New chapter or last page?

<p><i>Gail Rebuck, chair and chief executive of the Random House Group, delivered the Stationers&rsquo; Company Annual Lecture on the evening of 10th March. Rebuck was only the second woman to give the lecture, after Eiluned Rees in 1992. Her speech follows below:</i></p>
<p><b>New Chapter or Last Page? Publishing books in a digital age</b><br />
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It is a great privilege to be speaking here today, in this wonderful hall. I am reminded of the long and historic associations that have connected your company and my industry over many years. You started as a Guild in 1403, just some 40 years before the printing press was invented, and book publishing can really claim to have begun.&nbsp; In 1559 the Stationers became the 47th livery company and during the Tudor and Stuart periods, you were custodians of the book, seizing offending publications that violated standards set down by church and state, and bringing their authors (and I presume publishers)&nbsp; before the ecclesiastical authorities.&nbsp; Thank goodness times have changed, or at least I hope they have, and you are not about to charge me for bringing books into disrepute! <br />
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Later the Stationers&rsquo; Charter developed the concept of copyright and effectively acted as the agency of its enforcement until 1911. I am a passionate supporter of copyright and I rather wish you were still out there bringing wrongdoers to justice with the same enthusiasm you showed all those years ago.&nbsp; It really is a great pleasure to be here this evening, and impossible to imagine a more appropriate venue for these remarks. <br />
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<b>Technology as the liberator of books</b><br />
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I want to talk tonight about what happens when radical change collides with one of the most enduring and historic of our industries.&nbsp; I refer of course to my own industry &ndash; book publishing as it enters a future that is inevitably going to be transformed.&nbsp; Digitisation is here, and books will never be the same again.&nbsp; To many, this is a cause for concern, but for me it is grounds for optimism.&nbsp; My argument today is unequivocal: whenever books meet the challenge of change they emerge not weakened but liberated.&nbsp; Far from seeing the demise of the book, digitisation frees books to reach new audiences in new ways.&nbsp; To paraphrase Anthony Powell, books used to furnish a room, now they will furnish a virtual world. <br />
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Books have ancient origins, and their extraordinary survival is proof of their profound influence over the development of our world.&nbsp; If each of us was asked which single artefact had the most significance in shaping our civilisation, the answer would surely be the book: <i>The Bible</i>, <i>The Koran</i>, <i>The Torah</i>, and still now, it is the book that shapes our destinies.&nbsp; The speeches of Barack Obama are seamlessly woven into rap videos on YouTube, but he started with a book, <i>The Audacity of Hope</i>, which was the anchor and beacon of his campaign.&nbsp; And when he finishes, he will end like Bill Clinton, Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair &ndash; with a book.&nbsp; Books give life, give purpose, give meaning &ndash; they are like music, art and song &ndash; part of the essence of our humanity &ndash; and that will never change.<br />
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Although the power of books to shape the world will not change, the manner of their production inevitably will.&nbsp; Even Wikipedia, that oracle-of-the-internet, concedes that the development of the book is a history of &lsquo;technological innovations that improved the quality of text conservation, the access to information, portability and the cost of production&rsquo;.&nbsp; Although books have depended on the process of their manufacture they have always been able to transcend it &ndash; the idea and the impact of a book being far greater than the means of its production. That is why, as technology has developed, the progress of the book has not stalled but advanced. <br />
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Although this is a huge moment of change for publishers, it is by no means the first. Imagine for a moment that you are a medieval publisher, perhaps living in Mainz in Germany in the mid-fifteenth century. The chances are that you are either a scribe, an illustrator or a bookbinder. You have had to train hard to become an expert in your field and your job is highly skilled. You are proud of what you do. Then you hear that a former goldsmith, Johannes Gutenberg, has opened a shop just down the road, and that he is experimenting with a new way to produce books, involving moveable type. You are both dismissive and alarmed. Dismissive, because you cannot see how this new technology can possibly produce anything as beautiful and as worthwhile as your manuscripts.&nbsp; Alarmed, because, while it has just taken you many weeks to produce an illustrated copy of the New Testament, you have heard that he has produced 150 copies of the complete Bible in one go.&nbsp; You tell anyone who will listen that publishing is finished and that the book, as you understand it, is dead.<br />
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And, of course, you are completely wrong.&nbsp; When Gutenberg printed his Bible there were just tens of thousands of books in the whole of Europe.&nbsp; 50 years later, there were millions.&nbsp; Printed books gave rise to a new, thriving book industry. They promoted literacy.&nbsp; They transformed the world.<br />
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This transformation happened once, and I believe it can happen again.&nbsp; Of course this is a time of great challenge for the book publishing industry, but it is also a time of unprecedented opportunity. This lecture is about how we seize this opportunity, and how once again the book can propel itself into the future. <br />
