More than 400 people attended FutureBook 2010, The Bookseller’s annual digital conference, with pricing, Digital Rights Management (DRM) and how to develop collaborative partnerships arising as discussion points.
Piracy and how to control access was a key strand that ran throughout the day, with PA chief executive Richard Mollet warning internet service providers had an “obligation” to crack down on pirated material. But other speakers warned demonising file-sharers as pirates was not the solution, and that the industry needed to adapt by making more and better e-books available at keener prices.
Shane Richmond, head of technology (editorial), Telegraph Media Group blasted DRM technology as “completely useless at stopping piracy and a complete nightmare for customers” during the final Q&A session. Mirko Whitfield, European and International Development representative for the South By Southwest, said if publishers understood more about how ‘torrents’ worked then they would be more worried.
In his keynote, Simon Waldman, group product director at Lovefilm, said there was going to be “wide reaching change” with companies fighting for increased share in a declining market. He said: “It is not about new things or having a wonderful idea, it is whether your business is ready for real change as a whole.”
This view was echoed by Suzanne Kavanagh, publishing sector manager at Skillset, who suggested partnerships were a great way for publishers to overcome the digital skills gaps. Quoting figures from a Skillset survey, which will be published in December, she said it was worrying that only 41% of book publishing companies arranged training for their staff, in comparison to 63% of television companies.
Rebecca Smart, managing director of Osprey Group, said: “Publishing at the moment feels like a permanent crisis. We have to run two companies at the same time, an established one and a digital start up.” But she advised: “We need to fail quicker, cheaper and better than everyone else.”
The conference also highlighted digital successes, and showcased future developments planned by publishers, including Faber and Touch Press' forthcoming app about the solar system.
Author Nick Harkaway advised the industry to play to its strengths with a “slow food” campaign for books in order to fight off competition from other media. "Slow the pace, take time to read," he explained.
The Bookseller’s deputy editor Philip Jones, who kicked off the event with an overview of FutureBook’s digital survey, warned that booksellers were at risk of being left behind, and challenged publishers to make sure retailers were included in their digital planning.
Speaking after the event, Jones added: “Google has talked about leaving no device behind with the launch of Google Editions, but I say, ‘leave no bookseller behind'.”