London Book Fair Digital Minds Conference 2012 – Live Blog

London Book Fair Digital Minds Conference - 15 Apr 2012
Welcome to the London Book Fair Digital Minds Conference live blog! I’ll be updating every 5 minutes or so, so keep refreshing the page to see the latest action from the conference. Join the discussion by commenting below, or by adding  #digiconf12 to your tweets. Are you ready? Let’s get digital!

Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre
All aboard the QE2! The conference centre rather than the cruise ship, sadly.

Keynote: The Future of Creative Media – Jim Griffin

10:05 – Conference Chair Evan Schnitmann (Bloomsbury) introduces Jim Griffin’s (OneHouse LLC) keynote

We’re living in a time of Tarzan economics – how do we let go of the old vine and grab the new vine to go forward? JIM GRIFFIN

10:10Jim Griffin (OneHouse LLC): We’re living in a time of Tarzan economics. How do we let go of the old vine and grab the new vine to go forward? There is a battle over piracy, but this is not our biggest battle. We’re in a battle for limited time and money of our audiences.You can never understand the media of your time. Like a fish understanding water. It’s fashionable to think we live in special times. I don’t believe it. The transition from mechanical to electric was far more savage that the transition from electric to digital.
Need to look backward rather than forward. Guttenberg got started pirating Papal indulgences. The library in Alexandria was piracy – stocked with books seized from the harbour. Jazz was an unpopular medium that found its way into popular culture via technology.
10:20 – We need to make it faster, easier and simpler for people to pay for content in the hope that people will when they can. You have only to look at Amazon.  We need a feminization of marketing – starting relationships that never end. Amazon is a woman. It remembers what you last bought, the colour of your eyes, it stays in touch. We need to sort this out if we want a sustainable economy of ideas.
10:25 – We need to seek balance that equalizes access to culture, knowledge, information. And we need to do it fast as increasingly the Internet is God. People spend more time on the Internet than at church. People confess their deepest secrets to a search engine rather than to a priest.
The .com economies will soon become bigger than the G8. We will do a lot better with an open hand than a closed fist. We can hold more in an open hand than a closed fist.

Keynote: Content is King – Andrew Steele

Andrew Steele10:30 – Next speaker: Andrew Steele, former head writer at Saturday Night Live and runs, the website started by Will Ferrell.
Andrew Steele starts by showing a funnyordie video.
10:35 – Lot of disruption in publishing and also in the entertainment industry. Background in TV – was a comedy writer for 20 years. funnyordie is a website built on user engagement. The parallel in publishing would be a website built on self-publishing.
We got out there and found that users aren’t funny. There are a million very unfunny videos on YouTube (which fortunately you don’t have toi look at as people pass around the best ones). We hired staff – writers, producers, directors – and made our own videos. Started making stuff for funnyordie – traffic increased on our site. Users could not bring in the experience people were looking for.
Once you increase traffic, you increase ad revenue and this is a good thing. The thing that was frightening was discovering that the Internet was crap and couldn’t solve our problems in the entertainment industry. But used background to create really good stuff.

The Internet is frightening to Hollywood right now. I’m sure self-publishing is frightening to publishers at the moment. But the most creative, best people on the Internet are winning for a reason. There isn’t enough good stuff out there. ANDREW STEELE

10:40 – We discovered that the best people are generally the professionals. Publishing has access to the real artists and make use of them. The Amazons of the world will never know what the people in this room know because they never know who those people are. Engagement is the key. The best people inside this technology are the ones who’ve run it for years.
In Hollywood everything is basically the same as it was 20-50 years ago. The artist drives all the traffic – there’s no medium that can displace that. Comes down to the smartest people controlling these things rather than disruptive technology taking this away from us.
In publishing it’s always the creative people who matter and there will always be a way to monetize that.
Schnittman: Curation is not enough – content is king. Now over to the King of Content…

Keynote: Pottermore – Charlie Redmayne

10:45Charlie Redmayne (Pottermore) takes to the stage.
Redmayne: Harry Potter – 50m book sales worldwide and most successful movie franchise in history. Pottermore was something Jo [J.K. Rowling] really wanted to do to engage with digital and give something back to the fans.Two parts:

  1. Pottermore Experience- unique exploration of the stories containing new writing from J.K. Rowling
  2. Pottermore Shop – the only place to buy the ebooks and digital audiobooks

