After last year’s FutureBook Conference, I wrote about what I thought was becoming an interesting split in the book publishing business. I remarked that we were at the start of this digital revolution, and the changes have already been profound. But that there is now an element of frustration creeping into the narrative.
At FutureBook 2014, there seemed to me to be a distinct division between two different audiences. Those who believed in the world view, as expressed by Penguin Random House UK chief executive Tom Weldon that publishing’s transition to digital had been secured; and those who sided with keynote speaker George Berkowski’s view that publishing has had its “head in the sand” and needed to look up and see what is happening across the entertainment sector, where Candy Crush is in competition with Fifty Shades.
FutureBook 2015 will continue to explore this seam, with speakers from within the publishing domain mixing with those who have come in from the outside. There will also be unique interactive sessions on both the book and book tech, where audience and speakers can engage each other in the debate.
It has always been part of FutureBook’s job to bring these many sides together on a shared and mutually beneficial platform. To exchange ideas and to interrogate each other. As I noted in The Bookseller’s Leader column this week, the future may remain uncertain, but it is ours to shape.
Part of the process is understanding the audience, and letting the audience speak for itself. We began this journey a few months ago, putting out a call for manifestos on the future of the book business. From design, to editorial, to academic publishing, to authorship, these 500 word pieces have given us a unique understanding of those within the sector, who are delivering the digital transition.
This week we are also launching a revised version of the annual survey, the Digital Census: designed this year to be more about you, with questions around your views on the digital transition. These range from which business models are most likely to prevail in the near future, to what the right price for an e-book should be. There are specific sections for publishers and authors, and for the first time questions for those working within start-ups and other book tech companies. What is their perspective on the book business, and how can we help them take their innovations to the next stage.
The survey results will be unveiled in the run-up to FutureBook, and published in The Bookseller’s FutureBook Preview. The findings will also form the backdrop to the FutureBook Conference 2015, enabling speakers to learn as much about the wider publishing diaspora as they will learn from the speakers.
To take part in the survey, follow this link to Survey Monkey. To encourage others to take the survey, the link is: surveymonkey.com/r/FBCensus15