Watching C-Span’s Book TV the weekend of July 5, I picked up their May 30 interview with Scott Turow, President of the Author’s Guild. While he was pitching his forthcoming book, Identical, Peter Slen led him to revisit his NY Times OP Ed piece, “The Slow Death of the American Author.” Peter Slen, by the way, in the tradition of C-Span’s Brian Lamb, has got to be one of the smartest and most resourceful TV interviewers in the book world.
The Business of Doing Books
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.