10:50 – allowed 1m people to enter the site when it opened in beta summer 2011. 97% have looked at every piece of content and the average user session is 47 minutes. The platform couldn’t support the amount of interaction. It opened formally at 8.15 am UK time yesterday (when teenagers and Americans were asleep!) Quietly announced it with a tweet:
[blackbirdpie url=”!/pottermore/status/191069344455868417″]
Redmayne shows a promo video from the Pottermore site.
10:55 – Contains hidden content and other goodies from J.K. Rowling.Reactiuon to the site has been striking / borderline disturbing. [CR shows video reactions made by fans]
11:00 – Readers assume that digital books should be cheaper than print books, so we price in that way. We can do some fantastic enhanced ebooks later this year. We want this to become the central hub for all things Harry Potter – the store will grow further – only just started.

Pottermore is a huge challenge to publishers, who are struggling to retain their relevance in new world. CHARLIE REDMAYNE

11:05 – need to expand digital platforms to gaming, YouTube, Facebook, apps, in-flight entertainment etc. Pottermore is a huge challenge to publishers, who are struggling to retain their relevance in new world. Need to learn to build brands with our marketing in publishing. Social media isn’t a branding strategy. Need publishers to have brand development strategies – invest in brands over a period of years.
11:15 – 11:20 – coffee break time! See you in a bit.

Panel: Blurred Boundaries: Publishers, Agents, Retailers, Distributors and Authors

Rosie GoldsmithChair: Rosie Goldsmith (journalist). Panellists: Victoria Barnsley (HarperCollins), Ed Victor (agent), Kerry Wilkinson (bestselling self-published author), Michael Tamblyn (Kobo)
11:20Goldsmith: Publishing faces the biggest change since the invention of the printing press and at the heart of this is digital.
11:25Wilkinson: Self-publishing is just that – you can’t just be a good writer, you have to be good at publishing too. I discovered that many Kindle books weren’t engaging in the free sample – just loads of dedications and endorsements, and a prologue that only makes sense if you’ve read the book. You need to grab people straight away and end on a cliffhanger that makes them want to read more.
11:30Barnsley: Self-publishing is a nursery of talent – you can test the market first and the publisher can take less risk, so in some respects we welcome self-publishing. It is a bit of a threat too, as it’s bringing in competition. Many self-publishers have decided to go the traditional path after self-publishing, but if too many decided to do their own thing that would be a lot of competition for us.
Victor: I wasn’t trying to spit in the eye of the publishing industry – I just wanted to bring stuff back into print.
11.35Tamblyn: we sit on both sides of that fence.

If you are a publisher you are a content-led, product-led business at heart. Amazon is a brilliant company but it is consumer-led through and through. VICTORIA BARNSLEY

