Interview with Kat Meyer, Conference Co-Chair, Tools of Change for Publishing, Plus Contest! Win a Free Pass to TOC

January 17th, 2011 · 13 Comments
by Kassia Krozser

It’s hard to believe another year has passed, and that it’s time for the annual Tools of Change for Publishing Conference. This year’s conference will be held in New York from February 14 through February 16, 2011, and (I know I say this every year) has the best possible line-up of speakers and programming.

To give you a hint of what’s in store for you, I forced Kat Meyer, Conference Co-Chair to answer a few deeply important questions. And — if you haven’t already registered for the conference — at the end of this post, you can learn how to enter a drawing for a free conference pass.

(If you don’t win, don’t despair! You can still register using the discount code TOC11BSQ.)

  1. So, Kat, with Tools of Change 2011 is just around the corner — February 14 – 16, 2011 — I figure you have plenty of free time to answer questions about this year’s program. Let’s start with the theme: Publishing Without Boundaries. What does that mean to you?

    The phrase “Publishing without boundaries” was actually coined by my co-chair, Andrew Savikas during one of our preliminary conference meetings. He didn’t suggest it as the theme, but all of us at O’Reilly loved it and agreed it fit perfectly with where the world of publishing is right now. Boundaries are disappearing. The rules that many in the industry have relied upon to make business run smoothly (for the most part), no longer apply – which is either a terrifying wakeup call or an exhilarating opportunity depending on one’s point of view. The one thing most seem to agree upon – as the old walls/boundaries come down — there’s no going back. Boundaries of who is a publisher, and who is a reader – they’re disappearing as digital production and distribution tools are more and more accessible to pretty much everyone. Boundaries of what content is available where and to whom — those boundaries are disappearing as digital content refuses to be easily confined by territorial rights restrictions…An industry that was once a rigidly defined landscape is being transformed into unchartered territory. So, the next question to consider is: as this territory is explored and claimed, what will the new boundaries look like? How will they be defined? That’s where it gets interesting, and that’s what a lot of the discussion at TOC 2011 will revolve around.

  2. I know you’re excited about every session and speaker on the panel, but can you give us some highlights from the schedule?

    Wow. Yes, I am excited about every session and every speaker…I’ve spent the last many months talking at length with the speakers, learning about their backgrounds, and hearing what they plan to talk about. This is a stellar group of people we’ve gathered together. It’d be intimidating to have that many brilliant people in one space, if it weren’t for the fact that they’re all incredibly nice people as well. And each thoroughly entertaining in their own way. Every speaker on this program is a highlight. I can tell you that some of the speakers have really surprised me – and I’m happy to share a few of the names that may not yet be as known as others, but who are rising stars in this community:

    Gus Balbontin is one person I am pretty sure everyone will learn a lot from, and also want to get to know. He’s passionate not just about the work that Lonely Planet does, but about life, and about how the two connect. His keynote is funny, and real, and the lessons he shares apply equally to publishers in transition and anyone facing tough changes in life.

    Keynoters Britt Iversen and Anna Gerber, co-founders of gorgeous art object/booky-book publisher Visual Editions will blow everyone away with their pure enthusiasm for creating beautiful paper books that make readers happy. They take on seemingly impossible projects because they want to see them come to life – and they make them happen. But at the same time, they’re smart business women. They’re going to make a real impression and inspire a lot of people.

    Marcin Wichary of Google, who is leading a workshop on HTML5 for publishers is brilliant, funny, and excited about sharing what he knows. He is one of many workshop leaders who have been spending hours and hours preparing for TOC, and I am so proud of what he, and every one of our workshop speakers has put together for the participants. Marcin and others are just bending over backwards to make sure they can answer questions and really deliver what the attendees are hoping to learn. I mention this because all of our workshop leaders (and a good number of our speakers) have indicated they’d really like to hear from TOC attendees ahead of time — so we’re encouraging TOC attendees to reach out using the “comments/questions” window located at the bottom of each session description page on the website.

    Neal Hoskins’ panel of app developers has morphed from being an overview of features that successful apps have incorporated into an in depth discussion of the craft, care and polish that go into well-thought out content apps. The panel is another one (we have so many) that is packed with a veritable who’s who of leaders in their field.

