by Brian O’Leary …
[The 2015 Publishers Forum featured four conference themes – strategy and goals, the role of information technology, customer focus and new business models. Closing the conference, I moderated a panel that considered those themes from the standpoints of a publishing startup, a digital-only imprint and a publishing innovation lab.
Titled ›Outlook: Perspectives On The Road Ahead‹, the panel explored what works, and what doesn’t work, for those laboring at the leading edges of our industry. To frame the discussion, I provided a brief overview that returned to my persistent call for a shift in our approach to creating, managing and distributing content. Those remarks are presented here.]
Three years ago, the first time I joined the conversation at Publishers Forum, I gave a talk titled ›Context First‹. In it, I talked about the ways that moving from a mindset of ›product‹ – a book – to ›service‹ or ›solutions‹ would change at least four things for publishers:
So, that was three years ago.
Two years ago, Helmut von Berg asked me to develop a new talk, ›Disaggregating supply‹, that built upon some of these ideas. Toward the end of the talk, I invoked the words of a colleague and friend, John Maxwell, who had suggested that ›we needn’t take boundedness and completeness as a prescription for what serious media ought to be. Our challenge is to look beyond that.‹
“Context first” had proposed that we not use containers as the primary source of information. Instead, I asked that we consider them as vehicles to transmit what Hugh McGuire calls an “internally complete representation.” But, “internally complete” is not the same as “complete”.
I argued then that we’re inevitably moving toward what I called a “pre-book world”: a living representation of the development, refinement and extension of a particular work. That’s what we get with the web. At various points, an object – a book or an eBook, as examples – may be rendered, but as a subset of the greater representation.
Last year, I joined the conversation at Publishers Forum to talk about what I called ›An architecture of collaboration‹ – 12 things everyone here can do to prepare for a web-enabled future. Those 12 things included calls to:
More than thirty-five years have passed since punk poet laureate Joe Strummer sang ›If you’ve been trying for years, we’ve already heard your song‹. Maybe that’s the case with my ideas, as well. To safeguard against that, we assembled a panel of three people working at the forefront of publishing innovation – a Publishers Forum collection of ›courageous new publishers‹, including:
– Zoe Beck, Culturbooks
– Benjamin Wüstenhagen, K-Lab Berlin
– Jörg Rheinboldt, Axel Springer Plug and Play
A set of questions about the opportunities and challenges inherent in working at the leading edge of publishing guided that conversation. The questions were:
A future post will capture the content of that discussion.