Victoria BarnsleyBarnsley: We all finding that we’re going into new business models – ecommerce, retail, speaker agency etc; but if you are a publisher you are a content-led, product-led business at heart. Amazon is a brilliant company but it is consumer-led through and through. The author and the content defines the culture of our business. It’s great that the silos are breaking down but I have a suspicion that it’s not possible to be a one-man band and all things to all people.  Can we be author-led and consumer-led at the same time?
11:40Wilkinson: I don’t understand why, if publishers have 18 books in a series, they don’t sell the first one for a quid and then people will come back for subsequent ones in the series, like self-published ebooks.
Goldsmith: Why are ebooks so expensive then?
Tamblyn: That’s due to publishers; we do have books at £1 – £2, but they tend to be self-published.
Wilkinson: It’s about value rather than price. People buy the next book because they want to know what happens next, not because of price. My first book sold the most but made the least money.
Tamblyn: We can create a community of interest around us / authors / products. On any given day in our top-10 we have self-published authors. What’s the entry price for a ‘high risk’ author who you’ve never heard of before?
11:50 – Barnsley: Discoverability online is the big challenge. Unlike a physical environment where you can browse, it’s very difficult with digital. Price is one thing you can use as a lever.
Tamblyn: We can look at the social media activity that surrounds a book as a way to elevate it. The very best support is your friend saying ‘you have to read this book’. We have word of mouth on a scale as never before now. But how do we take some of those things that we lost in the move to digital and bring them, back in a new way?
Goldsmith: Ed Victor, you are the showbiz equivalent of a literary agent. How do you keep that personality going in a digital world?
Victor: The rise of agents is something that I have been part of and watched. What we agents have is equivalent to barrels of crude oil: content which can be marketed in many different ways. Our job is to figure out the best way forward.
Barnsley: It’s a hybrid world. Print is still our biggest business, so we need the old skills but new skills too. E.g. we’ve recently hired a pricing expert. I’m not a digital native – barely a digital immigrant – but it’s a very exciting time – there are incredible opportunities. One can reach consumers one could never have reached before.
Victor: We have a simple business model copied from Jane Friedman: you deduct the production costs and split the revenue 50/50. And because we have brought books back into print, we’re also selling foreign rights.
Kerry WilkinsonWilkinson: I was approached by an awful lot of agents – not always a pleasant experience. I’m still working full-time as a sports journalist, thought I had nothing to lose with a traditional publisher [Pan Macmillan]. It’s partly about exposure; but if it doesn’t work, I still have a #1 bestselling book, I’ve still paid off the mortgage – I have nothing to lose. I was looking at an author’s website the other day and the only way to contact him was via his agent – what sort of message is that to send out to readers? I’ve got a huge mailing list of people who have emailed me.
Barnsley: It’s important for authors to start a relationship with readers – we are intermediaries, and that’s something different to what publishers have traditionally done.
12:00 – Goldsmith: The book industry is very slow to change.
Tamblyn: Do you think so? This week alone we’re looking at publishers having to come up with a new business model in 48 hours or less. What could be more fast-moving than that?
Goldsmith: Who, in this blurred world, controls intellectual property?

I thought that, by the time we reached this phase in publishing, I’d be dead. But go with it, embrace it, we’re trying to figure it out and make money as we do. ED VICTOR

Ed VictorVictor: You were right [about publishing being slow to change] until recently. I feel much more camaraderie with people in the publishing industry now because of these blurred boundaries – we’re all on a stormy sea trying to navigate the waters together. I thought that, by the time we reached this phase in publishing [ebooks], I’d be dead. But go with it, embrace it, we’re trying to figure it out and make money as we do.
12:05 – Goldsmith: Final predictions, thoughts, or pieces of advice?
Victor: I’d quote Adventures in the Screen Trade: Nobody knows anything.
Tamblyn: How much is this a revolutionary force around the world? E.g. places where previously books could never be bought/moved. We’re changing the way reading happens everywhere – and we’ve not even begun to realize the impact of that.
Barnsley: Given what’s happened this week: Don’t speak to another publisher! Two major issues: value and time. Biggest challenge is finding enough consumer time. We’re not just competing against other books now, but against people’s Facebook time.
Wilkinson: Don’t be afraid of technology. If you embrace it there are so many more opportunities than if you try to compete with it.
Coffee break! See you at 12:25!

Case Study: Social Marketing – The Power of Communities – Matteo Berlucchi

Matteo BerlucchiMatteo Berlucchi, Anobii: Key theme is discovery – finding books online. Anobii strapline is ‘together we find better books’ – best way to discover books is through recommendation.
Anobii is 18mths old – backed by HMV, Penguin, HarperCollins and Random House. Acquired an existing company called Anobii, the first social network for book lovers – set up in HK in 2006 – and acquired their dataset. Team of 25 people in London and a new version of the platform created – now in beta (
High street bookstores are closing. Majority of people who go into bookstores go there to browse. Risk polarizing book sales to the frontlist and end up reading what everyone else is reading. Great example is the Richard & Judy Bookclub – guidance on what to read outside of the bestseller lists.
Word of mouth is important, but there’s always an intermediary: your favourite reviewer in a magazine, a bookseller – but the order or recommendation is important, with friend recommendations at the top.
12:35 – Other readers are the key that unlocks discovery – social networks are important. They provide the idea foundation to develop a ‘recommendation marketplace’.
We are a tech company – we don’t have any publishers on the team.
We create a way for people to organize books around their interests. Books can live in multiple topics and be more or less relevant to that topic. Not very different to what a good bookseller does in a store. Three-dimensional browsing space where people can jump from topic to person to book.
In order to sell ebooks you need the ecosystem to enable you to sell them. Not possible to share ebooks between devices, didn’t want to use Amazon, so we had to build our own reading apps.
12:40 – How do we get around the “I am on Facebook and don’t need yet another social network” objection? By making our API available to create third-part apps from, such as Anobii Facebook App. Organize games via Facebook app such as ‘Top Reader Challenge’. Payback is that we get lots of data on what people are reading. Leverage the best of the existing social networks. We’re using Pinterest, Twitter and iTunes.

