The fourth annual Futurebook conference takes place on 14 November at the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre in London. There is a stellar line-up of speakers including keynotes from serial entrepreneur and CEO and founder of Ice-Cream George Berkowski; Carla Buzasi, founding editor of The Huffington Post UK and now Global Chief Content Officer, WGSN; and Tom Weldon, Chief Executive, Penguin Random House UK. A full lineup can be found here.
Writing.ie are delighted to be working with The Bookseller to offer exclusive half price tickets to the Futurebook conference for Irish visitors. The discount is designed to offset the cost of travel and accommodation for anyone travelling to London. Visit The FutureBook Conference website and use this code to get your discount: FBSOHP14 which saves 50% of the full-ticket price.
The Bookseller’s 2014 Digital Census, carried out for the annual Futurebook conference demonstrates a dynamic reading, writing, publishing and retailing world where, as entrepreneur, former Hailo product team leader and Futurebook speaker George Berkowski puts it, ‘the only constant is change’. However it reveals deep divisions on pricing, DRM – and authors happy to self-publish. Also (shockingly) 1 in 7 industry insiders having knowingly downloaded an illegal ebook. A full report can be found here.
The census discovered that publishers are bullish about new business models including subscriptions (such as Scribd, Oyster, and now also Kindle Unlimited) with ¼ of publishers following this route, and publishing flexibly in formats like apps, e-books, audio and video. E-books are almost universal, but although more than 9/10 publishers sell them, their sales pattern is highly skewed – for nearly a quarter of publishers it accounts for less than 3% of total sales, and only a third believe it will be 50% of their sales by 2020 – down from 48.2% two years ago.
While e-book growth has slowed, more digital evolution awaits—and only one in seven (14.7%) respondents thinks the sector is prepared for the next stage in the digital revolution. Nearly half (47.0%) think it is not, and the rest (38.3%) don’t know.
Publishers agree to disagree on the vexed issue of pricing, although the majority think digital versions should command a lower price than their print counterparts: a quarter significantly less. And in an industry where piracy is still a scourge, a full 1 in 7 reported having downloaded an illegal e-book.
At the centre of the industry are the authors: self-published authors, 92% of whom published via Kindle Direct reported a higher satisfaction rate than traditionally-published authors (7.1 on a scale of one to ten as against 5.7). Yet around half say they have sold fewer than 1000 e-books, (75% sold less than 5,000). Despite this, only a quarter say they are looking for a big publishing house deal.
Non-book-trade bodies are expected to be main winners as digital sales grow: Amazon, Google, Apple, mobile operators and hardware/software companies – in addition to readers. The lowers were expected to be traditionally published authors, literary agents, and libraries – and 95% think the same of physical bookshops. However, only 15.6% of respondents can envisage a day when there will be no bookshops – even if they will have to change substantially.
Ahead of his Futurebook presentation serial entrepreneur George Berkowski says publishing can learn from the tech world that ‘the only constant is change. You might have to fundamentally reinvent every part of your business, from its business model to production to interaction, to design, every couple of years – or every week, depending on the scale of which you are talking about… The companies that really flourish on the consumer and business side are the ones who just accept that there will be continually be new ways to do things better.’
Commenting on the survey, The Bookseller editor Philip Jones said: ‘We are moving into a post-Kindle world, and one that is not so easily defined. We live in a more complex entertainment environment, where content can move fast and slow; where active readers can choose to lean in and engage with authors via social media or crowd-funding platforms; where price is relative to platform; and where content is starting to live outside the boundaries of both the book and e-book…. Is this the most exciting time to work in the book business? As the famous Carlsberg advert says, “probably”.’
Writing.ie’s Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin will be at the FutureBook conference – come and join her and find out what lies ahead for publishing in the digital landscape.
And don’t forget to vote for Writing.ie Short Story of the Year judge Simon Trewin, shortlisted for the FutureBook Award as one of the most inspirational people in digital publishing – details here, and you can vote here, the results of the Award will be announced at the conference.