FutureBook Hack: "You can make the world a better place"

FutureBook Hack: "You can make the world a better place"

Hackers at the first ever FutureBook Hack need to come up with ideas that will work in the real world, ignore publishers, and not be afraid to fail, the event heard today (Saturday 14th June).

The FutureBook Hack, which sees around 65 hackers begin to tackle a variety of challenges facing the publishing industry, kicked off with an introductory speech from the hack's tech producer Matthew Cashmore, digital director at Blackwell's.

"You can make the world a better place by what you do this weekend," he told hackers. "We are talking about stuff that changes the world and you get to mess with it.

"You get to mess with the way people consume ideas. There is nothing more powerful in the world."

Mark Adams, director of start-up The Audience, said people should not be afraid to fail, and added: "If we're going to hit walls, let's really run into them and knock ourselves out."

Among the challenges hackers can tackle is one looking at how best to use audio. Ravina Bajwa at Penguin Random House Audio said audio was "the most exciting part of publishing at the moment" and was flourishing, but that there were challenges, such as file size and recording length that meant publishers had yet to "crack things like a streaming model".

Also talking about audio, Faber & Faber's Hannah Griffiths said the challenge was how to "create value and understand the value of audio".

"Audiobooks are up against lots of bespoke audio content like podcasts, the greatest radio in the world, and more," she said. "How on earth are audiobooks going to compete with the huge amount of bespoke content [out there]?"

Pan Macmillan's communications and digital director Sara Lloyd introduced publishing by saying it was "reading books and talking about them".

"I would love you to think of yourselves as readers and consumers of content," she said. "Don't think about publishers."

Gus Swan, digital technology director at HarperCollins, wanted hackers to look at the problem of double certainty - finding a way to tell people "what they don't know they don't know".

Catherine Allen of Touch Press urged hackers to have fun, but to also make sure whatever was created would "translate to the real world", a thought echoed by Eleanor Long of Simon & Schuster, who said that publishing "is all about gambling, it's about risks". She urged people to create something not only beautiful, but useful too.

Hattie Foster, digital project manager at Penguin Random House, said input in the publishing industry traditionally was from writers, and output was the book. "Today we are more than ever excited that input is creators of all forms," she said. "What can we do differently? How can we rethink things we have been doing for so long?"

The FutureBook Hack continues until tomorrow afternoon. To see updates as they happen, follow our liveblog here.