Publishers have to change before the books they sell do, according to a discussion on “The future publisher” at FutureBook 2012.
Author and consultant Will McInnes said: “It’s not the thing that has to change, it’s the organisation. If that manages to change then the product will change with it.” He continued: “We’re just beginning to understand the networked world. We are in the 21st century, but we have accidentally brought 20th-century practices with us.”
Dominique Raccah, c.e.o. of Sourcebooks in the US, said: “We are seeing a shift in our business, from books to the readers.” Rebecca Smart, c.e.o. of the Osprey Group pictured, explained how this was impacting on the day-to-day running of Osprey, with readers now able to interact with the company through their website and social media to suggest future projects and how they are presented.
Crowdsourcing from the 40,000 users on their military history website, Osprey garners 1,000 suggestions each month, putting popular ideas to public votes. Smart said: “The switch we are making, from business-to-business to business-to-consumer, is bigger than the change to digital.”
Faber chief executive Stephen Page, voted Most Inspiring Digital Person in the FutureBook Awards, agreed that in making the shift towards consumers, publishers had to focus on their brands. He said: “Penguin is the most exciting consumer brand for books that exists on the planet right now, without doubt. Publishing brands are on the rise. The story has always been that no one cares who actually publishes a book. We have to change that by telling the story of our brands.”
He also urged publishers to change the way they think about digital products and e-books. He said: “E-books are a boring format that just comes straight out of normal books. Faber Digital does completely new things, looking for the new format of the book. Can we please start referring to these things as books as well? This is our turf.” He added: “Everyone should be excited that we are working in publishing at this time. Anyone who isn’t excited shouldn’t be in this industry.”