Page: Publishers need to 'look hard' at own cultures

Page: Publishers need to 'look hard' at own cultures

Publishers have to “up their game” in partnering with all areas of the book trade and give the “new generation” room to adapt and develop the industry, Stephen Page, c.e.o of Faber, has told delegates to the FutureBook Conference.

In a speech to delegates at The Mermaid Theatre in London, Page said he has begun a tour of UK independent bookshops in the last few months looking to "get under the skin of the new bookselling". As a result he said he believes strongly that "publishers have to up their game in partnering with all parts of the book trade to create an even more dynamic interface with our core market."

"None of this sounds particularly FutureBook-ish but I really believe that a partnership with omni-channel retailers is different in some parts to the old selling structures," he sad. "What all booksellers need from publishers is excellent, timely information, availability of writers for events, digital materials – especially video – and encouragement to be entrepreneurial with our lists."

He added: “Publishers need to revisit their commitments to the book trade and be equally challenging to themselves about doing everything for the trade better... It’s where our growth will come from.”

Publishers also need to "look hard" at their own cultures, Page said, and emphasized the importance of giving freedom and responsibility to the “exciting new generation” entering the industry.

“We need to give [them] room to adapt and to develop our businesses. In many tech and media businesses it is not unusual for people in their twenties to be able to lead.

“All of us have to look hard at our own cultures and keep evolving them to be productive and appropriate for a new generation of staff. If we attract the very best mind our industry will thrive. To do so we must be mindful of their expectations,” he added.

Diversity is a “burning issue” in the industry, Page said. 

“It’s already true that we fail to represent in our staff the current demographics of the UK, and if we don’t address this in the coming years we will quickly fall further behind the truth of the society we publish to, and that will be a failure.”

He added: “Despite the good work of Creative Access and the steps we have all taken to address this, we’ve not done enough. Rather than throw our hands up and say that we have tried, we have to try much harder and in different, more radical ways.”

Moving onto areas of growth in the industry, Page suggested that the “zero law” of publishing in the future will be to “understand mobile.” He said: “Without expert understanding of what mobile will do to consumer behavior, publishers and booksellers may struggle to find many audiences.”

Mobile is the “biggest area of marketing challenge for the industry”, Page said and will become a "hugely competitive space.” He said e-reading will “migrate to phones”, but that the challenge for publishers is “much more to do with search results, contextual advertising, social media and expert use of the opportunities smartphones create.”

He added: “And if anyone is wondering if this will only apply to the young and those who don’t read books, think again. 39% of 4G users are aged 35–54, only 21% under 24.”

The industry needs to understand that people are “changing their behavior" and that social media is already a major advertising route for brands, including publishers and booksellers.

But Facebook for example, is not “keen on having relationships with corporations” which is a further challenge for the industry. Page said: “This challenges us, as I don’t believe that we’ve been clear enough about how we manage and/or create social channels for authors." 

Page concluded: “Our world is changing and fast, but the urgency is not for survival but continued, deliberate evolution. So rather than getting fixated on new book formats, let’s keep investing in the ‘not book’ worlds that amplify and enhance reading, build worlds where appropriate and keep solving particular challenges in order to create opportunities.

“The book needs little solving it seems, but ‘not book’ is an infinite universe we must keep exploring.”