Publishing should expect the same profound shake-up experienced by the games industry over the next five years, HarperCollins group strategy and digital director Nick Perrett has said.
Perrett was the opening speaker at the FutureBook Innovation Workshop held in London's Brick Lane yesterday (30th May). Both major publishers and new start-ups spoke about their experiences and ideas at the event, held in association with The Literary Platform.
Perrett told the workshop: "In gaming, there were a number of steady state platforms, and a number of large publishers. Everybody knew what they were doing. Then in the summer of 2007, a number of things [the arrival of iPhones and birth of mobile gaming platforms] happened which changed that, and altered how we did business".
He pointed to the examples of games publishers such as Atari and THQ who failed to survive the industry-wide changes, and said that by 2019, publishing could experience the same shocks.
"By 2019, what do I expect to see? I think we will have digital native start-ups that are worth over £1bn. I also think we will have some high profile failures and struggles. And I think there will be a move away from issues like e-book pricing, to publishers just asking how many daily active readers do I have interacting with my content right now?"
He added: "The future of e-commerce is about curation", and suggested the way the business monetises its products would have to change, "atomising the costs". Looking to the future, he said the business should be focusing on new forms on content, physical innovation, and reaching readers in new ways. "Our duty to the creators of great stories is to innovate."
Hollywood story consultant Bobette Buster also referred to great stories and their creators, and insisted that they must drive the industry. She said: "Star Wars set up a paradigm in Hollywood, give us the idea, give us the concept. Everything had to be able to be turned into a franchise. Now everything has to come from another source like a comic book, with a readymade fanbase . . . Everything has to be marketed across several platforms and products. Apparently lunch boxes are worth $1bn to Pixar. But this is all the tail wagging the dog."
She insisted that people want to enter into worlds where they can experience the same journey as the characters. She said: "Homer was right, it's all about journeys . . . People want to be loyal to a character and follow a story wherever it goes. That's all the interaction they need."
Other speakers focused on products that thrived on interaction, including Dan Franklin speaking about Random House's Black Crown Project. When asked how he defined the project, he said: "It is unwieldy, it is difficult to define, but we're quite happy with that. It's a web-based narrative gaming experience."
As well as online experiences, others were experimenting with physical ones. Alyson Fielding of content strategy company Pyuda shared her prototypes of building circuitry into books, so they respond to movement, light up, or speak.
Digital writer Tim Wright described his project to create an "enchanted box" that contained geo-located content, activating the poems of Thomas Hardy when taken to the places he lived and died. He said: "Definition can be difficult for people. I tell stories and I call myself a writer, sometimes a digital writer to differentiate myself from others."