Publishers fight back, says Andrew Keen

<p>Author Andrew Keen has challenged book publishers to fight back against the &quot;tyranny&quot; of free content. Speaking at <em>The Bookseller&#39;s</em> conference &quot;Digitise or Die&quot;, Keen warned that publishers and other intermediaries were being pushed out of the new economy by the prevailing &quot;northern Californian libertarian mindset&quot; that demanded everything for free.</p><p>&quot;The content business is in crisis, if you want to look at the way it will go take a look at the music industry and newspapers, these sectors have really been on the front-lines of a perfect storm: the problem is that content has become simply an adjunct of advertising.&quot;</p><p>Keen, who in his book <em>The Cult of the Amateur</em> argues that the internet is debasing culture by giving everyone the tools to create and no-one the skills to select, claimed that what profits were being made by the &quot;web 2.0&quot; economy were &quot;profoundly skewed towards the likes of Google, and YouTube&quot;. Keen added, &quot;for the creative class - this is a bad time&quot;, arguing that intermediaries played a vital role nurturing talent: &quot;When you take away the gatekeepers everything becomes crap. Writers don&#39;t get rich and famous on their own.&quot;</p><p>But Keen said that the next incarnation of the web could be where &quot;professional publishers fight back&quot;. Keen said that publishers should not be seduced by the new technologies but use them to build brands, and nurture the expert through live events. &quot;The future is the expert,&quot; he said. It was no longer about the copy, the selling of the book, Keen said, but about managing the talent. Addressing publishers, he said, &quot;you are the nurturers of talent, and you will have to convince the creatives that you can build their brand.&quot;</p><p>David Worlock, chief research fellow at Outsell, said that publishers were already digital, and should worry less about technology and more about the &quot;networked economy&quot;. &quot;The key change is the change in our relationships with each other other not the change in format.&quot; He said that the information industry was worth $380bn in 2007, of which &quot;news and consumer [content]&quot; took up 34%, a proportion that was dropping. &quot;The opportunities are greater than the hurdles for consumer publishers,&quot; he said, predicting that the book would move to an &quot;on-demand&quot;, or digital, model in the future.</p><p>Jason Hanley, strategic development partner at Google Book Search, stressed that digital would most likely supplement rather than displace existing revenue models, with multiple rather than one dominant model developed. He referred to statistics which suggested that 80% of users searching on Google were looking for book content, adding, &quot;publishers do see results&quot;. Rather the &quot;digitise or die&quot;, Hanley said the conference should be titled, &quot;digitise&quot;.</p>