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<b>The magic of books</b><br />
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Let us start with the book: why it is special, and why it will flourish.<br />
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At their simplest, books provide information in the form of lists, chronicles and registers &ndash; from the <i>Domesday Book</i> in 1086 to today&rsquo;s phone book.&nbsp; <br />
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But books are more than mere information.&nbsp; The authority of the best books means that we trust them far more than other print forms.&nbsp; Research I commissioned a few years ago to coincide with World Book Day showed that when asked which source of information was trusted most, respondents chose books nearly twice as often as newspapers and magazines. <br />
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The web has spawned new online sources of information, but they don&rsquo;t always instil this kind of confidence &ndash; compilers of online encyclopaedias sometimes don&rsquo;t care as much about the quality of the information they provide as their print counterparts.&nbsp; <br />
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Books on the other hand are about judgement &ndash; of editors, of reviewers, even of their buyers in the retail market place.&nbsp; They represent discrimination against the indiscriminate information-gathering of the Net, and though they are reinvigorated by electronic use, their authority still comes from a print pedigree.<br />
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Of course books are about much more than utility.&nbsp; They inspire and help those who aspire &ndash; to lead better lives, to understand other cultures, to understand themselves, to contribute more to the world. The printed word can get us to think, and to act.&nbsp; After 9/11 the shock people felt moved many of them into a search for understanding &ndash; and usually their first port of call was books.&nbsp; Sales of titles about terrorism soared, as people looked for insight into seemingly inexplicable events.&nbsp; They wanted to understand.&nbsp; <br />
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Books entertain and entrance, from the sheer pleasure of reading Robert Harris&rsquo;s thrillers set in Ancient Rome, to the thought-provoking novels of Ian McEwan. At its best, this kind of fiction not only contributes to our enjoyment and entertainment, but also to our enlightenment, that sense that a very good book gives of enriching and enlarging our mental and emotional lives.&nbsp; <br />
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Books help us achieve big things and small things: learning a language, losing weight, finding a hotel, creating a garden, exploring Venice, raising children.&nbsp; They set the agenda:&nbsp; from Charles Darwin to Alvin Toffler, Richard Dawkins, to Thomas Friedman.&nbsp; Perhaps, above all, they give our imagination the space to breathe.&nbsp; Books are, as Victor Nell wrote, &lsquo;all the dreams we would most like to have, and like dreams they have the power to change consciousness&rsquo;. <br />
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Books are the DNA of our civilisation, an unbroken line of ideas, creativity and knowledge, recorded through text and discoverable by reading.&nbsp; Reading makes us whole, completes our relationship with humanity and with ourselves. <br />
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Of course books are special, and of course they will prosper. The only question is: in what form?&nbsp; It is time now to turn to publishing. <br />
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<b>Book publishing: catalyst for creativity</b><br />
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Book publishing is a massive industry. Numbers don&rsquo;t tell the whole story, but they can be a useful start, so here are a few:<br />
&ndash; Last year over 100,000 new titles were published in the UK.<br />
&ndash; Over 470 million books were sold here.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <br />
&ndash; Book publishers&rsquo; revenues reached &pound;2 billion &ndash; or &pound;4 billion at retail.<br />
&ndash; Export sales revenues generated over &pound;1 billion which made book publishing the largest exporter of all the creative industries. <br />
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In fact if you look at book, magazine and newspaper publishing as a whole, it is by far the largest of the UK&rsquo;s media industries, with television and radio lagging behind, followed by the music business, and then film and video.&nbsp; Publishing in all forms employs almost 200,000 people and according to a recent government report, makes a contribution of over &pound;9 billion to the national economy.&nbsp; <br />
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But despite its size, book publishing is a complex industry of almost infinite variety.&nbsp; It has always been an easy industry to enter &ndash; the use of a printing press sufficed in the eighteenth century, and today desktop publishing means that anyone capable of writing a book is also capable of producing it.&nbsp; This explains why there are over 40,000 publishers in the UK, though admittedly fewer than 3,000 are large enough to register for VAT. <br />
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Yet a significant proportion of the business of publishing is conducted by a few large companies, themselves part of major international groups. <br />
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But size does not always determine success and whereas, unsurprisingly, most of the bestsellers you&rsquo;ll see in the charts come from the 4 major houses, there have occasionally been examples of publishing Davids running rings around the Goliaths.&nbsp; Some years ago, the bestselling book at Christmas was Lynne Truss&rsquo;s marvellous guide to punctuation &ndash; <i>Eats, Shoots and Leaves</i>.&nbsp; It was published by Profile Books, just one of the many small independent houses founded in the last 10 years.<br />
