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The Publishing Business Conference & Expo – Looking into the future

All tweeted out post the hectic but rewarding Publishing Business Conference & Expo which I attended on the twenty third of March. The delay in blogging can only be attributed to an even more hectic work schedule.

Coming back to the conference, the first thing that struck me was the crowd. They were not as technical as the one attending Tools of Change. Less number of twitterers. Perhaps 4 or 5 out of which two were Neelan Choksi from Stanza and Peter Balis from Wiley. Also, I was attending this conference after a gap of two years and noticed a substantial decrease in the number of attendees (only around 200 people attending the 2 keynote sessions). Most of the sessions were informative and engaging.

Part I saw Alex Blumberg and Adam Davidson from NPR talk about “Where is the Global Economy Header and What Does It Mean to YOU!” Touching upon the mortgage crisis, GDP and where the US stands with regard to its debt, the discussion was about the journey of the US economy and where it stands now. Another session by Alex and Adam, “Leading a Publishing Company Through Uncertain Times” was presented in conjunction with Don Pazour, CEO – Access Intelligence and David Steinberger, President & CEO – Perseus Books Group. A highly absorbing discussion, David spoke about how the digital publishing has changed the market from a pull market to a push market. He felt that a nimble company is the one that would survive and grow, leaving the others behind. A comment on whether people should risk trading brick and mortar dollars for internet dimes further lead to a discussion on the decline of independent bookstores.

The next session on “Your Digital Future: Are you Prepared” was good but a little long winded and was presented by Bob Sacks, Precision Media Group. He spoke more from the world of magazines rather than books.The summation of the presentation was that books were not changing, content was and what we need to consider was the importance of content, digital delivery, new revenue models and instant information. Having reached the tipping pint of print publishing, mediocre content cannot survive in today’s dynamic marketplace.

The session on e-Book forum were actually 3 discussions rolled into one. I took this out of the conference guide: Get a bird’s eye look at the e-book market at our first-ever E Book Forum, presented in conjunction with the International Digital Publishing Forum. This multipart program will feature data analysis on e-book sales, a close-up look at current and emerging technologies and the impact of epub standards on publishers, channels and devices. Plus, a don’t-miss discussion of publishers’ e-book initiatives and successes. Presented by Peter Balis, Director – Online Sales, John Wiley & Sons, Nick Bogaty, Sr. Business Development Manager – Digital Publishing, Adobe Systems, Neelan Choksi, Chief Operating Officer, Lexcycle, LLC, Michael Smith, Executive Director, IDPF, Malle Vallik, Director – Digital Content & Interactivity, Harlequin Enterprises and Walter Walker, Director – Publishing Services, codeMantra, LLC.

Impressive inputs from everyone. Peter spoke about Wiley’s workflow and how they use Epub which allow them to push content to their distributor for further conversion to other formats. Nick felt that it was more a business reason than a technical one for Amazon not to support epub. Neelan demonstrated the new version of Stanza and how it supported various eBook channels like Amazon and Fictionwise among others. Hachette spoke of the growth of business, $4.7 million in sales of eBooks in 2008 and commented that they were one of the few to announce such numbers. Malle felt that by giving free content, you attracted consumers to come back for more.

One very important thing that I almost left out. When they started discussing symantic searching, Stephen Rhind-Tutt of Alexander Street Press (somewhat of an expert database in certain areas), specifically spoke about their Civil War database. Apparently if you want to use only keywords you can just Google. However, if you want to search for specific information at a specific time and date you can use their data which they have compile for several resources thus enabling semantic searching.

On a concluding note I must say, there was a fantastic number of consultants at the show. Well…I guess that’s the result after a layoff.