#APS14 What Keeps me Awake at Night

Now we’re going to find out what keeps our great leader, David Prescott, awake at night. He’s talking with Tim Godfray, CEO of the Booksellers Association, Richard Mollet, CEO of the Publishers Association and Roger Horton, CEO of T&F. Lots of fast talking people means little typing. There is also no presentation to copy either and I’m not sure who is who, apart from David or course.

David is concerned about the dominance of Amazon on the marketplace and the failure of the competitions authorities in investigating them. This is not a dig against Amazon though, rather looking at how the industry is kept in check. See, I listened to David but now he’s saying that publicly funded orgs shouldn’t distort the market. Matthew and I audibly said ‘ahem’ and looked away, having worked in the BBC for many, many years! #BBCJam He’s also talking about building the value of digital content rather than it being something perceived as the cheap thing that comes with a print book. Publishers and booksellers need to work hard at this to change the mindset of the public.

Tim has just stood up and started a presentation. He’s the only one. The others look, quite frankly, horrified! He’s concerned about libraries selling books, Amazon making amazing things that will kill the industry (drones etc…). The monopoly they hold isn’t helping the industry. He thinks publishers are not supporting booksellers effectively. Copyright infringement also keeps him awake, which is probably why he had time to make a presentation!  Good lord, a whole slide of small print. WHAT IS GOING ON HERE!

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Listening to Lynette Owen talking about licensing the copyright. Could be taken for granted for many year, she’s talking to those who are a little long in the tooth. Everything changed with the oncoming of the internet with things like Napster etc… The book industry was affected later but the scale of illegal book download sites is enormous. Over 3000 takedown notices to sites in places including Eastern Europe and Russia a month.

Copyright is still essential to facilitate access not to lock it down. Emphasis should be given to publishers and booksellers in the additional value they give to books. Sometimes the role of publisher is misunderstood by the public and sometimes government. They are thought just to be ‘printers’ rather than investing in bringing books to market.

The young think that everything should be free at the click of a mouse and not remunerate the creators of content. There are also anti piracy lobbyists such as the Swedish Pirate Party. Also advocates of open copyright such as CopyLeft and Creative Commons. Danger also comes from large orgs such as the Google Library Scanning Project, scanning content without permission and making it available. There are also govts around the world who see rights in favour of the user rather than the copyright holder.

Lots of reports over the last decode looking in to initiatives around copyright. Gowers Report in 2006, UKIPO consultation in 2009, Digital Britain report in 2009 and the Digital Economy Bill in 2009. Also, Copyright – The Way Ahead in 2009 and the Hargreaves Report in 2011, Hooper Report, Copyright Works in 2012. In the EU there was the Orphan Works directive in 2012 and the Review of EU Copyright Rules in 2013. Contractual Arrangements Applicable to Creators, Law and Practice of Member States, February 2014. Lots of work in this area has happened. These are just a few references for me to look at after the conference.

There are exceptions for the visually impaired and this might be extended to dyslexics. There might be copyright exceptions for educational use. This happens in Canada and also is planned in Australia. Sales of low price books destined for Asia but sold in the USA. Google got away with their scanning project because it was deemed .transformational’.

Education and academic works sees the most copyright infringement.

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#APS Keynotes

First up is Professor Clare Mackie who is the Pro-Vice-Chancellor in charge of Teaching and Learning at the University of Sussex. Looking at figures of the increase in students, both undergrad and postgrad, attending university since 2000. Going up steadily until the fees went up last year. Talking about the options for funding this expanding community. Now there is a pay as you earn system repayable at 9% of earnings above salaries of £21k. I don’t know how I would have coped with this debt hanging over me. My student loan paid for a lot of my course materials back in 1993-1995 and that debt was cleared within about 5 years. The new systems of funding put the power in the hands of the learner but they will be offering different ways to learn other than the traditional university model.

The challenges are that they still need to convince students why they want to take a degree when it’s going to cost £9,000 a year. Students need to choose where to go and what course to take and subjects are limited. The opportunities include additional grants (not loans), ability of institutions to grow if successful, prospects of access to a profession that helps them pay back their debt.

She’s telling us that the university has a quota of places to fill but if they over subscribe they get fined per student which seems amazing. It sounds like it makes it harder to help people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

It was an interesting talk but she spoke very fast and I couldn’t transfer it all into this blog. She said she’s sharing the slides though so…


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#APS14 Welcome and Address

Here I am in Brighton and The Old Ship Hotel for the APS conference for academic booksellers. It’s taken a while to get started what with a work pow wow and some first time attendees drinks, then lunch… now we’re sitting in a splendid ballroom (I had no idea that this seemingly small hotel had one) with a couple of hundred booksellers and publishers listening to the APS Chairman Daniel Johns. He’s raising some interesting questions about students use of eBooks and that the quality of the finished product is still inferior to the printed book. There is still work to be done in this area to enable the offer to meet the expectations of both students and booksellers. They need to ensure that people are getting what they want.

Now on to an hour of keynote speeches.

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Futurebook 2013 – Panel

Now there’s a panel about Harnessing Technology. Matthew Cashmore is talking first. I’m sure I know him from somewhere. He apologises for possible duplication of a presentation he did last week at BIC. Now we have a picture of dogs and sleds. Technology should be good what you’re good at, and also what you do badly. Examples… digital is the saviour. It doesn’t matter that we’re bad anywhere else, invest and be successful. Probably not the best approach if you can’t engage in the real world. Name names…. HMV….Jessops…..

Matthew’s phone just rang. It was his wife. Not urgent she says.

Technology has been disrupting business for a long time….. industrial revolution. Everything is changing so you need to interact with the change and plan for the change otherwise you will be left behind. You can choose not to interact with change but you won’t be here for long.