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And although publishing is a large industry, with major corporate players, it differs in a key respect from almost every other industry &ndash; both the creators and the consumers of books are entirely unpredictable.<br />
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There is as much alchemy as business about the creation of successful books, and it is a process that cannot be manufactured or easily repeated.&nbsp; Believe me, if we could make another J. K. Rowling, we wouldn&rsquo;t hesitate!&nbsp; But our business is ultimately dependent on the creativity of writers.&nbsp; Our role is to nurture talent, invest in it, and of course, discover it. <br />
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Which is never easy.&nbsp; Sometimes it&rsquo;s our own fault &ndash; the first &lsquo;Harry Potter&rsquo; was turned down by many publishers before it found a home (not that you will find many of them willing to admit it).&nbsp; Sometimes we don&rsquo;t show enough patience &ndash; after 3 novels that didn&rsquo;t sell very well, John Irving was let go by one publisher only to have his next book, The World According to Garp, sell more than a million copies.<br />
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And of course sometimes we get it surprisingly right in ways we would not have dreamed of. Who could have predicted international success for a story told by an autistic boy, set in Swindon?&nbsp;&nbsp; But <i>The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time</i> by Mark Haddon became a bestseller on both sides of the Atlantic.&nbsp; Dan Brown&rsquo;s early novels sold well but were not number #1 bestsellers for his publishers &ndash; until <i>The Da Vinci Code</i> &ndash; which is why there are precious few publishers in the world who have his entire backlist.&nbsp; Among them, I am pleased to say is our own Transworld where the taste, judgement and foresight of one editor prevailed.<br />
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The unpredictability of our business makes it both fascinating and frustrating, since success one year in no way guarantees success the next. The writing and reading of books is not, and never can be, a static affair; it is always about a continuous flow of creativity and changing taste.&nbsp; The role of publishing is to turn this flow of creativity into a variety of books, each different, each, it&rsquo;s hoped, profitable, each connecting reader and author in a unique and compelling experience.&nbsp; There is no other industry quite like book publishing.&nbsp; Every new book is a new risk, a new venture, a step into the unknown.&nbsp; Book publishing is the catalyst that turns creativity and ideas into something tangible, accessible and affordable.&nbsp; This essential role for publishing &ndash; turning ideas into artefacts &ndash; will not change &ndash; but some aspects of publishing have to change &ndash; and this process has already started.<br />
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The first stage of digitisation</b><br />
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So far, the most obvious changes brought about by digitisation have been to the processes of publishing &ndash; the actual production of books, marketing and promotion, the methods of sale &ndash; rather than to books themselves.&nbsp; Traditionally matching supply to demand has been a rough science: a publisher wants to sell as many books as possible, but without getting stuck with thousands of unsold copies depreciating on the shelves of a warehouse.&nbsp; Even more difficult is the balancing act of keeping an extensive backlist in print.<br />
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Short-run digital printing and &lsquo;Print on Demand&rsquo; technologies promise to provide a way out.&nbsp; In the new digital model, texts are held in a virtual repository, and turned into well-printed, well-bound books as and when they are asked for.&nbsp; In theory, a book might never go out of print, since, held digitally, a copy can be produced as soon as an order comes in.&nbsp; This ability to keep titles on the backlist available guarantees the survival of the much-vaunted Long Tail, where a wider choice becomes more possible than ever before. <br />
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As books become &lsquo;virtual&rsquo; &ndash; so have some bookshops. <br />
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The growth of Amazon is part and parcel of the growth of internet shopping but it is no accident that books have spearheaded online sales. They aren&rsquo;t perishable, they ship easily and new titles are published every month.&nbsp; Most importantly, Amazon can offer an inventory of millions of titles, when even the largest bricks and mortar superstore can carry only around 200,000 lines.&nbsp; Online book buying is estimated now to be up to 15% of the UK&rsquo;s book sales. <br />
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The arrival of online selling also provides an opportunity for direct sales to consumers, and publishers are starting to experiment with selling from their own websites.&nbsp; But except for the most specialised imprints &ndash; a military history publisher, for example &ndash; I think there are obvious constraints to direct selling by the publisher.&nbsp; Consumers are not interested in publishing company brands: people buy books because of the author or topic; not because it is published by Random House, but because it is written by John Grisham or Jacqueline Wilson. Only aggregating sites such as Amazon or Waterstones.com can offer the range a serious book buyer is looking for. <br />
