Future of Print Takes Center Stage at Book Business Conference & Expo
More than 1,000 publishing industry professionals converged on New York’s Marriott Marquis, March 5-7, braving a windy Times Square to attend the 2007 Book Business Conference and Expo. The future of print was a primary theme throughout both the exhibit hall, which housed approximately 100 industry suppliers and services, and the conference program, which was packed with more than two dozen sessions, roundtables and panel discussions relevant to book publishers looking for tools to manage their businesses in an ever-changing industry.
“The conference hit on so many of the most significant issues facing book publishers that attendees and speakers alike were truly energized by the time they left,” says Noelle Skodzinski, Book Business magazine’s editor-in-chief and the conference program director. “Some participants thanked us for making their trips across the country worthwhile. Several others said the conference delivered some of the best sessions they have ever attended. The program content clearly provides a resource and forum unique for book publishing executives, and we were thrilled with this year’s event,” she says. “We had so many amazing speakers from leading publishing companies that shared great insights and practical advice with our attendees. It was very inspiring.”
Approximately 75 speakers hailed from companies such as Random House Inc., Houghton Mifflin Co., Scholastic, HarperCollins, McGraw-Hill, John Wiley and Sons Inc., Vintage Books, Arcadia House, Merriam-Webster, Sourcebooks, Quirk Books, Oxford University Press, Sterling Publishing Co. Inc., Pearson, Thieme Publishers and New York University Press.
It was a who’s who in publishing event, with most of the major book publishing companies represented, as well as small and mid-size companies that are growing and innovating successfully during this tumultuous, but exciting time in the industry. But it wasn’t an event where seeing and being seen was on the minds of most attendees; they were there to learn. The conference offered a how-to on just about every hot topic in book publishing, from digital strategy, to managing production, cutting manufacturing costs, managing cash flow, inventory management, global sourcing, environmental sustainability and much more.
“I enjoyed my experience at the Book Business Conference and found the various print-on-demand seminars particularly helpful. It was beneficial to find out from other colleagues in publishing that they are experiencing similar challenges as our company, and also to hear about emerging trends and possible opportunities to meet the challenges within our industry,” says Joe Hillyer, associate director of manufacturing for Scholastic Inc. “For me, the conference acted as a catalyst to help set in motion some ideas that I’ve been thinking about, and that I believe will benefit my company.”
Publishing executives came from all over the country in search of fresh, revenue-generating tips and tactics, and real-life examples of the successes of their peers. “[The conference] was a gold mine of information,” says Gail Bock, production manager of the General Board of Discipleship, a religious publisher of books and magazines based in Nashville, Tenn. “The Book Business Conference and Expo was worth every penny of the registration fee. I will be back next year with every co-worker I can convince to come, too.”
Attendees also were there to shop for and learn about new publishing technologies, solutions and services—from book manufacturing, finishing and packaging services to publishing management and workflow software, digital solutions in printing and e-publishing, and much more.
“The Book Business show is the only show in town when it comes to reaching publishers, printers and paper manufacturers,” says Heath Frye, marketing manager of Glatfelter’s specialty papers business. “It is a one-stop shop, strategically located in the heart of the book publishing world—New York City.”
Last year, 87 percent of attendees said that information they obtained from vendors at the Book Business Expo would be used in purchasing decisions in the next six to 18 months, and 64 percent said they found new prospective vendors at the Book Business Expo. “With the high level of traffic at this year’s event and the wide range of exhibitors, we expect those numbers to be even higher for 2007,” says Mark Hertzog, vice president/group publisher of Book Business and the conference & expo.
“The exhibitors were also extremely pleased,” he added. “The traffic was virtually nonstop through the expo hall for two days, despite the subfreezing, windy weather.”
The Grand Opening Session: What the Digital Future Holds
The conference got underway at 9 a.m. on Mon., March 5, with an hour-long presentation by Dr. Jeffrey Cole of the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication. Cole serves as director of the Center for the Digital Future and heads up its ongoing study of Internet use, now in its seventh year.
Humbly referring to himself as “a mover, although not necessarily a shaker,” Cole’s style was as advertised. He continually paced the front of the Marriott’s crowded Broadway Ballroom, while deftly guiding attendees through some of the more poignant findings from his most recent research, including the impact the Internet is having on mass media.
“With no hyperbole whatsoever, we can say that the Internet is reversing 550 years of media trends that began with Gutenberg and his bible in Germany in the 15th century,” said Cole. “Up until the Internet, all mass communication has been from the few to the many, and the many have had very poor ways of communicating back. And if you look at today’s Internet users, they’re making it clear: They don’t
just want to receive information, they want to generate it. They want to be the source.”
He added, “If you talk to teenagers, the message is clear. It’s not 15 minutes of
fame they care about anymore, it’s 15 megabytes of fame. Because 15 minutes is gone in 15 minutes, and 15 megabytes last forever.”
It’s finding a way to connect with this up-and-coming generation of consumers and users that is a publisher’s real challenge, he said.
A piece of good news for book publishers: Cole’s research shows that while the Internet is having a significant impact on the amount of time consumers spend watching TV, the Internet is not significantly impacting the amount of time consumers spend reading books.
Cole also delivered what he termed good news to publishers of all types. “Encouragingly, for the first time in the seven years we’ve been tracking people, [Internet users] are showing some willingness to pay for digital content,” he said. “For the first five years, people didn’t want to pay for any digital content. They thought everything ought to be free … now they’re beginning to understand they have to pay for digital content.”
Forces Affecting Today’s Publishers
A conference highlight on Tuesday was the keynote address, delivered by Google’s director of content partnerships, Jim Gerber. He began his presentation by pointing out three major forces affecting the publishing industry today: rapid development in technology, rapid proliferation of the Internet and rapidly changing consumer behavior.
Higher quantities of better, cheaper technology are available in today’s world, which is changing the ways consumers seek and acquire information. These rapid advancements are “creating a generation of digital natives as opposed to the digital immigrants that most of us are.”
Gerber went on to provide the crowded ballroom of several hundred publishing industry executives with an overview of Google’s publishing-related partnerships. He urged publishers to explore how to reach Internet audiences, whether via Google’s offerings or those of its competitors, and said that providing content for free online is increasing printed book sales for those books.
One of the highlights of his keynote address was his insight into the potential impact on mobile content by rapid technological advancements that are likely to take place in the very near future; if today an iPod can hold tens or twenties of thousands of songs, he said, then by 2012, it could hold a year’s worth of video, and by 2019, it could hold a lifetime of video. “I’m not saying this will happen, but it can,” said Gerber. BB
Matt Steinmetz is the publisher and brand director of Publishing Executive.