Tools of Change Conference

Last week a number of Pace MS in Publishing faculty were able to attend (via a complimentary pass) the O’Reilly Tools of Change Conference that took place from February 12th to the 14th,  at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square.  In addition, a number of Pace students had the opportunity to volunteer at the conference and to attend sessions. It was a wonderful conference and we are grateful for the opportunity we had to learn from and mingle with industry professionals who are on the forefront of change in the industry.

On February 12th, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to attend the Author (R)evolution Day,  a one-day conference-within-a-conference presented by  the thought leaders at Tools of Change and Publishers Weekly. This day was “designed specifically for professional authors, content creators, agents, and independent author service providers who want to move beyond “Social Media 101” to a more robust dialogue about the opportunities in today’s rapidly shifting landscape.”  Joe Wikert, the GM & Publisher and Chair of Tools of Change (TOC) at O’Reilly Media, Inc., in his introduction, emphasized that for today’s hybrid authors, a “thread of entrepreneurship” would run throughout the day.  And, it certainly did—leaving everyone in the audience with a lot to think about as well as with concrete information on how to succeed in today’s dynamic digital marketplace.

The first speaker was Cory Doctorow, a science fiction author, activist, journalist and blogger.  His  thought provoking and informative talk “Welcome to the (R)evolution”, focused on the idea that “there are three things creative people and industries must understand if they are to thrive in the digital world: don’t let others put locks on your stuff; competitive markets mean more money for you and the Internet is more than an entertainment medium.”  Stating that “until we get these right, we’re stuck.”  Mr. Doctorow’s talk set the tone for the day which was clearly one of opportunity and empowerment for authors.

Other talks such as “The Author Blueprint for Success” which featured the well-respected Porter Anderson, a journalist, writer and speaker on publishing and Eve Brindberg, founder and director of Boston’s Grub Street, gave very specific and useful advice to authors on how to navigate the path to success. Subsequent sessions focused on current issues such as free digital content, the new, emerging role of the literary agent as radical advocates for authors, strategies for marketing and discovery (a panel which included Pace MS in Publishing alumna Tara Theoret,) choosing production and distribution services and community driven publishing —with great speakers like Amanda Barbara from Pubslush, Allan Lau from WattPad and Mark Jeffrey from Glossi.com to name a few!

Overall it was an outstanding day—as a Professor in the MS in Publishing program teaching publishing to a group of aspiring publishing professions, having the opportunity to hear from innovative industry professionals who are on the forefront of change in the industry, was invaluable.

Professor Jane Kinney-Denning

————————————————————————————————————————————–

I had a great time at the conference! Thank you for arranging for the opportunity to attend. I was assigned to a particular room for the day; but within that room, the various speakers represented a marvelous variety of innovative technologies in the publishing field. Lunch was great too — not only the food, but it was another chance to have great conversation, in a relaxed environment, with people who are working on exciting projects in publishing. I’m glad to have been a volunteer for O’Reilly TOC.”

 

Sharon Brown-Volunteer—Graduate Student, Pace University, MS in Publishing

——————————————————————————————————————–

Below, Pace MS in Publishing Professor Andrea Baron, shares some her notes from the conference:

I. A panel discussion called “Creators and Technology Converging: When Tech Becomes Part of the Story” presented the participants’ views on the overlap of digital and print publications, including some refreshing ideas and opinions from Louis-Jacques Darveau, editor and publisher of The Alpine Review. This is an international publication, recently launched in Montréal, Canada, and distributed in 30 countries.  He views its mission as an “operations manual for alternative culture” and reports it has been very successful in its print-only model.

Darveau discussed the concept of “subcompact publishing,” an approach to digital publications which focuses on content, using fewer interactive bells and whistles.  The concept was first introduced in an essay by Craig Mod, to promote a minimalist approach to digital publishing.  Mod asks why digital magazines are adapted and subject to the constraints of print magazine paradigms in design, pricing, scheduling, format, etc.   Mod calls for “indigenous magazines” that start with the digital technology available and restructure themselves to exploit the different ways that publications are read and used on tablets and mobile devices.

The goal, to Darveau, should be to use technology to amplify the content. He thinks that using computers all the time deprives the senses, which is why we still “need and love print.”  Darveau plans a digital edition of the magazine, but expects that most readers will use both formats.

II. Richard Price, founder and CEO of Academia.edu, was the speaker for a session on The Future of Academic Publishing (Hint: It’s on the Web!)  Price covered many of the questions that are changing the landscape of academic research in the age of electronic publishing. Because of unwieldy requirements and high costs, currently three quarters of the data from scientific research goes unpublished.

Price touched on the development of faster and broader-based electronic systems for verifying and sharing research, and insuring that researchers get credit and career advancement from their research. He cited the example of the Google Scholar webpages which include a graphic depiction of citations to articles, the number of people following the scholar, and lists of articles and numbers of citations. Such metrics, he explained, will in the future replace publication in scholarly journals as the basis for research funding and professional advancement decisions.

III. A “Startup Showcase” award was given to an innovative program called Paperight.com, which serves the needs of readers in South Africa who don’t have access to bookstores, or computers.  This site gets publishing rights to books, magazines, and other documents, and uses the large network of existing copy shops to print the books for customers.  The customer pays the copy costs, and sometimes a small rights fee.

IV. What about libraries?  Meredith Schwartz of Library Journal reported on some very interesting research they did on library patrons. They surveyed a large number of library users and found these statistics, some quite surprising.

There are 169 million library users in the U.S., which represents 69% of the population. The average user is middle class, reads 29 books per year, and also buys books. (Non-library users have only read 11 books per year.)

The research showed that libraries are a very important factor in book sales as well.  Library patrons use the library to discover new books that they will later buy. When the library users want to browse for new books, they go to Amazon and libraries equally, to find them. The patrons also report that they go online to find out about new books (7%) and to buy books (61%).  Readers often go on to buy books by the same author as books they have read in the library, especially for young adult, graphic novels, and business titles.  The majority use the library to discover new genres and new writers. When bookstores close in their neighborhoods, almost half increase their use of the local library.

Ebooks are an increasingly important presence in libraries.  They buy $937 million worth of books, including $79 million on ebooks.    Approximately 89% of libraries now offer ebooks. While very popular, this was also shown to be a source of frustration to library users, as 55% reported that they were unable to get the book they wanted to borrow because a copy was not available, and some found the downloading process very difficult and just gave up. Patrons also thought that the books should be available in the library soon after their publication date and loved the 24/7 access to ebooks that libraries provide.

Schwartz concluded by saying that she felt that libraries and bookstores would take a little of each other’s share, but would ultimately work together by “increasing the number of readers and the number of books each reader can conveniently read.”