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But if not yet a major selling mechanism, our own site nonetheless offers many opportunities for us to promote and for readers to discover our books &ndash; we have started to provide jacket files, audio, author interviews, photographs, videos, blogs and sample chapters which are all held in our digital archive where potential buyers can browse selected excerpts.&nbsp; <br />
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But the online promotion of books takes place on other sites too &ndash; on the author&rsquo;s own website, book forums, online reading groups, literary blogs, social networking sites.&nbsp; &lsquo;Widgets&rsquo;, containing samples of our books, are now being embedded all over the Internet.&nbsp; And video is also increasingly used as part of our book presentations. <br />
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Meet the author.com is a video production and distribution service that allows clips of authors to be accessed from a range of online sites &ndash; from Amazon, Tesco.com, school library suppliers, YouTube and social networking sites MySpace and Facebook.&nbsp; It is also available on touch-sensitive screens at some airports and on displays in Sainsbury&rsquo;s.&nbsp;&nbsp; Together with The Bookseller, we recently ran a competition with Play.com for students of the National Film and Television School to produce an original video to launch 3 first novels.&nbsp; The results are extraordinary and will be distributed virally.&nbsp; <br />
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The life blood of book sales has always been &lsquo;word of mouth&rsquo;.&nbsp; Now we want to take that power and augment it a thousandfold by creating a virtual world of direct personal connection using every digital tool available, from second life reading groups to niche online communities.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <br />
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The process of publishing is already being transformed by digital developments.&nbsp; What is required from a publisher is flexibility, and an ability to move fast, as well as a commitment to innovation and digital technology.&nbsp; Production, promotion, marketing and the selling of books all have digital components today, and this process will only accelerate.&nbsp; But the heart of book publishing &ndash; the identification and nurturing of creative talent; the constant transformation of ideas and insight into a coherent body of text &ndash; this has not changed.&nbsp; We have to be faster, more flexible, but the need for the creative alchemy we provide will not lessen, indeed it can only grow.&nbsp; <br />
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<b>The second stage of digitisation </b><br />
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But the real digital revolution will not be in distribution, or production, but in the physical nature of the book.&nbsp; The eBook is here and its impact will be far-reaching. <br />
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Already, reference works are rarely commissioned without electronic versions, and often the digital edition has supplanted the printed one altogether.&nbsp; <br />
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This has little to do with changes in the book per se, but results from the added value which electronic publication can provide.&nbsp; With reference works in electronic form, the accompanying software allows a utility that the printed book can rarely match.&nbsp; <br />
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Topicality too is an advantage in electronic publishing.&nbsp; Stock quotes, constantly changing, are an obvious example, but it is true in almost any field where information changes and needs to be up to date.&nbsp; Science journals have gone from a situation where most were supplied in both print and electronic form, to a position where the latter is predominantly the medium of choice. <br />
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Finally, multimedia components can give electronic versions the edge.&nbsp; We are only at the beginning of this kind of development, but the greater transmission speed of broadband makes the future very exciting.&nbsp; Travel guides, for example, which have always striven with difficulty to stay up-to-date, can now be just that, thanks to topical downloads.&nbsp; They can also offer visual and audio enhancements: in picking a hotel in Paris&rsquo;s Place des Vosges, it&rsquo;s wonderful to see a video pan-shot of the square where the hotel sits or the room in which one might stay.&nbsp; User-generated content can also be helpful &ndash; recommendations and first-hand accounts from sites such as tripadvisor.com. <br />
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But what about the non-illustrated works of fiction or non-fiction we all like to read &ndash; classics like <i>Birdsong </i>by Sebastian Faulks or the latest provocation from <i>The God Delusion</i> author Richard Dawkins?&nbsp; Is their future as eBooks too?&nbsp; To some extent, we are not concerned &ndash; as long as you want to read it we are happy to supply books in whatever form you like.&nbsp; But we cannot allow ourselves to become complacent; the eBook is a phenomenon that traditional publishers must take seriously.&nbsp; <br />
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Early ventures of putting books on screen suffered from a failure to match the printed reading experience.&nbsp; Laptops were cumbersome and the screens lacked resolution.&nbsp; But these issues are being resolved as the technology gets better and better.&nbsp; <br />
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Advances such as E Iink completely transform the reading experience on handheld devices.&nbsp; The devices are lighter, they are not backlit and letters are formed by chemicals under the screen making it look like a printed page.&nbsp; Energy consumption is low and they hold small libraries on a screen no bigger than a paperback.&nbsp; There is also the issue of greater portability and ease of use.&nbsp; Electronic reading devices such as Sony&rsquo;s eBook Reader will make choosing and carrying holiday and business reading a lot easier.<br />
