Introducing The FutureBook’s BookTech Showcase 2015

Introducing The FutureBook’s BookTech Showcase 2015


Let’s get this clear from the off: technology is not the answer.

At least, not always. And certainly not by itself.

(The question, inevitably, is how do we develop a diverse, creative and commercially sustainable publishing industry in a world where digital tools have foreverchanged the economics and behaviours involved in producing, disseminating and reading books?)

It would be short-sighted and depressing to imagine that people—their relationships and ideas and timeless hunger for storytelling—are not still the greatest influence on the future of book publishing. But it would be equally disingenuous to pretend that tech will not continue to have a profound influence on how that landscape evolves. And if you work or play in that landscape, it would be reckless not to explore the most promising new businesses and thinkers cresting the horizon.

With this in mind, we’re delighted to introduce the BookTech Showcase, a new initiative from FutureBook. As of today, we’re inviting nominations from the businesses and organisations whose tech innovations have the potential to make a unique impact on the book publishing industry in the years ahead.

Companies will be listed in an exclusive supplement published at the FutureBook Conference and made available to subscribers of The Bookseller. Over the next couple of months, the FutureBook team will pare this crowdsourced directory into a shortlist of the seven most original and compelling candidates, to be announced at Frankfurt Book Fair on 14th October. Our finalists will then be profiled in a series of interviews on FutureBook.

BookTech 2015 will culminate in a live pitch-off at the FutureBook Conference on 4th December, during which a panel of experts—aided by searching questions from the audience—will debate the finalists’ relative merits and present Bronze, Silver and Gold awards at the FutureBook Innovation Awards, which take place immediately after the FutureBook Conference.

So what are the criteria for BookTech glory?

There was a lengthy debate about what to call this project. We were squeamish about limiting our definitions to either "book" or "tech", and we’re still not entirely comfortable with the startup-esque word we’ve settled upon, but it was the least unwieldy of all the imperfect options.

There are plenty of fantastic tech-led publishing startups already beginning to flourish, from Unbound to Lost My Name, and the aim of BookTech is provide a record of what is happening, but also to help to identify the next big thing we haven’t heard of yet. A BookTech nominee might be already up and running, seed- or crowdfunding, or even in early ideation stage—what matters is its potential to have a tangible impact on how books are made, distributed and read. A BookTech company might have gone well beyond the startup phase, but still working on the next big thing.

And when we say big, that doesn’t necessarily equate to commercial potential or global scale. It could be a free platform that caters super-elegantly for the needs of a niche reading community, or a specialist tool that solves a small but niggling problem that writers face. It might be an idea rooted in publishing from the start, or a startup from a tangential discipline—fintech, say, or wearables—which nonetheless has the potential to influence the industry in a surprising and powerful way. 

It might impact on trade, self, independent, print or digital publishing. It could apply to authors, editors, marketers, readers, designers, booksellers, translators or any one of the many categories of people involved in bringing books to life. Submissions are welcome from across the world, although founders must be available to attend the final London pitch-off. We’ll be looking for an innovation or pivot that happened in the past 12 months, and tasking you in explaining how this makes a difference.

We’ll be debating the issues involved as the initiative unfolds on social media, so do join the #BookTech discussion via @TheFutureBook, or connect with us personally at @mollyflatt@porter_anderson and @philipdsjones.

The spirit of BookTech

Finally, it’s important to emphasise that the spirit of BookTech is one of optimism and celebration.

This can be a challenging time to be a person who loves and lives books, but it’s incredibly exciting, too. Our finalists will face rigorous questions from you, the FutureBook community, and our judges, but that’s because we truly believe in the power of tech to support and sustain the essentially human endeavour of spinning and sharing extraordinary tales.

What are you waiting for?

To nominate a BookTech company, either fill in the form here, or drop me a note. The listing is free, and the BookTech finalists will be invited to present at the FutureBook Conference (4th December) in London.

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

Image - iStockphoto: Frank Peters