London Book Fair Report: The Great Debate
For the fourth consecutive year The Great Debate was held at the London Book Fair. On Tuesday industry leaders from both sides of the pond debated this year's proposition: "It's all about size. Bigger is always better."
The debaters dissected whether only book industry giants could survive or prosper, as typified by the dominance of Amazon and Penguin Random House, or if small, agile, independents have a tactical advantage in the digital- and social-driven future of the industry.
Supporting the big is better proposition was Ken Brooks, SVP of global supply chain management at McGraw Hill Education and Mike Shatzkin of The Idea Logical Company. Opposing the proposition was Stephen Page, CEO of Faber & Faber and Scott Waxman of Waxman Leavell Literary Agency and Diversion Books. Susan Danziger, founder and CEO of Ziggeo and Michael Healy, executive director of international relations at the Copyright Clearance Center moderated the debate.
While this kind of debate isn't intended to provide any form of resolution, it did serve to be thought provoking and illuminate how size can yield advantages and disadvantages. Following is a brief sketch of the arguments and few candid thoughts on what might be the takeaway.
Big is Better: Mike Shatzkin & Ken Brooks
Perhaps the most entertaining of the participants, Mike Shatzkin argued on the side of size, saying that always hardly exists in our world, but as he defines size it is most definitely "better." To that point, Shatzkin does not define better in qualitative terms of the craft of publishing (editing, illustrations, binding, etc.) but as better suited to survive and control one's own destiny, and better positioned to make life difficult for rivals. Being able to expand and have the resources to do so is a "huge" competitive advantage, says Shatzkin.