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Perhaps most importantly, there is a new generation of book readers &ndash; anyone in school today &ndash; who have been reading onscreen all of their lives.&nbsp; Although books persist, thank goodness, in being popular with children. <br />
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Many think that it only requires the &lsquo;right device&rsquo; to force a breakthrough for eBooks. They cite the iPod as an example, for there is no doubt that its popularity is what triggered the seismic shift from CDs to downloads.&nbsp; The combination of iPod with iTunes represents what the analyst Evan Schnittman calls &lsquo;duality in digital content &hellip; [where] Device + Network equals Adoption.&rsquo; Amazon&rsquo;s Kindle Reader may represent that breakthrough for books because it links a high-function reading device with Amazon&rsquo;s vast digitised content of over 90,000 titles.&nbsp; And it does so wirelessly.&nbsp; It is as Jeff Bezos claims &lsquo;as much a service as a device!&rsquo;&nbsp; It is expensive at $399 and has some irritating quirks, including a flash each time a page is turned (as does Sony&rsquo;s eBook).&nbsp; But its resolution is remarkable and soon users will be able to read anything from the <i>Guardian</i> to <i>Great Expectations</i>.&nbsp; Not only is the Kindle able to hold 200 books, but they can be downloaded while its owner is walking along the street.<br />
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Kindle notwithstanding, I still believe that the book, as we have always known it, isn&rsquo;t going to disappear altogether.&nbsp; For leisure reading, the book is a technology that works, and works superbly well.&nbsp; That&rsquo;s why it has lasted for so long.&nbsp; It&rsquo;s easy to read and carry a book, and it can be mass produced at affordable prices. <br />
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Ultimately, I cannot see why it matters if in the year 2050 a writer is read in a traditional paperback or on a digital hand-held device.&nbsp; As a publisher, I am happy to supply either to customers, and the essence of what I am selling will be the same, whatever the technology transmitting it.&nbsp; I think there is an irreducible quality to reading that means the book will never die. <br />
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There is, however, an argument that the endless bounty of the internet is forcing people to read in a different way &ndash; to skim, and dip their toes into countless pools rather than immerse themselves in one.&nbsp; A recent study by the British Library has unearthed what it calls &lsquo;a new form of information-seeking behaviour&rsquo; particularly among the young using the internet for research. It describes these users as &lsquo;horizontal&rsquo;, meaning they consult sources quickly, and bounce from site to site.&nbsp; Time spent looking at books and journals online is extremely short &ndash; just 4 minutes and 8 minutes respectively.&nbsp; What the study labels &lsquo;power browsing&rsquo; is the method used to find information people want &ndash; and to find it fast.<br />
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But the participants in the survey were students &ndash; goal-driven users of material, interested in facts and information, rather than the less tangible objectives of pleasure or insight.&nbsp; Their rapid-fire use of the web seems entirely understandable.&nbsp; No one suffers from a lack of information these days; rather the reverse.&nbsp; As John Naughton remarked recently in the Observer, &lsquo;nobody knows how big the web is now, but estimates of the indexed part hover at around 40 billion pages and the &ldquo;deep web&rdquo; hidden from search engines is between 400 and 750 times bigger than that.&rsquo;<br />
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Any of us could spend all day looking at publications online, and that is not even to take into account the onslaught of emails.&nbsp; What limits any of us from consulting this vast array of sources is not money, not availability, but perhaps our most precious commodity of all &ndash; time. We live in an information world of potentially limitless distractions.&nbsp; Between the instantaneous nature of communication, and the amount of information available, it becomes all too easy to fall prey to what the writer James Harkin has called Infomania &ndash; &lsquo;attention deficit disorder for the communications age.&rsquo; <br />
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I don&rsquo;t think that Infomania &ndash; a manic, frantic consultation of dozens of sources &ndash; will ever altogether replace the deeper, more measured experience we have when reading for pleasure and enlightenment. <br />
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If anything, the hyperactive condition of Infomania makes the book more important than ever.&nbsp; <br />
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Every trend has its countervailing tendency and so it will here too. In an age of information, people increasingly will search for knowledge; in a world that surfs the surface, they will look for depth. At a time when people want meaning, not just masses of material, the book is an anchor, set in a swirling sea of data. <br />
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The new digital age will be rich with paradox: readers wanting to swim shallow but dive deep, demanding speed but wanting substance.&nbsp; These contradictions will not suddenly disappear and a new map of digital publishing emerge with sharp contours and clear distinctions. But the eBook and the traditional book will claim different parts of the topography. As Ben Macintyre wrote in the <i>Times </i>recently: &lsquo;The electronic book will soon become a fact of culture.&nbsp; It took roughly five and a half centuries to perfect the paper book; the electronic book will arrive in about a year.&nbsp; But it will never kill off the traditional book. Indeed the two sorts of books may not turn out to be rivals, but symbiotic species sharing the same territory in amicable coexistence&rsquo;.&nbsp; We are entering a new land with new maps but not one to be frightened of: publishing is moving to its next stage. <br />