    And another really awesome panel people may not have noticed quietly take a place on the program — one on subscription models and case studies which is being moderated by Andrew Savikas, and includes Jeremy Bornstein of Subutai (creators of The Mongoliad project) and of Rich Ziade of Readability (who has a major announcement he’ll be making soon).

    I’m also really excited about meeting readers — it’s one of my favorite things about TOC.

    If I keep going, I’ll end up recreating the entire program here. We’ve got keynotes that are just insanely impressive, we’ve got speakers from around the globe, we’ve got speakers from every conceivable part of not only the publishing ecosystem, but from the academic world and from other industries. This program represents an incredible assembly of relevant and meaningful perspectives that most of us just don’t get to hear from every day. And what’s really cool? We’ll all get to be part of the conversation. Each speaker is really interested in making each session as interactive as possible. One gigantic ball of highlights, Kassia. That’s what we’ve got going on at TOC this year. :)

    [Note: Kat's comment about hearing from attendees in advance goes for my panel, Bookselling in the 21st Century as well. Please share what you'd like to hear from this awesome group of people.]

  3. Every year, it seems certain themes, intentional or not, emerge from proposed and accepted sessions. Anything pop this year? (Yes, I’m asking so I can be on the cutting edge of cool thinking)

    Hmm. Now that you ask, yes – there are a few. The most prominent is directly related to the “publishing without borders” concept. It’s the theme of collaboration – collaboration within organizations, collaboration between organizations, and collaboration across industries. It’s a theme, and it’s one that is echoed in the more “big concept” keynotes, as well as in many of the more technically-focused sessions.

    Another theme I’m hearing from speakers is – we don’t have “the” answer. We have answers, but they may not fit your questions, and there is no solution that’s going to work for everyone. Oh, and the solutions we do have, they may work great today, but they probably won’t work forever. To put it another way – there’s a very common theme that being nimble and agile is a prerequisite for any company that wants to keep moving forward.

    I’d add to that there have been many speakers who are emphasizing the importance of knowing what your core strength as a business is, and not losing sight of that.

  4. I’ve heard rumors of big surprises for TOC attendees. Can you give us a hint?

    There are at least a few business announcements/launches taking place at TOC. For people like you and me, Kassia (and for many at TOC) at least a few of these announcements are the stuff geek girl “squees” are made of. Oh, and the speaker list (though I am receiving big sighs of exasperation from the speaker manager) may continue to grow… just a bit. So keep checking that speaker roster!

  5. Is it true Margaret Atwood is going to be on my bowling team?

    Well, the bowling event has gone back to the drawing board. No matter how much I tell the event team that TOC people are bowling people, they seem to think we are much more sophisticated (I have no idea where this impression was made, or by whom — clearly not at last year’s TOC karaoke Tweetup), but regardless of that happens with TOC, having met Ms. Atwood, I believe she’d join your bowling team if she thought it would make you happy. She’s maybe as kind as she is funny. And, that’s a whole lot of kindness!

Now for the fun stuff! We here at Booksquare are thrilled to announce we’re giving away a free pass for this year’s Tools of Change for Publishing Conference. This pass covers the two-day conference only (Tuesday and Wednesday, February 15 and 16, 2011), workshops are not included. You are also responsible for your own airfare, hotel, and travel expenses.

To enter for a chance to win this awesome prize, just tell us in the comments what you’re looking forward to most at this year’s TOC. Or, tweet a link to this post with the hashtag #BSTOC. The most random creature on the plan — Wiki Gonzalez (tabby and paper lover) — will chose a winner from all entries. Winner will be announced on Friday, January 21, 2011.

File Under: Square Pegs

13 responses so far ↓

  • Kat Meyer // Jan 18, 2011 at 12:15 pm

    Kassia – I can’t stop talking. And because it’s about work, it’s not just an attempt to avoid work…which kind of hurts if you think about it too much – but, also a highlight is very much this year’s TOC publishing startup showcase (first. time. ever). OMG! Went through the entries last night. There are some freaking cool startups and we had to up the finalists for the showcase from 20 – 25 because there were too many good ones to choose from. We’ll be announcing the finalists very soon (probably Wednesday – as soon as they are notified). http://www.toccon.com/toc2011/public/schedule/detail/17744 …OH, and Ignite this year — let’s just say it’s quite international (including someone you know from down under!) :) Kat. (okay, I’ll stop talking now. Shirley Bailes, speaker manager extraordinnaire says hello!)

