Getting Inspired—Is Anything Possible?
My reasons for attending conferences tend to fall along these lines, in no particular order:
1. learn something new
2. get inspired
4. I've been asked to speak
Sparing you the details of the wonderful job that my panel did discussing "Content Anywhere You Want It: Moving to XML" at PBC, let's go right to No. 2.
One of the keynote speakers was David Granger, editor of Esquire. The first words out of his mouth were that, as a conference co-chair, he wanted the theme of the conference to be "Anything Is Possible." He then proceeded to detail the changes in Esquire over the last five years.
It began with him gathering his editors, holding up the very first issue of Esquire next to the current issue and demanding to know why nothing had, basically, changed in all that time. He then challenged them to re-think all of the assumptions of the magazine, or a magazine in general: Why does the cover have to look the way it does? Why is there a table of contents? Why does the table of contents have to look and function the way it does? Etc., etc. As you'd expect, some were excited by the idea, some REALLY were not.
But it challenged and liberated the creativity of those at the magazine. Assumptions about cover design were challenged. New cover designs incorporated far too many words for "typical" covers; interaction between cover image and text was changed. The table of contents went through many different experimental looks and functions. The white space in the border of pages was used to publish a short story. Along the way, they won awards.
And then they took the next step, sooner than most, and created an iPad app for the magazine. This, too, was an award winner last year.
This is the kind of inspiring leadership too often lacking in the publishing world, even in the more creative magazine world. This is the kind of thinking that draws people toward an industry that has many people running away as fast as possible.
That same day the NY Book Show celebrated is 25th year. I've always found this an inspiring event—God knows not the social aspects, but the ability to view the award winners (and losers). It's a chance every year to celebrate the great work that people in our industry have done over the last year. And there is ALWAYS great stuff—original, beautiful and well-conceived designs; fabulous printing; children's books that make the eyes pop in wonder. And the Book Show committee always does a great job in exhibiting the works.
The Book Show is organized by only a few overworked volunteers (in a good year) so I am loath to sound like I'm criticizing. But the 25th anniversary would have been the perfect opportunity to reflect the changes in the industry toward electronic delivery. Exhibiting iPad apps and some of the better e-books, for example, would have been great.
Inspiration is still out there in a beleaguered industry. You just got to embrace the changes and look in the right places.
He is currently Production Director for Teachers College Press. Previously, he was Vice President, Global Content and Media Production for Cengage Learning. Prior to that he was Vice President of Production and Manufacturing for Oxford University Press, Pearson/Prentice Hall, Worth Publishers and HarperCollins.
In those capacities, he has been a leader in managing process and content for delivery in as many ways possible.