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<b>A new age for books</b>&nbsp; <br />
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As I made clear at the beginning of this talk this new age for books is one of huge potential for the publishing industry.&nbsp; I have tried to show how reading is part of the essence of our civilisation, culture and economy, and how book publishing is the means by which that essence can be transformed into profitable, tangible, accessible books that &ndash; electronic or paper &ndash;&nbsp; can become available to all who seek to read them. <br />
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So what does this new world of reading look like?&nbsp; <br />
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Publishers and agents in the US are already downloading manuscripts onto their Sony eBook Readers to make them easier to take home at the weekend.<br />
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I can&rsquo;t wait until I can download the 20 or so titles I may want to read over the summer onto an e-reader.&nbsp; <br />
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Kids may want the latest book from their favourite author personalised with a message.&nbsp; Adults will be able to download &ndash; even print &ndash; their own poetry anthology as a special gift.<br />
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The Booker Foundation and the British Council are to release eBook versions of the winners of our top literary prize for new audiences in Africa and Asia.<br />
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In Japan, young people already write and download episodic novels and Manga onto their mobile phones.<br />
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And in China, I read recently that the government had decided to support the supply of digital readers to 165 million students in order to ensure they could carry and access all the reading for their courses.<br />
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Just the other day I was talking to a colleague in New York who had been discussing a new book with a friend on his mobile phone while walking down Park Avenue.&nbsp; He stopped for coffee and downloaded the book onto his Kindle and carried on the conversation.&nbsp; He subsequently bought the physical book too. <br />
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That is the reality of the opportunities open to us &ndash; I believe we shall be reading more, not fewer books.<br />
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I do not believe that the future belongs to either eBooks or so called pBooks (printed books). Indeed, I fear that dividing the world of books into these two separate continents is ultimately self-defeating. If we have learnt one thing about the book, it is that it can transcend the technology of the time. We need, in our thinking at least, to move beyond an understanding of the book that is divided and bifurcated to a new conception of the book, in which technology takes second place to the essential core of the book as an unbroken body of text, which can be delivered in any one of a multitude of forms. This is the book without boundaries, using the technology of the moment, whatever it may be to give voice to authors, and satisfaction to readers. There is little to fear here, and much to be excited about. <br />
<b><br />
Unlocking the potential of technology</b><br />
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Creating this new age of books will not happen overnight, nor will be it be easy.&nbsp; It requires three crucial foundation stones to be put into place.&nbsp; This is the bedrock upon which a new and exciting future for reading can be built.&nbsp; These foundation stones are: the extension of literacy; the nurturing of creative talent; and, last but not least, the protection of copyright. <br />
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<b>Encouraging literacy</b><br />
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Books, of course, need readers, and expanding literacy is also at the core of the future development of the book.<br />
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Literacy is key to society&rsquo;s prosperity &ndash; never more so than in the age of the so-called &lsquo;knowledge economy&rsquo;.&nbsp; It is no accident that the most underdeveloped countries in the world are among the least literate.&nbsp; Not that we in Britain can be complacent.&nbsp; 12 million adults in the UK have a reading age of 13 or below, of whom 5 million struggle to read to the standard of an 11-year-old and would, for example, find it difficult to read the words of Frank Sinatra&rsquo;s New York, New York on a karaoke machine.&nbsp; Of course, the government has this issue in mind with increased spending on adult literacy and has declared next month the beginning of a National Year of Reading.&nbsp; The BBC launched RaW two years ago and the publishing industry started a charity called Quick Reads in 2005 to complement World Book Day, asking well-known writers to produce new exciting short novels and non-fiction, simply written but full of ideas and passion to engage emergent &ndash; and lapsed &ndash; readers.<br />
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The effect has been remarkable with a recent study amongst literacy tutors showing that 90% of adults using Quick Reads said that improving their reading has made them feel better about themselves.&nbsp; 83% of learners felt more confident at home after using Quick Reads and well over 50% said their job prospects had improved.&nbsp; It also emerged recently that by improving an adult&rsquo;s reading to the level of an 11-year old actually doubles the achievement in test results from their children aged between 6 and 16 years.&nbsp; Books truly do transform lives.&nbsp; <br />
