Last June, it took place in Madrid a heterodox meeting known as Readmagine (Week of the Digital Innovation in Books and Reading), which according to the media and the participants opinions, was seen as an unusual and useful occasion to gather digital distributors, librarians and the publishing start-ups.
This meeting was carried out during a week at the Casa del Lector facilities (Germán Sánchez Ruipérez Foundation -FGSR headquarters,), one of the focal points of innovation regarding the book and reading issues in the world. It is located in Matadero Madrid (the former slaughterhouse of Madrid, Spain) that nowadays has turned into a huge conglomerate of cultural and avant-garde centers where was again the chance to generate new ideas and projects through conversations and gatherings. Whilst, the last year the digital distributors convening was created under the motto of “The European Way for eBooks”, ended up integrating Latin American companies and witnessing the creation of the International Publishing Distribution Association (instead of an European one); in this occasion, provision was made for an specific focus on the trading models for e-books in the case of SMEs, a forum on the collaboration between the book and the video games sector, a meeting on new means of communication and merchandising for publishers among other topics.
If the 2015 Readmagine edition was a surprise and a success we can dare to say that the 2016 edition was the consolidation and growing moment. There were more of 700 attendants from more than thirty countries. Gianluca Ambrogio, Bookolico (Italy) CFO considers Readmagine as a wonderful event where anyone can make connections and agreements with a great number of people who are equally important for the European distribution of-books. Probably, one of the secrets of this project is the fact it provides key figures for the transformation of the book scene with enough time to discuss and several occasions for informal but promoted conversations and networking.
The second characteristic is that it promotes the dialogue among various sectors, as pointed out by Kari Lämsä, the disruptor librarian who manages Library 10 in Helsinki: “All of us, librarians, publishers, those who do business with e-books, etc., we are members of the same family since we all have the same purpose: people finding good stories and having access to them”. In effect, publishers and distributors worked on generating ideas about the digital books, together with more than fifty innovative librarians from Latin America, Europe and the USA. As Jill Bourne (San José PL, California), one of the most influential women in Silicon Valley (The Silicon Valley Business Journal), has described it: “It has been really interesting and I’m glad it had been capable of assemble the whole digital book industry. It seems to me that a very professional and long-range dialogue has been reached. The level and the compromise upheld have surprised me”. Both librarian leaders were participants in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation INELI program that centered the three first days or Readmagine.
The ability to surprise with suggestions and ideas is another value that Readmagine didn’t loose during this 2016 edition. For El País, the Spanish newspaper with the largest diffusion, Readmagine introduced the astonishing reality related to revolutionary librarians seeking collaboration with startups to offer a new experience to their users. Furthermore, it was introduced The Startup of the Book, an e-book that has already had more than 30.000 downloads and where the new proposals of value of the digital business and the benefit of an alliance between libraries and publishing startups have been developed. The same newspaper devoted several articles during Readmagine 2016, with data and opinions provided by some of the speakers. Some of the most interesting data where delivered by Ruediger Wischenbart, who presented the e-book Global Report within the III International Digital Distributors Meeting – during the fourth day of the week- this year focused on new markets and the skills and procedures of the videogame industry. Also Jason Mander participated in a session centered in the behavior of digital readers and the tools for the tracking of their ways of access, use and consumption. Mander is the head of Global Web Index and presented a unexpected figures about the digital content market and attracted the attention of audience and journalist with his description of the incoming impact of ad blockers apps and the astonishing growing of virtual private networks.
Readmagine also evolved this year into a platform for the establishment of “links with international partners”, just like James English, director of the Library Simplified project for the NYPL, indicated last year. The ethos of this convening and the commitment of the organizers is addressed to of combined business venture and alliances makes sense in a gathering attended by organizations of a very different size from that of huge companies like Amazon, Google or Apple.
There also were round tables on digital videogames distribution and transmedia content, plus a special focus on Latin America markets (Mexico, Argentina and Colombia) and a round table with the title ‘How and where are the Digital Readers?: Digital readership habits and audiences’ where participate companies as Jellybooks, Google, GWI and Mylibreto. The Spaniard Jaime Giné (VP International Development Services, Electronic Arts) astonished the audience with his bold statements: ‘Embrace piracy’, ‘We love pirates because they make us to improve our products and they promote our content’, ‘In this new context: if you aren’t in direct relation with consumers, your business is dead’, ‘The model for the content industry is: use first and pay later’ and many others.
The Finish Laura Nevannlina, editor at Kaiken Publishing- Rovio Animation, offered the hybrid vision of someone who’s working with blockbusters Angry Birds and also tries to take advantage of the videogames expertise to adapt their fresh and disruptive approach to their books division.
Also the Argentinian Viviana Zocco showed the opportunities of the cross-view approach within the digital content market, from her experience as a very influential entrepreneur who’s companies reach from ebooks to millennials magazines or social networks. Her insights on the youngest generation consumers were groundbreaking and reliable coming from a successful CEO and also had an impact on the media.
During several sessions some of the future trends were also seen within the framework of the Startups gathering linked to the Emprendelibro Project (joint undertaking by FGSR and Factoría Cultural). Emprendelibro supports emerging initiatives, which are representatives of the opportunities and diversity of approaches which are currently feasible in this sector. It attempts to identify, consolidate and internationalize innovative projects in modern digital industry, through an incubation program including a training program, expert advice in different disciplines and a networking plan for the consolidation of a community which brings together entrepreneurs and professionals, and that it can be used for the sharing and updating of relevant challenges and action plans at any time and context.
A group of education professionals, book publishers, video-games companies, app developers, content creators for virtual reality companies and other specialists in the digital field gather to learn about what it would produce content for school in a digital context. They didn’t know if they were talking about publishing or about a broader concept like providing another type of product or an experience. At the end of the meeting the different teams built a road map that should be presented to the Ministry of Culture of Spain.
The aims of Readmagine are defined as: Redesign, Reinvent and Recycle. From this methodology and attitude the libraries were also put into stake. During the third day of the week There were two parallel workshops:
Group 1: Design Thinking for Libraries session with citizens, civil servants and researchers from Spain and Germany.
Group 2: Experts and consultant commission.
If you want to understand what Readmagine is, you should see the faces of the first Group when the two groups joined and they found out that the Experts Commission were composed only with kids from 8 up to 12 years. These children presented the conclusions of their work with a model made with eggs boxes, named ‘Divertiteca’ instead of ‘Biblioteca’ (‘place of fun’ instead of ‘library’).