What the FutureBook Awards tell us about publishing

What the FutureBook Awards tell us about publishing

Publishing is more sinned against than sinning. You won’t find it hard to find someone somewhere having a pop at the business of books, pointing out its failings while ignoring its successes. It comes with the territory: that shock of the new and frustration with the traditional. As journalist Molly Flatt points out in her piece introducing the book tech shortlist “complaints that the publishing industry is failing to innovate are as common as bitter Amazon take-downs”.

Much of this criticism ignores the daily realities of running businesses that generate millions of pounds of sales (on behalf of authors) in ways that have not changed, and which get books to readers efficiently and effectively. Much of it also ignores what is happening beneath the surface. As we have long noted publishers are not comfortable shouting about their own achievements: they are most happy talking about their authors and promoting new titles. That is in their blood. Thinking outside the pipe, necessary though it is, can look like a distraction.

The FutureBook Awards were first launched as ‘innovation’ prizes (the first of their kind, as my former colleague Sam Missingham was fond of saying). This year we dropped the innovation tag. Innovation remains a big part of what FutureBook looks for, but so is imagination, excellence, determination, and, yes, even resilience. We wanted to celebrate innovation, but no longer be confined by it. There are some aspects of digital publishing that are just excellent without needing to be new, inventive but not novel; the trade has shifted gears as is evidenced in Hachette's approach to its apps - smart, effective, low-cost.

It is across this hinterland that the FutureBook Awards shortlists travel: from the fantastic promotional efforts undertaken by the Oslo-based marketing agency Fjeldbraaten & Waage to the cool platforming at PelicanBooks.com; from the remarkable over-haul at Pottermore led by its c.e.o. Susan Jurevics to the determined digital advocacy of Emma Barnes at Bibliocloud; from the developing imaginative foray into children’s digital publishing coming out of Nosy Crow to the carefully constructed pictorial re-imagination of a life with In The Shadow Of Things. This year's 55-strong shortlists were culled from more than 100 nominations. There is, of course, more happening than even these shortlists depict. FutureBook celebrates it all.

Last year ahead of his FutureBook Conference keynote the app developer George Berkowski said “What it comes down to is that publishing is not a culture that has incentives for innovation.” FutureBook’s job has been to challenge that culture, but in a way that is respectful of publishing’s past and positive about the business’ future.

The full shortlists are as below:

Digital Leader of the Year
Marcus Leaver, Quarto c.e.o.
Susan Jurevics, Pottermore c.e.o.
Hannah Telfer, group director, consumer and digital development, PRH
John Bond, founder, Whitefox
Angela Tribelli, chief marketing officer, HarperCollins
Asi Sharabi, founder, Lost My Name

Digital Achiever of the Year
Anna Jean Hughes, co-founder and editorial director, The Pigeonhole
Crystal Mahey-Morgan, digital publisher and founder, OwnIt
Matt Haslum, consumer marketing director, Faber & Faber
Anna Lewis, founder, Valobox
David Eagle, digital services & IT manager, NBN International
Laura Cremer, digital manager, Octopus Publishing Group
Emily Labram, product manager, HarperCollins
Emma Barnes, founder, Bibliocloud
George Burgess, founder, Gojimo

Platform of the Year
Oxford Learner’s Bookshelf
This is Your Cookbook
HarperCollins BookLab at the Seaport Culture District

Best use of Digital in a Marketing/Publicity Campaign
Harry Potter Jonny Duddle Relaunch/ Harry Potter Book Night, Bloomsbury  
“Naked on Snapchat”, Fjeldbraaten & Waage  
Scrabble Week, HarperCollins  
The Sick Bag Song, Canongate  
Summer of Penguin, Penguin Random House
Tim Weaver’s MISSING, podcast campaign, Penguin Random House
My Brother is a Superhero, Nosy Crow
Shazam partnership, HarperCollins   
Ingrid Winter—the bookseller game, Fjeldbraaten & Waage
Little Black Classics, Penguin Books

BookTech Company of the Year
The Owl Field
Write Track
Together Tales (formerly Imaginary Friends)

Best Adult Digital Book
A Game of Thrones: Get into the Books, HarperCollins  
Arcadia by Iain Pears, Faber & Faber/Touchpress
Calmeleon iPad and iPhone app, Octopus Publishing Group with Papertrell
The Pointless Book 2 app, Blink Publishing
LUCKY—Professor Green, Blink Publishing    

Best Children’s Digital Book
Snow White, Nosy Crow
Clunk in Space—Oxford Read and Imagine Level 1, OUP
Good Night Books, YUDU
Tate Kids Draw and Play, Tate Publishing/Aimer Media
Axel Scheffler’s Flip Flap Jungle, Nosy Crow

Best Reference Digital Book
Ella’s Kitchen First Foods iPad app, Octopus Publishing Group with Papertrell
Think Like Churchill, Touchpress and Hodder & Stoughton
Essentials of Nursing Practice, SAGE   
SESAME Recipe Manager, Complex Books
In the Shadow of Things, VIKA Books  

The FutureBook Awards will take place at the FutureBook conference on Friday 4th December. Click here for more information and tickets.