Tuesday 21 April 2009

London Book Fair: The digital dilemma - obsessed or overwhelmed ?

Is it just geeky me or was the London Book Fair rather preoccupied with the challenge - threat? - of the digital life?

"Waiting for the iPod moment" was the headline of a Media Guardian interview of Harper Collins chief exec Victoria Barnsley to mark the opening of the London Book Fair.

The word "digital" "e books" "e publishing" "e reading" figured oftentimes repeatedly on the titles of the seminar list.

In the free London Book Fair Daily supplied by the Bookseller, an article by Chris Meade argued that though printed books "may have already had their day", it was not yet the end of reading "as long as publishers fully embrace the multimedia possibilities of the digital age".

A keynote seminar with the title "Digital Publishing: Where is the money?" resulted in a heated discussion that ranged from ebooks to piracy. The answer? Nobody knows. Read reports from Publishers Weekly and Book Brunch

A panel on the subject of "Online Publicity: Making the Most of the Digital Media" scheduled for one of the smaller seminar rooms ended up totally oversubscribed. And even as audience members were hunkering down in the aisles and spilling out the doorways, Bloomsbury was announcing that shortlisted Orange Prize title Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie will be made available for iPhone users as a free download for 24 hours from 12 noon, 22 April.

At a discussion comparing book trends in the US and the UK, Kelly Gallagher, VP of publishing services at Bowker, summed up the radical changes confronting publishers today:
Mass change is going on in the industry today, no one can deny that ... change is happening at an exponential rate ... and many times we are playing catch up and often it is from the rear view mirror that we discover the book market has moved on.

We have a lot of motivation for change – no denying economic marketplace – if ever there was a reason to engage in changing your strategy for publishing, today is the day.

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