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If the internet is about discovery and communication via the written word we, as publishers, need to do our bit to ensure we inspire both children and adults to develop their reading and writing skills.&nbsp; This is certainly part of my personal mission as a publisher.<br />
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<b>Nurturing creativity</b><br />
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But as important as it is to develop our nation&rsquo;s literacy skills &ndash; in book publishing our core role is to nurture creativity.&nbsp; Without creativity we would not have the innovation of the new technologies and we would certainly not have the increased consumption of culture that these new technologies bring.&nbsp; Digitisation, for example, has brought audio books to a wide new iPod audience and with that growing audience come new ways of fusing words, performers and music.<br />
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We, as publishers, are here to recognise new talent, nurture it, pay for it and distribute it.&nbsp; Each of our editors probably receives dozens of manuscripts every week &ndash; many from agents but increasingly direct from authors over the internet.&nbsp; Our job is to assess and select &ndash; and then it is to edit.&nbsp; The shock that many people felt on learning that the stories of the late great writer Raymond Carver had been dramatically altered and shaped by his editor Gordon Lish, brought a smile to many publishers.&nbsp; For they know this crucial role is played every day by editors across the world.<br />
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Once edited, we decide the best way to communicate with the public &ndash; from the book&rsquo;s cover to advertising, publicity, word of mouth.&nbsp; This is the role of the publisher &ndash; to be a catalyst in recognising creativity, nurturing it, and bringing that book to the canon of literature that makes up our culture.&nbsp; From a Katie Price novel to award-winning fiction from Anne Enright or A. L. Kennedy (Booker and Costa prize winners respectively).&nbsp; Reading tastes are diverse &ndash; and the role of our publishers is to recognise that diversity, and to build on it. <br />
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Crucial though creativity is, it is just as essential that we protect it and this is why copyright is so critical.<br />
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<b>Protecting copyright</b><br />
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Copyright can be dauntingly technical, rife with complicated law, but it provides the essential precondition for the creation of new books.&nbsp; It is also coming under assault from the globalisation of commerce and communications.&nbsp; <br />
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This explosion of communications has broken down barriers of distance, and created a huge opportunity for those of us trading in the world&rsquo;s dominant language.&nbsp; The coincidence of enormously enhanced communications with the clear establishment of English has proved a boon for us and explains the strength of Britain as an exporter of language-related products, foremost of which are books. <br />
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Our creative industries are key sectors in the modern British economy.&nbsp; They rely on an Intellectual Property Framework which enables copyright owners to take risks with their creativity, knowing they will reap rewards if their works are successful.&nbsp; The UK market is simply not large enough to sustain the depth and diversity which the UK&rsquo;s creative industries can deliver, and so we have long since developed strong export markets.&nbsp; Last year, for example, exports of UK trade books grew by over 10%.<br />
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We also have the advantage of the world&rsquo;s richest economy &ndash; the USA &ndash; as our chief export market. Less high profile, but of immense importance, are our growing businesses selling English Language teaching texts to the massive audiences of India, China and all of Eastern Europe. In Africa, UK companies lead the way in promoting educational publishing. <br />
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We need, in a globalising, digital world, to continue to think globally and this means facing global challenges, particularly in the area of copyright protection and territorial copyright.&nbsp; We have a good foundation in the Gowers Review.<br />
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But the security of electronically captured text is difficult to protect &ndash; a book in digital form can travel from a New York house to the Far East in seconds, then be illegally duplicated at the push of a button. <br />
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Piracy threatens to erode the copyright protection that is the cornerstone of our creative industries and their successful exports.&nbsp; Vigilant policing and joined-up legislation across all countries is essential.&nbsp; Education is vital, too, to show that these crimes are in no sense &lsquo;victimless&rsquo;, however harmless they may seem.&nbsp; Indifference to copyright protection and copyright worth will prove highly destructive. It threatens to stifle creativity altogether, by making it no longer worthwhile to be creative. <br />
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Google&rsquo;s Book Search aims to capture the content of all the world&rsquo;s copyrighted titles in a vast Google-created repository; an ancillary project, Google Print Library Project, is trying to do the same for the holdings of the world&rsquo;s major libraries. <br />
