Tools of Change 2012: Today. Tomorrow.

February 7th, 2012 · 14 Comments
by Kassia Krozser

Time certainly does fly when you’re busy doing things, doesn’t it? One day, I was looking forward to the entirety of 2012. The next, I realize I’m leaving for New York and 2012’s Tools of Change conference in less than a week. Naturally, I reacted with typical aplomb…frantically gathering clothes to take to the dry cleaner.

I kid. Sort of. I have the conference dates circled with a big red heart on my calendar (what is better than spending Valentine’s Day with approximately 1500 of your closest friends? Nothing, I tell, you nothing.). More importantly, I’ve been preparing for the two panels I’m moderating (more at the end of this post). I am so lucky. I get to stand back while four (count ‘em, four!) of the most innovative people in publishing do their thing.

I am nothing if not an awesome moderator.

I’ve also been brushing up on the most current publishing news, a bit of struggle for me as it seems like so much of the industry is on round three or four of the same conversation while I am looking for something new. I don’t know if the conversations most of us have been having for the past, oh, six years were light years ahead, or, more likely, if there are so many basic questions the publishing (entire) industry needs to answer, we have to recycle them time and again.

For example, a recent Publisher’s Weekly article asking “Is the Time Right for Bundling?

Let me answer the question succinctly: yes. And no.

I am not convinced the book-buying public is clamoring for print/ebook bundles, just as they weren’t clamoring for “enhanced ebooks” — you know, those higher-priced books with marketing material appended to them. However, I am convinced there are instances where a print/digital combo makes perfect sense. And I think the public does want these sensible combos, even if they cannot articulate their desires.

Then again, I am convinced there are instances where the print book makes no sense at all. I recently purchased a book as part of market research for a project I’m doing. The content is only available in print, and this is something the authors are proud of. I do not have to worry about connectivity when it comes to finding the information I need.

Oy.

Nope, I just need to worry about hauling one more heavy item in my purse, and hoping the information in that print book is up-to-date. And if it isn’t, well, I can wait until the 6th (print) edition is available to see the corrections. If ever a book should be available as an app, this is it. Within seconds of ordering the print book, I regretted it. Moments after cracking the spine, I knew it was the last thing I wanted or needed.

Personally, the chances of me getting excited about a print/digital bundles for fiction are pretty slim. There is the rare, rare, rare book I love so much I want to display it on my shelves. When that book enters my universe, the joy cannot be described. Usualy, by the time I discover my love for this book, the opportunity to get in on the bundling deal will be lost (hey, make this a retroactive thing…then you’ve got something).

Non-fiction, as in the case I described above, is a different story. But it has to be the right kind of content to make sense. I like that Rachel Deahl, the author of the article, noted the logistical issues involved with bundling — how will those royalties be determined? She also notes the challenges due to the Agency Model (see: Brian O’Leary’s post on Ripple Effects).

I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again: locking your entire business into a specific model during a time of rapid change is a bad idea.

What does this have to do with the Tools of Change conference? Quite a bit. The theme speaks to my soul: change/forward/fast. While publishers work hard to figure out the right now, they need to keep a close eye on possibilities for the future. The basics are still far from being, well, basic, but we can’t deny the world is changing at (publishing) light speed. This is why I love TOC.

Want to see an open source, WordPress-based digital publishing tool (full disclosure and all that)? Done. Curious to discover what is really meant by “Agile Publishing“? Thinking you want to get into the business of building strong, enduring communities around your content? Ready to discover some amazing (and I mean freaking amazing!) publishing related start-ups?

Done, done, and done!

(Oh, and there is so much more).

Yeah, I’m looking forward to next week, and I hope you are too. If you haven’t registered yet, it’s not too late.

A note about my awesome panels:

Leveraging Existing Assets for New Markets“, Wednesday, February 15, 2012 at 8:30 a.m. Greg Merkle of the Dow Jones Enterprise Media Group and Stephen Stesney of CQ Press/First Street will be offering details peeks inside their systems, then answering a few insightful questions from moi (not to mention questions from the audience).

Why Context is Everything“, Wednesday, February 15, 2012 at 10:35 a.m. Erin McKean of Wordnik and Valla Vakili of Small Demons promise to amaze and excite as they show off their projects. They, too, will be subject to insightful questions from me and probing questions from the audience.

File Under: The Business of Publishing

14 responses so far ↓

  • Brian O'Leary // Feb 8, 2012 at 7:22 am

    I appreciate how you feel about the iterative nature of the publishing conversation. It can be frustrating, but I think it can also be a positive sign.

    Change, particularly a widespread shift in a business model, usually meets resistance (denial, anger) before becoming generally accepted. You could say “this change has been evident for a decade”, but lots of things have been evident for decades and publishing has soldiered on. The early warning signs are easy enough to dismiss or sidestep.

    So, people talking openly about what is needed may be a sign that acceptance is replacing denial (though there remains anger, particularly at Amazon and Apple).

    The point you make in the middle of your post, about the danger inherent in locking yourself to a specific business model in a period of rapid change, is critically important. I hope you come back to that again sometime soon. The unintended consequences of agency (thanks for the link) and handing the digital book market to Amazon in exchange for the illusory promises of DRM are just a couple of examples.

    Your panels look great; I’m sorry one is at 8:30 a.m. Maybe I can bring donuts.

  • Kat Meyer // Feb 8, 2012 at 9:09 am

    Thanks for the great post, Kassia. I am very excited about TOCCON and really appreciate the support and participation of so many hard-working, smart and motivated people.

    PS: Just curious, what is this “dry-cleaning” of which you speak?

  • Simon Groth // Feb 8, 2012 at 2:47 pm

    I’ve been waiting for bundling for years, purely for selfish reasons because I like to drift between paper and screen. Or at least I’d like to be given the option. In this instance though I’m thinking of automatically bundling digital with print, which doesn’t seem to me all that difficult. Doing it the other way around (print with digital, whether retroactively or otherwise) might be a bit more challenging, but who doesn’t love a challenge?

    Wish I could be at TOC, but the tyranny of distance means I’m looking forward to waking up at strange hours and watching the webcast. No really.

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  • Shelley // Feb 28, 2012 at 10:35 am

    Since you know the field, I’d love seeing a post from you giving a list of literary agents who are open to new work.

    Now I’m going to go and try to figure out what “bundling” is….

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  • George MacDonald // Jun 26, 2012 at 9:56 am

    I know it’s been some months since the conference – have been browsing your blog and enjoy it. Will there be a report from you? :)

  • Eva // Dec 20, 2012 at 11:54 pm

    This is a wonderful blog! I love the last post “Tools of Change”. It speaks about reality.

  • Alex in Leeds // Jan 21, 2013 at 4:10 am

    Great post. I’d love to know what your thoughts are now that the sales figures are starting to trickle in for 2012 and ebooks vs print books can be compared…