  • Monica McCormick // Jan 18, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    I’m looking forward to having my head expanded by all the new ideas, creativity, optimism, realism, enthusiasm, cautionary tales, hunches, predictions, and healthy debate. I love the theme — the notion that boundaries (of all kinds) are not limits.

  • Leanne Prain // Jan 18, 2011 at 6:36 pm

    I’d love a chance to attend TOC! I’m most interested in what HTML 5 means for the publishing industry and I am interested in the Publisher Value Proposition discussion. I think that a publisher’s identity and the perception of their ability to bring quality products to market will grow as an important business tool for publishers in next few years.

  • Maya // Jan 18, 2011 at 10:57 pm

    Haha, I could almost hear you both talking as I read this :)
    How awesome would it be to win this and see you both there and show you the latest fun stuff I have going???
    Can.not.wait!!

  • Maya // Jan 18, 2011 at 10:59 pm

    Oh, I forgot to say what I am looking forward to :)
    Being a technology geek – I am going to enjoy the latest tech innovations around publishing the most. But it all becomes even more awesome because the best of the publishing folks come together right there.
    We really need more of that – coming together of tech and publishing in the real world :)

  • Sandy Sarro // Jan 19, 2011 at 7:14 am

    As a brand new library school student (2nd day!), I would like to see the publishing side of digital media (my focus). I expect to be overwhelmed, but it would be a *good* kind of overwhelmed, right?

  • Theresa M. Moore // Jan 20, 2011 at 8:54 am

    It will be interesting to learn how those of us who self-publish can overcome both the stigma of POD and the stigma of being self-published. I have not heard much about HTML5 except from Scribd, and as sales of my ebooks have been dismal over the last year, I don’t see Amazon stepping up anytime soon to address the concerns of authors seeking to be recognized among the millions of free ebooks which are crowding out ebooks for sale. I am ready to find new markets and would welcome some good news.

  • Shelley // Jan 20, 2011 at 8:58 am

    Publishing without boundaries reminds me just a little bit of Frost’s comment about tennis without a net.

  • Mary Tod // Jan 21, 2011 at 10:24 am

    While I can’t attend TOC I really like the theme about disappearing boundaries. It appeals to me as a writer and reader and seems totally in keeping with what other industries are doing in terms of global supply chains and information management, global brands and global clients. Perhaps the publishing industry will change from managing rights to connecting writers and readers. Just a thought.

  • Jennifer McAndrews // Jan 21, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    I would truly love to attend TOC. As a publishing professional (out here in STM world) I’m fascinated by all the changes coming along and try and stay on top of what I need to know to continue to be an asset to my company. At heart, I’m a total markup geek, loving epub and eager to see the changes HTML 5 will bring.

  • Shannon C. // Jan 21, 2011 at 7:16 pm

    I love the “Publishing Without Boundaries” theme! If it weren’t for the relaxing of boundaries, I wouldn’t have been able to start my publishing company 5 years ago. It’s been a difficult road to navigate at times, but conferences like TOC’s make managing change doable. (Plus, I’ve been in my editor’s cave for so long, it would be great to see real people for a change -Ha!) No seriously, the opportunity to glean a bit of insight from other publishing professionals would be great.

  • Mike Belsito // Feb 1, 2011 at 11:30 am

    Has anybody won the contest? I entered on Twitter and am excited to see who the winner might be! :-)

    Either way, I’m really looking forward to Tools of Change. I’m less interested in “where the puck is” and more interested in “skating to where the puck WILL be”.

    Not sure why I used that analogy considering I’m not a hockey guy…

  • Kassia Krozser // Feb 1, 2011 at 11:43 am

    Oh, my bad. Life got busy again. Yes. we drew Maya Bisineer’s name in a double-random process (necessary because so many entrants were known to me either personally or through long-time online relationships). Maya runs a publishing start-up aimed at young readers.