After what will be sixty adventurous and memorable years come this January as a fly on the wall in the printing and publishing industries, about which I have also been writing intermittently for over thirty of those years, I am retiring my shingle as a regular columnist at the end of the year. I will remain a Book Business contributor in some form or other yet to be determined.
Eugene G. Schwartz
I have been assembling BEA take-aways from the lively and informative reports of seasoned observers and trade professionals, without having attended in person. These provided me a lot to chew on, along with vivid memories of sitting through panel presentations, hiking through the aisles and corridors, and schmoozing at the booths at the Javits Center. They have added more substance to what I otherwise learn working with new business development and online publication services each day.
Tim O’Reilly has got to be one of the Industry’s most creative and challenging thinkers. He is a pioneer in popularizing the Web 2.0 concept — the social networking and interactive applications of Web usage. He and his team have built an impressive global enterprise that from its beginnings has been on the leading edge of our movement from the codex to multimedia content in the cloud.
The widespread regard he and O’Reilly Media had achieved in the publishing world for their innovative outreach explains why what could otherwise be considered a sensible business decision, to close down and move on from the TOC conference platform, came as such a jolt — even a sense of betrayal for some.
As TOC described itself in its 2013 conference prospectus, it was all about setting new horizons and a global culture, and about creating a community that would transcend the formal and legacy structures in the industry:
The Supreme Court clarified early in April in Kirtsaeng v Wiley that the “first use” doctrine in copyright law applied to any work lawfully manufactured anywhere in the world and purchased anywhere in the world. This ruling upset many in the publisher world, and relieved many in the library and bookseller world.
First use means that after purchase of a legally manufactured copyrighted work, the user can resell, rent or loan the work without permission of, or royalty payments to, the copyright holder. The used book and library markets, for example, are built on this foundation. Kirtsaeng was purchasing textbooks printed abroad more cheaply and reselling them in the U.S. Wiley lost on its claim that first use should also apply to the first U.S. sale of books manufactured and purchased abroad.
As Scott Turow, President of the Author’s Guild (of which I am a member), saw it in a New York Times op ed on April 7, “The Slow Death of the American Author,” the Kirtsaeng case was only the latest nail in the coffin awaiting authors. It cut off an additional revenue stream, since secondary sales do not pay royalties.
The six major annual book design shows listed above continue to anchor our industry in its traditions of craft, even though painfully unadorned ebooks and cluttered multimedia platforms proceed apace, charting their own course. Whatever the wide range of book show presenting criteria, as shown in the survey that follows, ultimately the purpose of book design is to enhance the readability and message of the book itself.
Print will survive and thrive in those areas where it continues to fulfill that purpose. Where digital media prevail, irrepressible design aspirations will soon follow.
While some shows are beginning to provide digital edition categories (mostly fixed format and multi-media), print editions continue to be foundational platforms for book design and organization — at least for the time being. Leading edge designers are exploring ways to bring design criteria into the reflowable formats.
Where is the book industry going, what will my workplace and career opportunities be like, what do I need to know to keep up with the times? Or, in a more cosmic vein, what does the future hold?
In an effort to answer these questions, publishers have settled each year into a series of industry meetings of general interest. Each has a unique theme, as noted below. They make the effort to bring together a cross section of publishers, associations, service providers and media professionals to connect with audiences ranging from first-time aspirants to seasoned managers and executives in every channel and of every level of responsibility.
Following is my own overview of the events with which I have become familiar through the years. I would say that a judicious choice of BEA or ALA and any one of the others whose focus comes closest to your own would provide a more than satisfying menu. If I had to attend only one: (a) I would pick BEA or ALA if my interest was in authors, reading, content and publishing as an enterprise, and (b) if my primary concerns were business development and operating management, I would choose any of the others from whose quality of attendee profiles and lists of presenters, speakers, sponsors and exhibitors I would expect to learn the most.
For 36 years, an undaunted Irwin Zucker, himself a public relations professional, has been hosting bi-monthly meetings of the Book Publicists of Southern California, bringing together at each event a hundred or so published authors and authors on the way: to share ideas, display their works, and to learn how to sell more books.
As with IBPA -- which started a few years later as the Publishing Association of Southern California (PASCAL), with then former PW Publisher Dick Bye as President and Jan Nathan as Executive director. It then became PMA and is now IBPA, a 3,000-member strong national organization -- Zucker reveled in the trenches of book publishing outside the mainstream channels. He brought enthusiasm, hope and know-how to equip authors with the tools to work around barriers to entry and, eventually, if they found a strong enough audience, to find their way into the mainstream; or, more often, to stay independent and pocket the proceeds and the glory on their own.