TV is Dead. Says the slide, but TV isn’t dead at all. We just interact with it in a different way. They were able to make the change to adapt. Even though they all thought they new best and this is now similar to how publishing is doing the same. Booksellers need to be the architect of their own change. Red Button, same screen interactivity. When Sky introduced fear and cost to red button people moved to second platforms. At the BBC the commission had to have an interactive element. It was a bolt on rather than an integrated piece.

Now radio is dead. Radio isn’t dead! DAB, Interactive Radio. Time Shifting. Purchasing songs from the radio. Radio went too far ahead of itself without speaking to it’s users. More people listen to radio than TV here. Matthew loves that! Radio forgot that they were sit back and not lean forward like TV. Lean forward doesn’t work for people doing the dishes! BBC and commercial radio got into podcasting and shoved the fred in a shed podcasters off the top 50 slots. People like Matthew and his London Biker podcast!

Music is dead. We all listen to music. Room full of Radio 4 listeners apparently. The youngest of all of the industries. Piracy drove their innovations. Music industry got format disruption. Now we’re talking about piracy in eastern europe. They gave, via orange, all you can eat access to music.  A new market was created in a place where there was no traditional music sales.

What’s the bloody point? No one’s buying books. Matthew was looking at a bible that is very very old. This is not how we should be making books now. That’s fine if you want to sell one! We’re going through when these traditional media industries started. TV, Radio, Music, books since the 7th century. WE’ve been here for a long time and we’re good at what we do. We’ve survived 100’s of years and we’ll be here in 100’s of years because we’re good at what we do.


Huskies. Get a team of them to do great things.


Futurebook 2013 – Charlie Redmayne

Charlie is the CEO of Harper Collins and he’s going to tell us about his visions of a modern publisher. He thanks the previous two publishers. He says that when he came back to HC he was viewed as a techy geek but he says this isn’t the case. He’s not the most technical person in his house! He wants to build on what has gone before by building a digital focused business. To add value, to do things differently including marketing and advertising. He wants to go further and define what it is to be a publisher now and in the future. Where retailers and technology companies are becoming publishers. Deliver before they ask for his and stop being reactive. This doesn’t mean starting again. More about taking the core and building on it. Doing it better, bigger, faster and more profitably. Working with great authors and great editors to get great books. Working with the most talented editors to make a central platform. Empowering them to invest in the authors they want to work with.

He needs to challenge the way they do things. Just because they’ve always done things that way doesn’t mean that’s the way they should always be doing it. Now we’re on to marketing digital content. Investing in consumer marketing expertise. But where… consumer insight. Looks like this should be coupled with editorial instinct! But supported by the consumer insight. Both. Right. Digital marketing plays an important part as well. Content is discovered by people looking or being recommended. In digital you need to know how to manipulate search so your content is in front of the people who are looking. Recommendations need to work the same way via social and blogging. Publishers also need to know how to build brands. Currently they are crowding around the big brand authors. Look to other industries at their proactive planning to build brands over time rather than a 2 week campaign and forgetting about the author until the paperback comes out. Also the back-list. Investing in marketing this and how new books drive in to each author’s back-list. Thirdly, I’m not sure there were to others, data. Looking at the information they have in their databases to drive sales and value. Publishers currently focus on cutting costs, pricing should be informed to drive sales and profit. This goes hand in hand with innovation, strategy and skills in three areas. Delivering multiple channels to sell content. Supporting existing partners and building new platforms for selling content, new business models and experimenting with them, they might not work but they should at least try. Building relationships, working with niche groups and eCommerce platfroms and CRM. New ways to consume content. The extent is not only eBooks. It’s about telling stories across multiple devices and platforms. eBooks, audio, synced content, not just apps. Need to work smarter like companies such as Sony and Samsung to create content for their amazing new platforms/tablets. Interactive reading propositions. Video content. Using channels such as YouTube. Tablets in classrooms as avenues for content.

Now we’re no to scale and consolidations. Penguin and Random House. They will face challenges but will have huge opportunities.  This will be a trend with large publishers. Those that can provide choice and breadth. HC are part of News Corp (ORLY?) so they have the support of a larger organisation. HC are in a position to add value, new revenue streams for authors across three continents. 

There are many views of a modern publishers but this is his. Content at it’s heart and excel at what it does. Digital excellence and innovation at it’s heart. It will not be afraid to try thing.

Cue applause.





Futurebook 2013 – Seni Glaister

Next up is Seni Glaister of The Book People. She’s talking about a book by John Irving that has inspired her. I didn’t know that an embarasment of literally luminaries was a thing. I’ve learned something!

The Book People was founded 25 years ago and they have sold over 1bn books. The story today is a good news bad news story but we can change the bad news so the story doesn’t have an unhappy ending. Talking about the champions who have protected the rights of the author, publisher and bookseller. The danger comes from individual decisions so we should all take responsibility for the future of the book. Unless we’re all actively involved then we’re not honouring the responsibility we’ve been given.

Now talking about the success of Amazon and the eBook market that they created. Amazon’s dominance is unassailable so it’s very difficult to compete. Consumer is locked in to their format. No support for the ePub format. She warns against partnerships between booksellers and Amazon/Kindle as there is little money or progress to be made.

Some hope for a happy ending. Govt should intervene so we can all sell on Kindle platform. There should be more platforms, otherwise there will only be one bookseller which is a disaster with a sad ending. Publishers should work with like minded booksellers to get their product directly to customers. Healthy competition and a variety of suppliers will give others opportunities. Also eBooks would then be able to find their own prices, which hasn’t happened yet. I guess Amazon is pushing pricing here as well.

She thinks the print book is here to stay as well as the emerging eBook market despite what others say. Tantalisingly gorgeous is how she describes print books. I’d be inclined to agree.