Porter Anderson at FutureBook reports on a presentation given by Sara Lloyd, Pan Macmillan’s digital and communications director, at the “FutureBook Hack” conference. (TeleRead previously carried an open letter to Ms. Lloyd from Brian Ford of Lendle.)

Lloyd was gung-ho about wanting publishing to move forward with digital and take things to the next level. She said things like “I think we haven’t done the great things yet and that’s what you guys are here for,” and “Ask what you can do for readers, not what you can do to solve the problems of publishers.”

Like so many industries, when the digital dynamic hits, publishing has found it hard to realize that the way forward is to embrace it and let it re-invent your values, not resist and swat back at it. To hear Lloyd speak this weekend was to get that her shop is making that turn and beginning to ask digital questions in a search for digital answers:

“We would like to see how all the forms of data around a brand author or a genre or category could be pulled together in interesting ways to deliver something different/special to fans in a way that will pull in new readers,” she told the beanbagged assembly.

“How can we leverage data to enhance readers’ experiences rather than seeing data as purely an insight driver for us?”

Anderson notes that:

The morning was filled with an avid interest, even an urgent interest, in developing an understanding of what digital reality can mean – by which I’m trying to say not just replicating print but actually discovering new forms and means that exist as and because of digital capabilities in publishing.

He also suggests that we don’t hear as much from traditionally-published authors as we do from self-published ones, which he thinks leads to “a very skewed picture of the current scene” involving “author-publisher confrontation” that isn’t necessarily the way things really are.

Do you get the impression butter wouldn’t melt in the publishers’ mouths where Porter Anderson is concerned?

Look, Ms. Lloyd, if you want to know what you can do for readers, it’s simple. Granted, I know you work for Pan Macmillan, which is a sister company to but not directly involved with the Macmillan in the USA, but given that you share the same bosses at Holtzbrinck, perhaps you can influence the overall direction of the company in this way.

First of all, follow the lead of your Tor subsidiary and remove DRM from all Macmillan books. It doesn’t work anyway, and Tor has found no negative effects even two years after its removal.

Next, publicly pledge that you’ll stop trying to force higher e-book prices on us because you get a bee in your bonnet about Amazon. Not only did your company illegally collude with four other publishers and Apple, you were the very first to hit Amazon with that term change. (And given that the European Commission actually raided publishers’ offices there as part of an anti-trust investigation, I doubt that the Pan Macmillan branch was exactly unimplicated in that either.) Do you honestly think we like paying higher prices? Do you think we don’t know who to blame for them?

And if you’re serious about wanting to communicate with readers, then, well, communicate with us. Macmillan’s previous effort on that score doesn’t speak well for you. And I really have a hard time believing that Macmillan USA’s CEO John Sargent gives much of a damn about readers to begin with.

Put your money where your mouth is, and then you can talk about wanting to know what you can do for readers.


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