Kassia Kroszer at Booksquare has a great wrap-up of the Tools of Change conference, in which she talks about her own and others’ presentations, links to interesting blog articles, and shares some general thoughts on the state of the e-publishing industry at this point.
There are far too many interesting observations to summarize, so I’ll just pick out a few to mention here.
Early on, Kroszer points out that “all publishing is already digital”—insofar as manuscripts are by and large now submitted electronically, rather than as typewritten or handwritten pages. But publishers are still using an old-fashioned print-based workflow, and there is room for some savings by going to a more streamlined digital workflow instead.
Later, Kroszer talks about emerging markets around the world. Piracy in these markets, she says, may indicate that there is a demand that is not being served—which is an opportunity to develop a viable marketplace in those markets. “I firmly believe viable marketplaces are the first line of defense when it comes to piracy.”
Near the end, she notes a distinct lack of participation by major trade publishers. Their representatives are attending the conferences, but not making the sorts of presentations on innovation or new initiatives that the smaller publishers are.
I get the need for big surprises and playing cards close to the vest, but as I lead into my final point, I think the fact that large trade publishers aren’t sharing information plays into a larger industry criticism. Where is the innovation? Where is the leadership? Individuals and small publishers are openly sharing their work, but where are the big publishers?
It is the actions by those trade publishers that we hear the most about—for example, when Macmillan’s insistence Amazon change its pricing model caused Amazon to pull Macmillan’s books. They are the ones who essentially make the news. Why aren’t they saying more at these conferences?
I suspect the answer has to do with what Charlie Stross said in one of the “misconceptions about publishing” posts I linked yesterday. The trade publishers are by and large run by (and hobbled by) megaconglomerates who hardly know the first thing about publishing.
They don’t have as much freedom to innovate as the more flexible, independent presses—therefore, they don’t have as much innovation to talk about. And since nature abhors a vacuum, it is the presentations by the companies that do have things to say that fill the gap.