How do we make people care about what we do?
The slightly weird days between Christmas and New Year - often grey and a little bit flat - provide the perfect opportunity to ask the big questions that we never have time to face in the relentlessly productivity of our everyday.
And this question, I think, is one that anyone who works with books should be pondering as they enter 2019.
Not: how can we stay ahead of the curve by using AR and VR and AI and the blockchain? (Although it's always worth exploring all the new resources at your disposal - the ThinkSprint system is a great way to keep experimentation low-cost and anchored to consumer need.)
Not: how can we be on the platforms where the kids are hanging out? (Although you should definitely be having a go on them yourself as a user, if only to understand how the next generation is spending its leisure time.)
Not: how can we make everything we do faster and simpler? (Because, frankly, contrary to Silicon Valley wisdom, some things are worth doing precisely because they are complicated and take time.)
No, the only question that really matters is: how do we make people giving a flying... care about what we do?
Not just readers, although them, obviously. Employees and prospective next generation talent. Partners. Sellers and distributors of all sorts. Potential collaborators outside the industry who have skills that could benefit you but would never think of sharing it with someone who works with...well, you know. The b-word.
The biggest disruption on the cards for the publishing trade isn’t machine learning or climate collapse or yet more political upheaval, although all those things are certainly going to hit us like a tonne of unsold hardbacks.
The biggest disruption coming our way is people who just don’t care about us anymore. People who just don’t see the value in deep reading when they’ve grown up with the joy of the scroll. People who are more concerned with broadcasting their own stories than reading yours. People who default to easily addictive and socially-validated entertainment options such as Netflix and Call of Duty and Spotify. People who don’t trust curators any more and trust only what they can see their friends doing, which probably isn’t what you’re selling.
Books - whatever form they adopt - are addictive. They’re immersive. They have natural social virality built in.
So the challenge I think we should ponder deeply, and urgently, and with as much creativity we can muster after a week of turkey sandwiches and purple Quality Street is this.
How on earth do we make people care about what we do? And keep caring, and care loudly?
Let us know your thoughts @TheFutureBook.