At #FutureBook14: Digital -- and how social is it?

At #FutureBook14: Digital -- and how social is it?

Not pink enough, is it? 

As the Fleming Room is readied here at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in Westminster this morning, I'm going to quote one bit of Jo Henry's notes for her Nielsen presentation today at The FutureBook Conference here in London, emphasis mine:

30,000 consumers in 60 countries around the world were surveyed in Q1 2014 to establish their intention to buy various categories of goods online. Those showing the greatest growth are mostly in the entertainment market. All these have doubled since 2011. eBooks are almost at the top of that list.

Henry, one of my favorite colleagues and a constant bringer of eye-opening statistical research data, is the director of Nielsen's book research and is a key member of one of two panels I'm looking forward to chairing. Both are in the Whittle Room, during the part of the day when Europe's busiest publishing conference will be double-tracked.

With up to 600 people present, the day promises to payoff in just such sessions as these, turned as they are on viewpoints about how the industry is pivoting in the digital dynamic.

We also expect to raise quite the tweet storm, an annual FutureBook tradition. Hash it #FutureBook14 with us and join in.

  • The first of these two particular sessions, at 2 p.m. GMT/London time (9 a.m. ET), features Tumblr's Rachel Fershleiser, Movellas' Joe Cohen, and YouTube's David Ripert. Each will offer a presentation in response to our question: What Is The Long-Term Role of Social Media in Publishing?
  • The second, at 2:50 p.m. GMT/London time (9:50 a.m. ET) features Nielsen's Henry, ePubDirect's Joe Lennon, codeMantra's Walter Walker, and Ixxus' Carl Robinson. Again, each will offer his and her commentary in a quick presentation, in this case responding to our theme: What Is Happening in Digital Today? And Predicting Trends for Tomorrow.

Convening the community of publishing

In Fershleiser's case, we know that her viewpoint from the burgeoning social blog site Tumblr is firmly focused on the long-term importance of community cultivation. In her remarks to us for a preview piece on the conference, Influenced by people": Tumblr & Mozilla at The FutureBook Conference, Fershleiser told us:

The same kinds of fan communities that make Sherlock, Doctor Who, and Supernatural so powerful exist on ​T​umblr for all kinds of books. Dystopian YA series, absolutely, but also cookbooks and literary novels and feminist essay collections. There are hundreds of subcultures you can reach out to that are either already discussing your books or will be thrilled to learn about them. And according to a recent study, 48% of ​Tumblr users respond to an entertainment experience by creating and posting something of their own.

It's important to realize, however, that Fershleiser does see the value of social media work in terms of the topic's "long-term" aspect. One of the mistakes of some corporate efforts in the field, as we know, has been to confuse the quick churn of social media with short-term tactical thinking. The relationship element of genuine community-building argues, instead, for a long view. And in that regard, David Ripert's input from YouTube should be an effective complement to Fershleiser's viewpoint. In pre-panel comments, Ripert tells me:

It's not our team's job to sell YouTube to publishers. It's to show them that there are more engaging ways to spend their marketing budgets than book trailers and author interviews. There is an opportunity to create truly engaging video. And if done successfully, an engaged audience will follow you from platform to platform, book to book, author to author.

There again, this is longer-term thinking that sometimes surrounds the social-media conversation. Ripert should be able to help us formulate an understanding of video's capability to support a basically textual industry in popular spaces unavailable a couple of decades ago.

And predicting those digital futures

Among my favorite early responses to our call for comment from the Digital Today and Tomorrow, Ixxus' Carl Robinson steps right up to our mention of predictions:

Essentially, I plan to look at the uselessness of predictions!

Robinson also intends to talk about what educational publishers are facing in market contexts, "a multiplicity of devices and the challenge of getting content on to them," as well as "the constraints of the way publishers are currently organised and the way they handle their content in terms of giving them the flexibility they need and desire

For his part, ePubDirect's Joe Lennon telles me he wants to start with the tech VC firm Andreessen Horowitz on how mobile "is eating the world" -- it and tech can't be differentiated any more. He's also coming in with comment on what he terms "publisher-led innovation" -- as opposed to publishers reacting to what's around them. And he wants to talk data. Don't we all?

codeMantra's Walter Walker goes straight to one area of concern for many of us: Of the many areas where digital publishing has disrupted print, the one I don’t hear quite enough about is rights and premissions. Since there is no physical book to print, much less ship, digital sales should suppress the need for territory rights agreements.

And meanwhile, Henry is talking of one of Nielsen's deep-dive studies coming in with fresh new data she'll bring to the table in our session, just gathered this week.

Do join us -- if you're without a ticket but can get to the QEII Centre in Broad Sanctuary, registration will be available on the spot.

And if you're not with us in person, keep an eye on our hashtag #FutureBook14 and on our  Epilogger, now past 3,000 tweets at this writing, before the day even starts.

A strong day in digital publishing ahead. Welcome to The FutureBook.