This industry needs to move to a DRM-free paradigm as fast as possible. MATTEO BERLUCCHI

Final comment: we are DRM-free! This industry needs to move to a DRM-free paradigm as fast as possible. The elephant in the room is that Amazon sells 90% of the ebooks in this industry. In order to have a healthy ecosystem, we need to make ebooks as widely available as possible.

Hard Times for Soft Covers? Facts Behind the Fiction – Mark Oliver

Mark Oliver12:50 – Mark Oliver, Oliver & Ohlbaum Associates: In 2011 10% of people bought ebooks. We predict that by 2017 25% will be regularly buying ebooks. This is driven by device ownership.
Online book buying: 31% of sales in the UK in 2011. In 2017, the volume of books sold will increase by 8.5% but consumer spend will fall by 10%.
This is not as bad as the music industry, which saw a decline of 35% between 2003-2011; or the DVD market, which saw a decline of 16% between 2005-2010 DVDs. Supermarkets and online retailers have sharply eroded traditional margins. This will continue and ebooks will accentuate this trend.
13:00 – Reef Read: So far, the book trade has fared well in the UK, and the Internet has helped. But we’re facing regulatory intervention on the agency model in the US – and possibly the EU.
We’re looking at the rise of new competitors with the vertical integration of online retailers, especially Amazon.Another threat to publishers is the rise of self-publishing and P2P publishing, which could threaten to put out publishers completely.
The traditional value chain was linear. The new value chain is radically different: e.g. Amazon getting into publishing and authors self-publishing. Authors such as J.K. Rowling launching online platforms such as Pottermore.
Not clear how these structural shifts will impact on publishing, but it is clear that publishers will have to change what they do in order to adapt and thrive.
Average price for a fiction book in the UK: £8.56 – hardback; £4.82 – paperback; £3.16 – ebook. In the old world, readers had a simple choice. Could buy new or 2nd handbooks from a store, borrow books from friends or the library, or join book clubs.
The Web 1.0 word of ‘online physical’ saw prices for fiction of between £3.99 – £7.99. The Web 2.0 ‘online ebook’ world has seen fiction prices drop to £0.69 – £6.99. Bricks and mortar stores sell fiction for between £2.99-£9.99 bricks.  Lending is free, and new models such as Kindle daily deals and eSingles are emerging.
Old genres were: fiction, non-fiction, children’s, School/ELT. New world: increased fragmentation / competition across all genres.
13.10 Mark Oliver: Device uptake will be fast and far-reaching. Ebooks will be the leading format. The Internet will dominate book sales. Volumes will go up but market values will go down as prices are eroded. Publishers have so far been immune to these trends, but now need to adapt.
Time for lunch!

Panel: Children’s Content – Leading the Way?

