Book Trade Conference: London calling

<p>The second year of the Book Industry Conference, held in London for the first time, represented progress on many fronts, even if at times it lacked the intensity of last year's make-or-break event in Cambridge.</p>
<p>The central London venue meant all the big hitters were present and correct, and it was nice to see Waterstone's, the largest specialist bookseller in the country, there too, after its extraordinary no-show last year. The slight weakness clearly was that people would drop in and out and nip back to their offices, but with 320 delegates this year as opposed to 200 at Cambridge last year, there were probably more -people in the room at any one time than last year.</p>
<p>After years of polite debate and navel-gazing about digital, this was the year that the future caught up with the book trade. Analogue, or print as some quaintly still refer to it, felt under pressure at every turn. Digital was squarely blamed for the current decline in books sales by Tim Hely Hutchinson, pointing out that time spent online was time no longer available for reading books. In a sober analysis of the power of the big three in digital (Apple, Google and Amazon) Benedict Evans of Enders Analysis pointed out the sheer scale of these behemoths&mdash;Apple has net cash of $42bn dollars, whereas the entire US book trade only turned over $24bn last year. The BA's Tim Godfray stated publicly that he wanted all three to join the BA, and outlined a deal with Google to allow indies to sell Google editions.</p>
<p>One innovation from Cambridge that was successfully retained was the brainstorming by sub-groups to come up with ideas to boost the trade. Several immediately stood out: World Book Night&mdash;an extension of World Book Day for grown-ups&mdash;a tie-up with the London Olympics to promote British literature globally during the event, and a centralised marketing database where publishers can place material for indies to download. Hovering over all of this was the spectral form of bookholism, last year's eye-catching idea &ldquo;paused&rdquo; just last week.</p>
<p>Conference chair Stephen Page wrapped up the ideas session, and the overall conference, saying &ldquo;this is an ambitious agenda and it would be a great disappointment if one came back in a year and found these ideas had not been progressed.&rdquo; Penguin's Tom -Weldon seemed close to advocating a benign dictatorship to knock some heads together. Such are the pressures of digital and the recession.&nbsp; </p>