Publishers must become 'fleet of foot', depleted LBF conference hears

<p>The publishing industry must move at speed to adopt new business models and new ways of working if it is to seize the opportunities of the digital revolution, delegates were told at London Book Fair&#39;s third annual &quot;Strategies for Transformation&quot; digital conference yesterday (Sunday, 18th April). But Bloomsbury chief executive Richard Charkin, the conference chair, sounded a note of warning, saying: &quot;Please, please, in the digital age let us price at a sensible level and not underprice to gain volume.&quot;</p><p>Attendance was depleted by the travel chaos, with 50 of the 200 delegates unable to make it to London, including scheduled speakers Canadian bookseller Michael Tamblyn and DailyLit founder Susan Danziger. But in a busy programme, industry figures focused on the need to experiment and to get a real understanding of what consumers want from the new technologies in a fast-changing environment.<br /><br />George Lossius, c.e.o. of Publishing Technology, said publishers must be &quot;much more fleet of foot in a world of mobiles and laptops&quot;, while Dorling Kindersley&#39;s deputy c.e.o. John Duhigg argued that publishers must reskill their team and remodel their commissioning, saying that illustrated non-fiction was &quot;genuinely about creating content now, not books&quot;.</p><p>Pearson global digital director Genevieve Shore said it was &quot;vital for publishers to step up&quot; and establish standards for the digital supply chain, amid a risk of disintermediation by technology providers. David Miller of Rogers, Coleridge &amp; White criticised the low attendance by his fellow agents, saying how important it was that they fully educate themselves.&nbsp; He said it was time to stop focusing on digital royalties and instead look at platforms and business models. &quot;You don&#39;t put new wine in old bottles,&quot; he said.<br /><br />Meanwhile a raft of new initiatives emerged, with Fionnuala Duggan of Random House Digital introducing &quot;The Nigella Quick Collection App&quot;, which was serialised in Saturday&#39;s <em>Times</em> (17th April). The app, produced inhouse, has a voice control function to navigate recipes, making it a hands&#39; free cookbook, and integrates social media.<br /><br />Miller announced that Nicola Barker&#39;s new novel, <em>Burley Cross Postbox Theft</em> (Fourth Estate, 29th April), would be accompanied by a free pre-publication app serialising the early chapters.</p><p>And Pan Macmillan&#39;s head of digital development James Long said Picador.com would shortly relaunch as a &quot;networked&quot; site, which will pull in content about Picador titles from around the web.<br /><br />Digital developer Maureen Scott also announced a new start-up, Ether Books, which will sell short stories and essays from authors including Hilary Mantel, Alexander McCall Smith and Lionel Shriver on mobile phones via the publisher&#39;s own free app. </p>