Chair: Sara Lloyd (Macmillan). Panellists: Kate Wilson (Nosy Crow), Belinda Rasmussen (Macmillan Children’s), Eric Huang (Penguin Children’s), Jeff Gomez (Starlight Runner Entertainment).
Sara Lloyd14:10 – Sarah Lloyd: When will the moment come for children’s publishing to go digital in a meaningful way? What will the catalyst be? How can today’s publishers position themselves for what’s coming?
Lloyd: Teen publishing is taking off – how about younger children’s?
Huang: Companies like Nickelodeon are already in that space – a lot of the titles we’re publishing became digital quite quickly because they were already part of the larger children’s publishing landscape and having big brands such as Peppa Pig helped.
Wilson: I came out of a corporate publishing background and felt that some of the things I’d wanted to do were difficult to do in a corporate context. You had to feed a machine, especially in tough economic times. I set up Nosy Crow to do digital books from the start. Wanted to look at what could make the reading experience more engaging for a child. The proliferation of devices over the last year has helped our sales. The pick up of sales following Christmas is really just backlist sales – but driven by devices.
Gomez: In the US 30-40% of parents have stuck mobile phones/tablets into the hands of their kids. Esp with tablets, you are removing the last barrier of friction. Manipulating a book, turning pages etc difficult for an infant – there is a direct connection between the child and the app / digital book. It is manipulatable with tremendous ease, which delights the child and the parent. We will see a cascade effect.
Wilson: for pre-schoolers who cannot read text, the addition of audio/video is a fantastically empowering thing for the child. No longer have to ask parents to read it to them.
Huang: It has been so quick for children’s publishing, and they are leading the way because of our customers. For adult publishing it’s a nice thing to have – but our customers demand it.
Rasmussen: But it would be a shame if that emotional connection of the experience of reading with a parent was lost.
Huang: If you want an interactive book, you can’t just slap some pops onto it for the sake of it – has to be relevant to the story. It’s a question of technology and awareness of what each device can do.
Gomez: Best not to have an author or illustrator guess at what will work, but bring in a designer who understands the technology and sensibilities that go into a product like this. It requires a third-party professional.
Kate WilsonWilson: We create all our apps in-house. I think what Jeff says is true – being a children’s publisher is not enough. It helps though, because we are already working in a multimedia way, with text and images, and imagining a book being read aloud. App development is a much more collaborative process: writing, illustration, coding, voice etc. A lot of the time we get proposals from someone saying ‘I have written an app.’ Really? It is usually two sides of A4 starting ‘It was a dark night [the stars twinkle when you touch them]’. This is not enough. We need people who think about storytelling in a non-linear way.
Huang: We’re using a lot of traditional children’s book illustrators, because the aesthetic often works best. But we need to pair them up with an animator. The word ‘Digital’ can be intimidating for people, but can also lead to projects that are too ambitious.
Wilson: We’ve always said that we’re digital, so the authors and illustrators who approach us do so because we are establishing a name for ourselves in this space. A lot of the thinking that was applicable to novelty books is applicable to this, as Jeff says, but sometimes something works better as a novelty book. We shouldn’t confuse media – some things work best in one medium, some things work best in another.
Gomez: Too many people think a digital format means ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’, a set of branching pathways through the text. The participation has to be more truly interactive than this, and have more to do with bells and whistles.
Wilson: The ways you use the features of the device in a way appropriate to the story is important. We did Cinderella, and had to think hard about the key story elements of magic. Three Little Pigs was about drama and action and movement – so we had to do something different. You can’t just use the same godollop of code. You have to be responsive to the nature of what that story is.
Lloyd: What about parental concerns about the amount of screen time their children spend?
Wilson: The important thing is to balance the parental sense that reading is good for you and the child’s expectation that the experience will be interactive. Apps are walled gardens, and this is reassuring to parents.
Gomez: Children’s books make money. A good amount of money. The expectation of publishers is that, in a digital world, children’s books won’t make as much money, and this is stepping on the brakes somewhat. Two important points:

  1. The idea that digital content should be much cheaper than physical content will evolve away. Because there is an emerging generation who perceive it as valuable. I know it’s hard to belive right now!
  2. There are new kinds of partnerships that you are gong to have to form with your authors. We’re starting to see those partnerships with teen fiction and YA.

Rasmussen: If the process seems slow it’s because, on the children’s side there hasn’t really been a market until recently.
Lloyd: What do we need to bear in mind about the way in which young people consume content? Is it true that teenagers have no attention span?
Wilson: For our age group of 2-7 year olds, it’s a bit different, and familiarity is key. Children can interact with apps in creative ways –
Gomez: Teens and increasingly tweens are switching up between gadgets, devices and screens at a more and more rapid clip. One of the solutions to this is not necessarily reiterating the same content on these platforms, but offering different types of content that play to the strengths of different platforms, but are set in the same story universe. So you’re doing some branding/franchising too, but keeping the teen in the story world that they love. As children get into their teens, they’re getting more into interactive content such as video games. They’re solving problems in complex, non-linear ways – not like the arcade games of the 1980s!
Wilson: Andrew Steele said this morning the UGC wasn’t always very good, and it is tempting to imagine that we are all content professionals. That balance of linear and non-linear narrative is interesting – children don’t always want to make their own narrative – they want stories better than they can imagine. This is why J.K. Rowling is popular. We are all descended from people who told stories around fires in caves about the mammoth that got away – we are storytellers. Our conversations are stories. Yes, we can fragment and cut it up – but I don’t think the non-linear story that satisfies us goes away.
Gomez: I didn’t mean we’re raising a generation of kids who understand Pulp Fiction. I meant creating a story world – as you move through the story there are different things that are unfolding in other platforms. They’re all linear, but complementary and add up to a greater experience.
Gomez [response to audience question]: My company, Starlight Runner Entertainment, is creating multi-platform storytelling. We initially wanted to go with a publisher. They were going to invest a lot of money, but they couldn’t get their head around the editorial concept of part of the story unfolding on Facebook. So we went to Sony.

