Tools of Change: Day 3 Roundup

Even if I only got to attend 1 day of TOC, I’m so glad I got to go at all; there lots of fresh faces and ideas, and it really helped build off of some concepts I learned about at Digital Book World.

The opening keynotes did not do justice to the rest of the day, in my opinion. There was some talk of the future of tablets/ereaders, hinting at the idea of a wonder-device that combines the positive aspects of the Kindle (lightweight, eInk technology) with those of the iPad (…everything else). (for the record, an app-friendly tablet with eInk technology is basically my dream device.) Sol Rosenberg unfortunately came off kind of infomercial-ish, but read up on my opinion of COPIA from DBW here. Finally, Jim Fruchterman talked about a topic that I surprisingly haven’t heard much about: digital books accessible for those with disabilities. Catering to dyslexics both audibly and visually (as well as other disability-friendly techniques)? I’m so on board.

As for the various panels…

  • Literary Review in the Digital Age: I LOVED this panel. Ron Charles’ video reviews are absolutely HILARIOUS, and besides that there was some great talk about how literary reviewers are no longer the authoritative voices of deeming the “must read” lists, but they are instead becoming the curators (ding ding! take a shot!) of voices. There industry is so saturated that “professionally titled” literary reviewers can no longer be considered the gate keepers, since the gate doors have metaphorically broken. There was also some great conversation about apps, and whether a literary reviewer has any business reviewing an app (should they stick strictly to reviewing content?). Also, with the growing field of apps, there are now apps to filter the apps that you’d be most interested in… how ’bout them apples?
  • #ISBN Hour Live with Laura Dawson: So I must admit that a lot of this was over my head… don’t judge me, but I had to google what an ISTC was mid-session. I learned a lot though, primarily about the hugely dysfunctional world of ISBNs, and how now is a time more crucial than ever to sort these issues out (so that we don’t create a walled garden based on today’s business model, thus screwing our industry for the business models that may arise in the future). ISBN distribution to eReaders vs. print books is an issue, especially for smaller publishers whose budgets simply can’t incorporate such high costs.
  • The Art and Business of Transmedia Storytelling: I am so glad that in this session the question arose of how transmedia storytelling can be carried over to nonfiction titles (which is the genre of titles I currently represent). It’s important, the panelists argued, to first determine what makes the voice within a book distinct, and then to galvanize this voice until it becomes a source of dialogue within the community. This all resorts back to the idea of coining a particular brand and eliciting “characters” and conversation from this rooted brand — even in nonfiction titles.
    (Favorite quote from this session: “Books are the old grandpas we keep in the basement of Hollywood”)
  • Secrets from the Underground (for Publishers): More inersting to me than the “tips” shared throughout this panel were the businesses themselves that were involved: Discovereads, Book Glutton, Fictionaut, and Electric Literature… all startup companies that fascinate me and whose sites I can’t wait to further explore. I love the energy around startups; Kyusik Chung (of Discovereads) made a really valid argument for why publishers should partner with these startups in saying that the founders of startups like these are the most passionate in their field… they more than anyone want to succeed and will often do all it takes to ensure success is found. The three most important elements that all of the company’s reps continually reveled in were crowd sourcing, curation (ding ding! shot!) and discoverability.

The finals keynotes were actually my favorite part of the entire day. James Bridle was up first, but full disclosure before we begin:

I totally fell in love with the dude. He really tugged at the heart strings of the publishing industry by understanding that most of us in this industry really do have a pure and genuine love for books. He talked about books’ role as a souvenir and how so many of us are afraid of losing the physicality of the book. He spoke openly and honestly about the way we treasure the late night, beneath-the-pillows-and-blankets reading atmosphere, and how places like Open Book Marks understand the need to combine these nostalgic passions with what the future inevitably holds. I don’t know how else to describe Bridle’s speech, than by simply saying it was beautiful.

Ben Lorica gave some great stats & facts about apps (apps featured in the app store really DO get more downloads; news apps are the category that are generating the most paid downloads; free apps are both a marketing and revenue tool) and Kathy Sierra talked about the necessity for passion in an author’s marketing campaign. I really liked Sierra’s notion that we need to create “hi-res” readers; that is, readers who simply read better, as a reader’s inability to fluidly read a writer’s work will reflect poorly on the writer, not the reader (even if the writing was great).

Steve Rosenbaum gave a speech that centered all around curation (ding ding! shot!), arguing that in a google-happy society of over-saturated search engines, curation now trumps content in the hierarchy of importance. Ben Huh of “I can haz cheezburger?” fame wrapped up the conference with a talk about blogs-turned-books, arguing that there is in fact a market for the new-media-turned-old-media model.

Overall, TOC was a great time. I went outside of my little box of “let’s just talk about digital marketing,” and it opened my eyes to a lot of different and interesting things. I’d love to hear from you all any thoughts & opinions of TOC 2011!


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