FutureBook 2015: Travelling further together

FutureBook 2015: Travelling further together


FutureBook 2015 will be spectacular.

Trust me. From digital achievers to book tech, the emphasis this year has been all about what is working, and what more there is to do. This view is very much embodied in keynote speaker Faber c.e.o. Stephen Page’s speech, the subtitle for which is “Have trade publishers travelled far enough in search of the new?” 

The annual event, first launched in 2010, brings together leading thinkers in publishing, retail, editorial, writing, marketing and tech, along with speakers from other industries. This is the fifth anniversary of FutureBook, and is now the largest digital publishing conference in Europe, so much so that it has now grown beyond just one day. This year’s week-long festival, culminating in the FutureBook Conference on December 4th, is aimed at those invested in and passionate about the future of books. For more on what else is happening, see this comemntary from The Bookseller’s chief executive and publisher Nigel Roby, and here's our news story about the event. Perhaps of chief interest will be the launch of Author Day (programmed by Porter Anderson) taking place at the beginning of the week, which Porter describes in more detail over here.

Keynote addresses

Keynotes this year will come from Springer Nature’s Annette Thomas, Faber’s Page and Pottermore’s Susan Jurevics; an interactive session on reinventing the book will be led by Peter Meyers (author of Breaking the Page); and a BookTech Showcase will provide a platform for the best new thinkers from outside of traditional publishing to meet (and be interrogated by) the FutureBook audience.

  • Thomas, until recently chief executive of Macmillan Science and Education and now chief scientific offer of the newly combined Springer Nature, will talk about how digital and globalisation has impacted her business and how it drove the merger between Macmillan and Springer earlier this year.
  • Page is to address the importance of driving innovation, both in terms of new types of books and business models, in a speech entitled, “Does it matter if there's life on Mars?”.
  • Pottermore chief executive Jurevics will reveal how consumer insight and the shift to mobile-access is informing the next iteration of Pottermore.

FutureBook 2015 reflects how digital has become embedded in the book business, but also how the trade is navigating the new landscape. We are no longer awaiting disruption, but creating it, and this is why we have three keynotes from within the business talking about their strategies. This is an industry on the front-foot, and one preparing for what is coming next. From our new Author Day through to the BookTech sessions, FutureBook this year acknowledges that there are now many stakeholders in the future of this industry.

What's not working — and what is

The conference will this year also set out to address the difficult questions: are we doing enough? What is our consumer insight telling us and are we responding effectively? Have we understood, yet, how important authors, illustrators and other creatives are to this new world? Is the data we have telling us the right things? Is the enhanced book dead (again)? Or perhaps more importantly, how we can make it live?

We also want to celebrate what is working, from companies such as Lost My Name to Mofibo, to new publishers like Canelo and September Publishing. We want to look again at what the book can be, both from a trade perspective but also in terms of academic publishing—how do the needs of that professional audience dictate how content can be channeled to them. And then there is Amazon, of course, or more accurately in this case Audible, with whom we have recently launched a monthly audio-download chart.

Expanded FutureBook Awards

Finally, an expanded FutureBook Awards will allow us to put the focus back on our audience—the real change agents in this business.

New awards include one specifically for the wider FutureBook diaspora, a Digital Achiever of the Year award.

I am also pleased to unveil the BookTech Showcase: this will be a printed supplement for all FutureBook attendees, and also a fully interactive session at FutureBook that will culminate in an award for the FutureBook BookTech Company of the Year. The showcase is to be curated by the tech and culture journalist Molly Flatt, who has written about it here.

More details about all the FutureBook Awards are available here.

On the programme

(Pictured at right: Monday evening's Bookseller #FutureBook15 launch party at The Brewery in London. Image: Emma Lowe)

In total, FutureBook 2015 will feature more than 40 speakers from across the media industry. Among them:

  • George Burgess, founder and chief executive of the revisions app Gojimo;
  • Judith Curr, president and publisher, Atria Publishing Group in the US;
  • Anna Jean Hughes, founder and editorial director of the mobile reading business The Pigeonhole;
  • Caroline Raphael, editorial director, audio, Penguin Random House UK;
  • author Simon Scarrow;
  • Morten Strunge, founder and chief executive of subscriptions business Mofibo;
  • Kiren Shoman, executive director, editorial, at SAGE; and
  • Asi Sharabi, co-founder of personalised children’s book business Lost My Name. 

The conference will have more than 10 individual sessions, across three streams.

Key sessions include:

Face Out: Strategies That Work and Why
What's working and why? Executives from successful publishing businesses and book tech start-ups reveal the secrets behind their business models and how they are profiting from the digital disruption.

The Incredible Book: What Happens When Content Goes Unbound
Chaired by Peter Meyers author of Breaking the Page, two sessions at FutureBook 2015 will look at and seek to explore how the book is changing and what this change looks like, with authors and creatives from across publishing invited to talk about their visions.

Mobile First: The 6 Billion Opportunity
Six billion people have mobile devices, but how many are being used for reading? Executives from mobile reading companies and pioneers will explore how publishers can expand into this developing market.

Building on the past

In thinking about FutureBook this year, I also wanted to acknowledge the debt of course to previous events, organised first by Sam Missingham who founded the original FutureBook Conference, and who with myself and Tom Tivnan launched the community blog that has so underpinned The Bookseller’s digital activities and thinking; and then also to Alice Ryan (now with BBC Worldwide) who in 2013 and 2014 brought a new cutting-edge digital perspective to the conference. We really could not have got here, without them.

I also want to publicly thank the very many speakers we’ve featured (over the five conferences more than 200 of you), and also of course the more than 2,000 attendees we’ve welcomed over the years. We are calling FutureBook the book trade’s digital platform, and really it is the changes you have lived through that have built this annual event and which continue to inform our programming.

More details can be found on the FutureBook Conference website here, or by contacting me direct at Philip.Jones@thebookseller.com

About events and features of FutureBook week (30th November-4th December):