Digital disruption: please, handle with care

Highlights from Editech 2013


Editech 2013 took place on 20th June with the title Sailing against the tide. Publishing in disruptive times and consisted in one-day event with plenary session. It brought together the main players of different market areas, focused on digital disruption and its influence on publishing, updated figures of the digital market – from e-books to customers’ habits, from data on self-publishing to those on the relation between traditional and digital distribution channels – pricing and self-publishing. An outline of the agenda is provided as follows.

Digital disruption was the theme that ran through the conference, having been introduced by James McQuivey, Vice President of Forrester Research USA in the opening keynote. Starting from the assumption that consumers are forever changed and focusing on the importance of the consumer experience, he shared his insights about the skills and the practices necessary to foster innovation within companies. His speech raised many questions, especially regarding business models and pricing, a topic later deeply discussed by Francesco Fiorese, Director of Simon-Kucher & Partners who explained which are the main profit drivers for publishing houses, how to boost profits through the optimization of pricing and how to maximize profits combining print and digital.

An important part of the morning was devoted to present updated trends and figures of the international digital market: e-book sales, reading habits in Italy (by Simonetta Pillon, Informazioni Editoriali), United Kingdom (Ann Betts, Nielsen Book) and France (Christine de Mazières, Syndicat National de l’Edition). An overview in the digital education was offered by Phil Hill (MindWires Consulting), with particular reference to LMS, MOOCs and online platforms. Even if the topic was targeted to educational publishers, his speech raised the interest of the audience, especially regarding the new opportunities opened up as online learning entered the mainstream in the USA.

Another key topic of the conference were e-skills for publishers, discussed both in the session about “Innovation in reorganization” and, partially, in ‘The book evolution. Floating pages?’ track. In the late morning session, Jo Howard, Executive search consultant of Mosaic Search identified some of the most important skills publishing houses are looking for and underlined how technical skills are getting more and more attractive for the publishing world. Valentina Kalk, Chief of United Nations Publications, presented the reorganization of her office, a story, as she said in her speech, ‘of engineers, shipbuilders and techies’. She explained how she transformed the organizational chart. James Woollam of F+W Media International presented the digital first F+W Media business case. The track about the book evolution was discussed by the speakers focusing on three different declinations: Sematic Web, Transmedia Storytelling and Book Workflows.

At the end of the conference, a round table discussed the relationship between authors, publishers and agents in the self-publishing era. This panel raised many questions from the floor covering rights issues and challenging what the relevance of publishers would be in this new world.

Since the strict correlation of topics and purposes between the Editech conference and TISP, the project was presented by Piero Attanasio (Associazione Italiana Editori) to the audience. Among the 189 participants were the top management of leading Italian publishing groups and many important professionals from independent publishing. Professional figures present were all of a high level and came from different segments of the publishing market.

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