Panel: Emerging E-Book Markets: Germany, Spain, France

Chair: Evan Schnittman. Panellists: Fabrice Piault (Livres Hebdo), Siobhan O’Leary, Antonio Fraguas Garrido (El Pais)
Fabrice Piault15:05 – Fabrice Piault: If you want to know what’s going on in the French ebook market, you need a microscope. Only 1.5m tablets and 145K ereaders were sold last year. Kindle and Kobo dominate (Kobo distruted by Fnac). In 2010 the ereaders were not good quality.
The ebook market was worth about 18m Euro in 2010 (0.6% of the industry). No more than 90K ebooks in various formats – many PDFs included. Max 8% of printed books are available as ebooks.
There is an emerging digital market for comics and graphic novels, and dozens of apps from artbook publishers and children’s publishers.
All the main publishers have built ebook distribution platforms like Numilog (Hachette), ePlatforme (Editis), Eden (Gallimard/Flammarion/La Martiniere)
15:15 – Will the number of digitized books increase rapidly? Will the publishers lower their prices? How soon will the public be seduced by ebooks? Online print book sales represent only 10% of all book sales in France – very different to the English-speaking world.
15: 20 – Siobhan O’Leary: The German market is facing a lot of the same issues as the French market. Germany has a very established publishing industry, and the second largest book market in the world (9.73bn Euros). Fixed book prices: also, 7% VAT on print and 19% on digital.
13% are translations into German, 2/3 of which come from the English-speaking world. Four largest groups: Verlagsgruppe Random House, Hotzbrinck, the German arm of Sweden’s Bonnier Group and Weltbild. Biggest STM/academic publishing group is Springer.
Market share of ebooks: 1% (up from 0.5% in 2010). Expected to be 16.2% by 2015. There is a clear trend towards fiction: 85% of ebooks sold are in this genre. The industry as a whole is starting to take ebooks more seriously, including publishing bestseller lists. Current bestselling authors include Henning Mankel and Steig Larsson.
Ebooks are generally sold at a retail price about 20% lower than the lowest-priced print edition. Same price if under 10 Eur. So you’re sometimes paying much more for an ebook as the VAT is higher.
15:30 – Ebook readers first hit the German market at the end of 2009. But most Germans read on tablets rather than ereaders.
Ebook hurdles: 78% of Germans claim not to want to read from a screen. 85% say they love printed books too much.
O’Leary ends with a quote:

The best way to predict the future is to create it WILLY BRANDT

15:35 – Antonio Fraguas Garrido: 75% of Spanish publishers are already following some kind of ‘digital strategy’. But 40% of people don’t read books. 6% read on screen. Have more ereaders than France – 285K sold in 2011 – 5 x more than previous year. Over 1m devices in Spain and rising.
LIBRANDA is an ebook distribution platform founded by big three publishers in Spain: Grupo Planeta, Random House Mondadori, Santillana.
Main concerns:

  • Pricing – price of ebooks is too close to printed books. VAT is 4% on print books, 18% on ebooks.
  • Piracy – In 2011, 49% of ebook content available online in Spain lacked proper copyright holders. 793m Eur value – the highest for any cultural content.

In Spain, the ebook industry requires a lot of investment but the revenues are too low. Ends with a  quote: “In the future customers will pay for services related to content rather than paying for the content itself.”

Digital Innovation: Inspirational Startups

Introduced by Paul Brindley (The Appside). Now for some 6-minute presentations from innovative startups. First up:


Booktrack synchronizes soundtracks to books. Example: reading the text opening to Star Wars with soundtrack over it is ‘booktracking’.
NYU study: “The study clearly show the distinct cognitive advantages of sound-enhanced electronic reading platforms.”


