FutureBook Conference offers "different range of voices"

FutureBook Conference offers "different range of voices"

The FutureBook Conference will take place on 4th December, with keynote speeches from Faber c.e.o. Stephen Page, Pottermore chief executive Susan Jurevics, and Springer Nature's chief scientific officer Annette Thomas.

There will be a week of events leading up to the conference, announced at a launch event on 7th September.

This year will be the sixth FutureBook Conference, Dan Franklin, digital publisher at Penguin Random House, was among the attendees at the first event in 2010.

"I had just stepped into a digital role," he told The Bookseller. "I think we’re now at a point five years later, where we’ve seen the real evolution in digital publishing and it’s become a substantial part of publishers’ revenue and part of the day to day of what people are discussing and thinking about. Having said that, it’s still necessary to be pushing the forward-thinking agenda that FutureBook promotes further forward. I don’t think it encourages digital publishing to be in an enclave, instead it it’s necessary to have forward shot-troops who are trying all this stuff out. So I still think it’s important. Probably more so because digital is an established thing now and if anything that could encourage you to be more lackadaisical about it. If you get into the position where you think this is the norm and I don’t need to worry about it any more, then that’s when you get badly “disrupted”.

(From left) Author Jeff Norton, The Bookseller's editor Philip Jones, illustrator Sarah McIntyre and illustrator Elissa Elwick.

He continued: “I think that publishing is inherently disruptive, books drive so much cultural change and they do that because books erupt onto the cultural landscape and often, traditionally, what publishers do very well, they do that from a position of believing in something and doing some analysis of what the market is doing, but more often they’re not actually having the courage in their convictions and the belief in books and that is a disruptive act. Publishing in its own way as well is awkward, it’s funny shaped, there’re things about it- especially in terms of the way we treat rights – which make it very difficult to disrupt in the way that the big start-ups that have come into the space would like to.

"But, I think now that we’ve had that initial blast and got our heads around things, we will start to see significant moves, and I think you can start to see the steps being taken here and there by different companies to put together… and it’s certainly the case with PRH as we’ve spent the last year and a half creating an entirely fresh team at the centre of the business that have been looking at these questions… I’d hestitate to call what’s happened a merger because in our function it’s constant renewal, in that sense I think publishing has always been disruptive.”

The Bookseller's features and insight editor Tom Tivnan (centre) and Adam Juniper of Ilex (right).

Adam Juniper, associate publisher and head of digital at Ilex, Octopus, said: “FutureBook gives small publishing companies an opportunity to see what they can concentrate on for the next year because they don’t have a lot time for things. They need good ideas that they can implement and make work and only have one chance…it is an invariably interesting and useful experience.

“It is important to discuss the future of where books are heading because so many people in the industry don’t want to discuss where it’s going, they just want to look at graphs and charts based on figures they’ve used in the past.

“In the last year people have realised that books in general compete for time with TV, newspapers, apps and they’ve worked out that delivering your content is much more about making it appealing so people want to spend their time with it, rather than thinking of it as a book, a unit, to sell.”

(From left) Jo Penn, Orna Ross of ALLi, and author Dan Holloway.

Orna Ross, founder of the Alliance of Independent Authors, said: “The FutureBook Conference is the highlight of the publishing conference calendar. It has a unique take on everything that’s happening and everything that could be happening. Visionary. It doesn’t just talk about what’s going on, it talks about what’s possible. It is technologically informative and close to the creative mentality that an author has to have today. It’s vital, absolutely crucial to discuss where the future of books is heading. Even questions like “what is a book?” That’s the kind of thing you can talk about at FutureBook that you don’t get to anywhere else.

“For too many people digital means “e-book”, I think what’s most important is that we understand the power of digital in every format. The most powerful thing about digital is direct contact with reader. Everyone in publishing needs to think more about how to support authors to reach readers.”

(From left) Seonaid Macleod from The Publishers Association, Sandy Mahal of The Space, and Julia Kingsford of Kingsford Campbell.

Sandeep Mahal, director of BBC’s The Space, said: “I think the FutureBook Conference is hugely successful, for the reading and writing community not just publishing…it is one of the most diverse programmes in terms of the different range of voices. Looking externally, outside of publishing as well, Futurebook before was one of those industry events where it was the same people talking to each other, now it is broadening out to attract wider audience of people who are in this business, not just publishing.”

(From left) The Bookseller's Mandy Groves and Roger Christiansen of Ricoh Europe.

Mahal added: “I’d really like to see in the conference the importance of taking risks against difficult economic backdrop- that’s where we’re going to find the new ideas. Yes we’ll try and we’ll fail but we’ll fail better and that’s really important.”

(From left) Gojimo founder George Burgess and Tim Dare from Mosaic Search and Selection.

Sarah Towle, who is in process of launching first digital multi-format imprint called Time Traveler Tours, said: “The Futurebook Conference fills a gap that’s been missing elsewhere. It embraces where we are in the world and the needs of digital natives. In other places [I’ve worked] people are afraid to have conversations. The publishing industry isn’t necessarily convinced yet that moving into digital will return their investment. We want to put great books in the hands of children but we also need to make money doing it.”

(From left) Alex Hippisley-Cox with Unbound's Isobel Frankish.

In total FutureBook 2015 will feature more than 40 speakers from across the media industry.

(From left) The Bookseller's Benedicte Page and Sage's Ziyad Mirar.

A new initiative from FutureBook that brings together the best in new thinking from book tech companies and start-ups in a unique showcase and competition. This fully interactive session is to be curated and hosted by the journalist and tech-insider Molly Flatt.

Author Day, held on 30th November, is intended as an issues-oriented conference: an exploration and frank exchange on challenges facing publishing’s creative corps and its industry players.

(From left) Unbound's Dan Kieran, Sandeep Mahal, and Pamela Peter-Agbia of The Space.

For more on FutureBook Conference 2015 visit the conference website, where you can book your tickets for the event. More on all of these initiatives can be found on The Bookseller’s digital site FutureBook. More speakers, including a fourth keynote, will be announced in due course.

Pictures: Mark Guest