruption was the theme that ran through the day, having been introduced by James McQuivey of Forrester Research in the opening keynote. Those that attended Digital Book World in January would have heard McQuivey deliver a similar message and a clearly engaged audience raised questions covering business models and pricing.

The remaining program was in large part what you might expect. We heard market data from Italy and France, having already had a U.S./UK overview by Ann Betts of Nielsen Book. Jo Howard of Mosaic Search and Valentina Kalk of United Nations Publications gave perspectives on organisational change on a panel where I delivered a case study from the F+W Media business (which owns and operates Digital Book World).

One highlight was education technology consultant Phil Hill who presented on market trends in digital education. While targeted at education publishers, there was much from this for all publishers to consider. As Phil remarked, the education sector has seen a dramatic increase in interest from technology firms and publishers as the shift to learning online has entered the mainstream and new opportunities in this area open up.

The day wrapped up with a panel discussion on self-publishing. Agent Andrew Lownie, Smashwords marketing manager Jim Azevedo, Rebecca Smart of Osprey Group and Anna Premoli, a self-published Italian author, debated traditional and self-publishing opportunities for today’s author. This panel too raised many questions from the floor covering rights issues and challenging what the relevance of publishers would be in this new world.

It would be both arrogant and simplistic to assume that what we have seen unfold in the U.S. will simply roll out in Italy and other European markets. There are clear cultural differences and not all of the disruptive players enjoy the same level of leadership in these markets. I do believe that the underlying themes ring true and so for that reason I think the trends and insights presented were valuable to all.

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James Woollam

About James Woollam

James Woollam is the Managing Director of F+W Media International, the UK business of F+W Media. After nearly 10 years in the advertising and direct marketing industry, including 5 years at Saatchi & Saatchi London, James joined F+W Media to oversee the launch of new consumer eCommerce businesses and focus on digital project opportunities. He became Managing Director in March 2010 and has continued to lead the shift from legacy print businesses to digital first and direct to consumer revenue streams. James can be found at www.jameswoollam.com or @jawoollam

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