Hamish Brocklebank, Co-Founder Flooved: Flooved is a web-based platform that provides students with a package of content on any platform for a monthly subscription. Launched 12 months ago.
Supply content from academic publishers, and can feedback on which chapter(s) students read and engage with the most. A cool engaging interactive platform for students; a pathway for publishers that isn’t disruptive.


Christian Dorffer, Mindshapes: Mindshapes was founded in 2010. We have a background in the gaming industry. We’re focusing on how adults and kids learn through play.
There are around 500m kids with access to the Internet but 50% with no access to books. Various virtual worlds have been created for kids, such as Club Penguin, Moshi Monsters, Poptropica, which are educational to varying degrees. We have defined a new platform that focuses not just on passive brand engagement but interaction with characters.
The result is Magic Town: a child-centred virtual world for 2-6 year kids. A new interactive storytelling format, a revolutionary business model (subscription, pay per view and downloads), collaboration with parents and teachers. A new channel for publishers – launch brands in months, discoverability, subscription model and unique level of consumer insights.


Micahel Kowalski, Padify: Padify makes it easier to repackage your content into ebooks, digital magazines or apps for publication on iPads or other mobile devices.


Christian Damske, Skoobe: Skoobe [‘ebooks’ backwards] is a mobile library. Launched Feb 29, 2012, financed by Random House and Holtzbrinck. Device independent (currently for iOS, soon for Android). Epub as standard, no enriched ebooks with special formats. First 10,000 readers can borrow and read any number of new books each month for Eur 9.99 pcm, then model will be refined. Open to all publishers.

The Future of Content Business Models – Don Katz

Don Katz16:50 – Don Katz, CEO, Audible: Audiobooks should never have been a physical medium. They had no artefact value or beauty and little replay value. 105m Americans drive to work alone (only 119m drive to work). That’s hundreds of hours a week. Audible is what millions of people do when they can’t read or look at a screen.
Our main challenge, ironically, is that there is simply not enough audio. Every book worth reading should be available as an audiobook – but 80-90% of frontlist books don’t go to audio. E.g. if a member of Audible runs out of sci-fi, we lose a member. So we became producers, and we’re now one of the biggest producers of audiobooks, with recording studios running back to back.
17:00 – I thought this was a no-risk business: to use unused audio rights that were just sitting in filing cabinets. When you have content rights they should be used. With print, publishers sell rights aggressively, even in Lithuanian[!] But this is not the case with audio.
17:10 – Why pay authors per download? It’s the right thing to do. We pay authors £1 per download. Average writer only earns 6k a year so are always looking for increasing income.
Recently met Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself) who leverages his 1.7m Twitter followers to sell books.
17:15 – Movie industry spent money and effort trying to prevent movies on VCR and cable in the Supreme Court, arguing that even on a small screen it’s still a movie. But by the end of the 20th Century movies on cable was a $33bn industry.
Piracy helped Audible take off because it taught everyone how to download!
Aiding the work of writers who seek to capture the human condition is a good thing to do. Supporting the traditional supply chain is only good insofar as it supports the creative endeavour. Increasingly the old business models just don’t work in the modern age.

Closing Comments – Evan Schnittman

17:20 – Evan Schnittman wraps up. What have we learned?
Evan Schnittman

  • The Internet is God
  • User Generated Content is crap
  • There’s more to come from the Harry Potter franchise
  • Mortgages can be paid even by self-published authors
  • Price pressures will continue to expand
  • Ebooks have learned to crawl finally in France, Germany and Spain
  • Hamish might want to look into Xanax
  • HTML5 is finally here
  • Skoobe is ebooks backwards
  • Does a right exist if no one can hear it?

That’s it, folks – we’re off for ‘networking drinks’ now! Let us know what you think about any of the issues raised in today’s conference in the comments below. And I’ll see some of you at Tuesday’s London Book Fair Tweetup!

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Jon Reed

Jon Reed is a content writer, author, screenwriter, lecturer, blogger - and the founder of Publishing Talk. He was previously a publisher for 10 years. Publishing Talk aims to help new and emerging authors write, publish and sell books. Advice is available via the blog and our masterclasses and membership programme. More...