It is true that there is no substitute for the real thing – but there are alternatives that can be less exhausting and more immediately rewarding – and entertaining. This thought came to me as I was reflecting on the September 13 Book Business on line Pub Expo.
“Awesome,” should be the headline to describe the features and analytical power of the new AAP/BISG sponsored Bookstats report on industry sales and trends, for which the analytical work is managed by Bowker. It is especially so when one looks back on the decades during which BISG struggled with data gathering and data analysis tools that were short of the task—resting on a lot of intuitive extrapolation; and the AAP contented itself with industry reporting that used actual returns from participating publishers and no extrapolations; and neither included most of the emerging vast universe of independent publishers. And publishers had two sets of figures to work with.
Over the decades that I have been going to BEA and its predecessor, “The ABA Show,” a full regime of floor walking was at the base of the experience. This was followed by a full box or two of books that went out the expo door with the freight forwarder of the year. It became the ballast that found its way to my garage and shelves.
This year I came away with a USB stick in my pocket and 10 new titles on it in e-Book format. A few choice paperbacks in my carry-all. No cartons of books—too much work. But I also noticed that something more important had changed aside from my take-aways:
In book publishing, there is no element of fundamental practice and best practice that is not simultaneously under siege by opportunistic practice.
At the BISG ninth annual Making Information Pay Conference, held at the McGraw Hill auditorium on May 3, seven expert presenters took the assembled 200 industry professionals through a fast-paced three-and-a-half-hour session slicing Big Data down to manageable bites.
Not for the faint of heart, the event was focused on the message that Angela Bole, BISG Deputy Executive Director opened with. Citing a McKinsey Institute study’s warning of a critical shortage of expert analytical information workers she said that “It’s our belief that, as an industry, we need to harness the awesomeness of ‘deep analytical expertise’ in order to create the kind of book industry that’s truly capable of the innovation necessary to stay relevant over the coming years.”
Big Data, she said, “refers to the act of ‘taming’ the volume, variety and velocity of massive datasets.” It is what takes us to a place where we’re now able to develop holistic approaches to full-scale strategies that are analytical in the deepest sense of the term.”
An energized Publishing Business Conference and Expo, Book Business and Publishing Executive magazines’ annual event at the Times Square Marriott Marquis, March 19-21, was grounded in optimism and realism, and primed for a promising future in the digital age for book manufacturing and print-based book production.
Addressing the overflow audience at the Marriott's Astor Ballroom, our very own Joan of Arc at the ramparts, Editorial Director Noelle Skodzinski—fully armed with the arguments of comon sense and history to support her—sounded a much-needed balancing and defiant keynote to prevailing “stiff upper lip” scenarios about the decline of the publishing industry. She reminded us, paraphrasing from both Monty Python and the Holy Grail and the Encyclopedia Britannica blog’s notice that it had discontinued its venerable print edition, that publishing is not dead, change is okay, and that the future is alive with new opportunities in our pursuit of continued success and excellence in the publishing business.
You can’t spend three days at a conference such as the recent Tools of Change (February 13-15) and not marvel at the logistics, atmospherics and the countless insights and discoveries sprinkled throughout the event.
The location at the Times Square Marriott provided a striking reminder of the new power of electronic media in lights and motion. The glittering mash up of news crawls, jumbo video screens, advertising and entertainment that now define the Manhattan theater district, and Broadway and 42nd Street has become an urban theme park.
Where does a publisher go for the latest in process, for a view of the future and to map a path for getting there? This year’s three day 6th annual TOC conference provided an immersive opportunity to do so. It was at once a celebration of the traditions of storytelling and an exploration of new developments and business frameworks for their presentation and distribution. The theme was "Change/Forward/Fast and Start Again."
BISG has learned how to pack enriched expert presentations into a 3-and-a-half-hour session that provides useful perspectives, allows for productive networking and a savory luncheon, and for the rest of the day to catch up on business.
Pitched to the theme of “Innovation in the New Reality,” the meeting brought together on neutral ground and in equal standing publisher, distributor and vendor stakeholders in the college sector to consider matters of mutual interest to their business development. Len Vlahos, recently installed as the BISG executive director, characterized its unique blend of multi-sector membership as “The Switzerland of the Industry.”