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For texts held in the public domain the project seems entirely laudable, even exciting, since it brings an inconceivably rich library to anyone&rsquo;s desktop.&nbsp; But Google&rsquo;s initial willingness to capture copyrighted works without first asking permission was, to say the least, surprising. <br />
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The company promptly faced two separate law suits, one from a consortium of US publishers and another from the Authors Guild and specific named authors, both concerned that free electronic availability of copyrighted material would inevitably start to affect the sales of books both to libraries and individuals and, therefore, the income for their creators, the authors. <br />
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Google&rsquo;s attitude towards copyright is merely a corporate expression of the individualist, counter-cultural attitudes of many of the Internet pioneers. As Stewart Brand, author of <i>The Whole Earth Catalog</i> once declared, &lsquo;information wants to be free.&rsquo;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;<br />
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We also need to be vigilant about territorial copyright in the digital as well as the physical world.&nbsp; To ensure that local authors continue to be well-rewarded and published both in their country of origin as well as overseas, they need to be able to licence their work without the fear that sales infringing territorial copyright will erode their due royalty entitlements or somehow reduce the impact of local publishing plans and promotions.&nbsp; <br />
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But as I&rsquo;ve argued tonight, when we talk about books we are not just talking about &lsquo;information&rsquo; or &lsquo;data&rsquo;.&nbsp; We are also talking about an art form &ndash; not in an elitist sense, but rather of a wide-ranging literature in which experience is mediated by craft, information becomes knowledge, entertainment becomes in its highest form enlightenment. Books reflect qualities only writers and publishers can impart.<br />
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This is not special pleading for publishers: those most affected by a mass degradation of the power of copyright would be the creators of books, their writers. The protection of copyright was a role your institution undertook with great effectiveness for many years &ndash; I am not saying come back and help, but I am saying the need for copyright protection has never been greater, or more complex. <br />
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<b>Conclusion: a new page</b><br />
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The best writing, as I have said, lets us understand our lives. It reflects the struggles we all share, giving us in Philip Pullman&rsquo;s wonderful phrase, a &lsquo;rich, consoling, inspiring, liberating&rsquo; experience of inestimable value.&nbsp; The novelist creates a world but reflects the real one &ndash; all, as the Israeli writer Amos Oz says, without leaving our chairs: &lsquo;if you read a novel, you obtain a ticket into the most intimate recesses of another country and another people&rsquo;.&nbsp; Literature acts as a bridge between people and is an antidote to fanaticism.<br />
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We are drawn to stories because they provide what Pullman calls &lsquo;a private secret space&rsquo; yet they also bring us out of ourselves.&nbsp; Sometimes I think we are drawn to books out of an instinctive sense that they can magnify our lives, their enchantment necessary for our enrichment. <br />
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That&rsquo;s why people who think a new reading device will somehow change the content of the books we love are missing the point: our attraction to narrative is visceral and enduring, an integral part of being human.&nbsp; Whether we choose to read our favourite novelists on a printed page or in E Ink, it simply doesn&rsquo;t matter, because that core experience of books will remain undiminished.&nbsp; Salman Rushdie put it more eloquently than I can: &lsquo;when a reader falls in love with a book it leaves its essence inside him &ndash; like radioactive fall-out in an arable field and after that there are certain crops that will no longer grow in this, while other stronger, more fantastic growths may be produced.&nbsp; We love relatively few books in our lives and these books become parts of the way we see our lives, we read our lives through them &hellip; they become ours!&rsquo;<br />
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The future is potentially wonderful: every book available to any reader, in printed form, at a keystroke; multiple technology platforms giving us video, sound, animation, pictures and of course words, in dazzling, inventive composite creations. <br />
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This future is ours to grasp, but only if we understand that it is not technology that makes books, but readers, and authors and creativity. It is our collective responsibility to ensure that every child can read, and can have his or her world opened to the extraordinary possibility that only books can offer.&nbsp; Our responsibility is to nurture every last drop of creativity and talent that we have in our society.&nbsp; And finally our responsibility is to protect creativity so that all of us, not just the authors themselves, can be rewarded and enriched.<br />
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This is not the last page for the book, but a new chapter, and the first of many, as the book changes again and again, as times and technology change.<br />
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The creation of each and every book is a small piece of magic. As long as we cherish those who read and write and make that magic possible, the book will always be safe and our future as readers safe with it.&nbsp;</p>