O’Reilly is holding a one-day TOC at Frankfurt Book Fair and when I found out (Peter Brantley is going!), I about keeled over. This is the most delicious combo since raspberries and Shiraz. Since spaetzle and veal. Since pasta and cream sauce.
Tor debuted a new store today which is NOT JUST TOR-FORGE BOOKS! They are selling SF from OTHER PUBLISHERS! This is seditious stuff, and I love seditious stuff. Kudos to Tor for finally getting it, and to their partners for getting it too.
That said, it’s not just a store. You can read short stories. There’s a gallery of SF art (squeeeeeeeeeeeee!)! And…in the most intelligent stroke I’ve ever seen from any big publisher…there’s a community. Because as we know, genre fans LOVE TO TALK ABOUT THEIR GENRE. And everything else. To each other.
Amen. Hallelujah. Publishing is saved.
Roundups abound, but I wanted to offer my own curated list of links that, I think, capture BEA09 best:
I was a little concerned on Friday morning; it did not seem that crowded at Javits. I did my walkabout, wondering where everybody was. Over the course of the day, the place gradually filled up and by Saturday things were hopping.
Hopping being a relative term. A number of publishers declined to have booths altogether – Random House held a series of meetings in the basement of Javits – and other booths were shadows of their former selves. I didn’t see much in the way of tchotchkes – giveaways came in the form of not-quite-canvas bags. As for crazy characters – a smattering of Storm Troopers, a pirate, and a couple of babes in bikinis. Not so outrageous.
Some increases: the number of self-published authors with a booth – usually promoting a single title. I don’t know who advised this, but it doesn’t seem like a brilliant way to spend money. There was an entire "Writers Row" – this was not well-attended and I really felt that these authors were not getting their money’s worth out of the show. (More on that on my Authorweb blog.)
The publishing world decided to throw a bone to innovation by offering up a blogger space – which was depressing, poorly-lit, and (until Sunday) without any internet connectivity. This was in the same row as the booths for the various ebook readers and their suppliers – tiny booths, tucked away behind the Borders booth. It was hard not to regard this area as being for those that the industry wished would just go away so everything could go back to the way it had always been.
Highlights: Richard Nash gave a brilliant talk on the direction publishing is going. He’s got a new venture called Round Table – a new model altogether that invites the community into the writing of a book. Brian O’Leary presented his findings to date on his piracy project – and a call for more participation by publishers so his data will be more robust. Mike Shatzkin called for more focus on community and "going vertical". Bowker presented some very compelling data from its PubTrack Consumer market research. Tina Brown’s CEO Roundtable was extremely well-attended – although she lost her voice early on and had to be replaced by her husand, Sir Harold Evans. Michael Cader moderated a session on Google Book Search that proved a bit controversial (he covers that in Publishers Lunch). Sessions with Chris Brogan and Chris Anderson generated a lot of buzz.
Another couple of highlights: Firebrand’s "blogger signing" events, with prominent book bloggers signing trading cards or printouts of their blog’s homepage. And of course the BEA Tweetup (#beatweetup) arranged almost entirely on Twitter.
Clearly an industry in transition and not happy about it!
Sunday morning at BEA saw Brian O’Leary, David Marlin, and myself giving a roundtable sponsored by Metacomet on the impact of the Google Books project on midsized publishers. Brian’s posted the slides here.
There were two sessions, which we ran in similar fashion. First Brian went over the Google Settlement and the Book Rights Registry. He outlined how the settlement will work – and the role of ad revenue in the agreement. He brought up the issue of POD – Google may decide to run a print on demand business for out-of-print titles. And he emphasized that mid-sized publishers will find their midlist titles potentially "squeezed" by additional sales from the long tail. As with any project where old content is coming back onto the market, there are loads of rights issues which are not easily resolved.
Many contracts were drawn up with absolutely no thought giving to digital content distribution – because it hadn’t been invented yet. And many old contracts are stored in boxes in storage facilities offsite – not digitized, and not readily available. In many cases, the rights-holders have disappeared – are deceased, have moved and left no forwarding contact information, or are otherwise unavailable for negotiation. So publishers are faced with a monstrous rights rathole.
Both Brian and I emphasized that an agile content workflow would be able to help publishers grapple with a lot of these issues going forward. Bundling metadata with content means that rights information is always available. Chunking and tagging your content means you can determine downstream uses for it – such as licensing or creating new products – that Google will be able to help users discover and buy. And when you’re negotiating your contracts, it’s important to include language that covers you for these downstream uses – increasingly, you’re not always going to know what those uses will be, but you want to be able to exploit them without having to go back to the agent or author every single time.
It was a great session, with a lot of back-and-forth. If you were there, please comment below on your impressions; if you were not there and you have questions that Brian’s slides don’t answer, leave your questions in the comments and we’ll crowd-source the answers!