What do you want from a website dedicated to the future of the book industry?
I'll tell you what I don't.
Debates about ebooks versus print books, or digital platforms versus physical spaces, or self-published authors versus the more traditionally published kind. Snarky op-eds about how all established publishing professionals are dinosaurs about to be wiped out by a meteorite of code-crunching fifteen-year-olds. Features about things being dead, whether we're talking bookshops, The Author or Apple (seriously, $18 billion doesn't sound too bad to me). Endless anti-Amazon rants. Anything involving the term 'the Uber of'.
Over the past six years, FutureBook has tracked and analysed the countless changes that have gripped the publishing sector so far this decade. For a while, it seemed like every day some new platform or behaviour was on the verge of overturning everything that had gone before, and the frenzied debates about what (and who) would sink and swim seemed the only natural reaction to this imminent apocalypse.
But for some time now, it has been clear that Roy Amara's famous adage still holds firm. We overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate its impact longer-term.
Come 2016, and digital is embedded deep in every crevice of the book trade, an instinctive part of the day to day. Growing the ebook side of a business has moved from the innovations department to the sales team. Retailers have learnt that hungry readers make little distinction between online and off. Authors are well aware that they'll be expected to do their own community building alongside traditional PR.
As Kobo CEO Michael Tamblyn put it at FutureBook 15 a couple of months ago, "This is a bit of a pivotal FutureBook, in a way. It’s about the end of the beginning."
As I step into the role of Associate Editor - a role I am delighted and privileged to take on, boosted on the giant and irreplacable shoulders of my predecessor Porter Anderson - I feel the need to define exactly what that pivot means. So here's a stab at a (brace yourself) mission statement for FutureBook's next phase.
FutureBook showcases the most exciting people, ideas, businesses and trends shaping the future of the publishing industry.
In my mind, this requires FutureBook to be four important things.
Inclusive. FutureBook is not about digital publishing, or apps, or tech. Well, not solely at least. It is about anything and anyone that is truly innovative, from humans making stunning hardbacks to delivery drones. It is omnichannel, medium-agnostic, on-offline, and any other clunky buzzword you care to invent. In short, it's about the future of the book and the future of people who make, distribute and consume them, in whatever form that takes.
Positive. There are plenty of places on the web where you can find doom-laden columns about what's wrong with the book world. I'd much rather see the most ambitious and inspiring examples of how publishing is pushing its boundaries. This doesn't mean being naive or complacent; there's always a need for a dose of passionate dissenting or an articulate critique. But it does mean focusing on the good, rather than defaulting to Eeyore.
Eclectic. One of my biggest ambitions for FutureBook is to surface more voices from outside the publishing industry. Whether that's a fintech entrepreneur whose startup could revolutionise author royalties or a gamer whose skill in immersive storytelling could inspire a marketer to take a different approach in their next campaign, it means inviting fresh and unexpected perspectives in to challenge the status quo.
International. Which trends are going to sweep in from Palo Alto or Paris and disrupt what we're doing now? How do cultural differences influence the rate and type of book innovation unfolding around the world? How can we collaborate with - and yes, sometimes shamelessly steal from - the cream of the creative crop elsewhere? London and Frankfurt are not the only oracles.
So what might this look like in practice?
Short, sharp analysis of news and trends that could have an impact on the industry, from legislation to neuroscience. Profiles of the most promising startups, services and projects you haven't heard of yet. Q&As asking people from across the publishing spectrum to share the tools, ideas and approaches that are currently changing the way they work. Interviews that get under the skin of innovative CEOs with 30 year tenure as well as restless rising stars. Pieces from authors and designers sharing how technology has changed the way they think and create. And so much more.
And of course, FutureBook is so much more than a website. It's a thriving social community (come join us on Twitter). It's behind one of the most prestigious events in the publishing calendar, the annual FutureBook conference. We'll also be revamping the website and changing how we approach the weekly email newsletter, so watch this space.
But to make all this happen, we need your help. Whether you're a publisher, bookseller, editor, agent, author, writer, reader, designer, illustrator, translator, developer, entrepreneur or any other sort of human being interested in the future of the book, if you have a story to tell, a startup to recommend, a new product to review or an opinion to air, send me a tweet at @mollyflatt or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Finally, please do spread the word. We can only highlight new voices if you let us know you're there.
It's an amazing time to be part of this very old, very new industry. Let's embrace change as a constant, not an aberration, and celebrate what's going right.