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Tools of Change Round-up Day 2

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The second day of the Tools of Change conference left me with a notebook and a brain overflowing with ideas, information, and inspiration. It's almost too much to digest in one day. I feel like a ZIP archive?compressed. And to top it off I went to the New York InDesign User Group meeting and watched Bob Levine and Gabriel Powell present on exporting from InDesign to Dreamweaver and EPUB, respectively. Good times.

The day at TOC started with several keynote speakers. I particularly enjoyed hearing Peter Collingridge speak about Enhanced Editions which are richly-featured ebooks for the iPhone.

Next up was William Patry (Google, Inc. ) whose topic was Law Is Not a Business Solution. Citing the cautionary example of the music industry, William argued that stronger copy protection won't get people to buy things they don't want. Nor can you sue your customers into buying your stuff. It is an error to think that stronger copyright law leads to more economic value. Instead, value is created when we focus on creating and marketing innovative content our that serves our customers' needs. Amen.

I also liked Are Ebooks Dead? by Skip Prichard (Ingram Content Group Inc.). Answer: Yes, they are because the pace of technology is accelerating. Alas, poor Ebook, we hardly knew ye.

Arianna Huffington concluded the keynotes with Publishing is Dead; Long Live Publishing! and the idea that we are now in a "golden age of engagement," where content producers and consumers are constantly connected, and where self-expression (through blogs, social media, etc) is the new entertainment.

For general sessions, I started with  The Future of Digital Textbooks by John Warren (RAND Corporation), Eric Frank (Flat World Knowledge), Frank Lyman (CourseSmart LLC), Nicholas Smith (Agile Mind), Neeru Khosla (CK12 Foundation). Having worked for many years in education publishing, this was a discussion near and dear to me. I'd say it's clear that profound change is coming to the industry, as there are companies now offering etextbooks and other educational content free at the point of access, (people can pay if they want a version of the content output to print). For more info check out's FlexBooks, which are digital textbooks, free, customizable, and aligned to state standards. Also check out Flat World Knowledge for free (at the point of access), re-mixable etextbooks.

Next, I went to  Adobe Digital Publishing: Delivering Immersive Content Experiences by Nick Bogaty (Adobe). Nick showed the WIRED magazine demo and confirmed that the project had its roots in InDesign CS4. There are new Adobe technologies (but no details yet) to take that InDesign content and make it into something very interactive and engaging that can be delivered to ereaders. Stay tuned.

Then I went to Check Out My Scars: Seven Lessons from the Failure of Ebooks in 2000, and What They Mean to the Future of Electronic Publishing by Michael Mace (Rubicon Consulting). You can read Michael's full synopsis here, but here's my version: In the publishing industry, latent change is building up like water behind a dam. The dam is not ready to break yet. In fact, change won't come as soon as you might expect but when it does, it will be sudden and dramatic. The tipping point will be reached when 25% of consumers have eReaders (today it's about 3%). The debut of the iPad accelerates our movement to the tipping point. When we reach it, authors will have strong incentives to dump their publisher and go it alone (OK, maybe with a little help). In the meantime, mobile devices are the sweet spot for periodicals and short content that can be consumed like a little media snack. This idea of disintermediation (aka cutting out the "middle man") kept recurring in various talks throughout the day.

My TOC day concluded with an Ignite session. If you're unfamiliar with the Ignite, it is a structured presentation format in which the speaker has exactly 5 minutes and 20 slides to tell their story, and the slides are set to auto-advance every 15 seconds. The theme is "Enlighten us, but make it quick." There were several Ignite speakers, but my favorites were Al Katkowsky, author of the book/iPhone app Question of the Day, Liza Daly (ebook consultant for speaking about a new EPUB reader for browsers and mobiles called Ibis Reader, and Jamey Graham speaking on visual search with iCandy, an app that lets you use iPhones or webcams to take a picture of something and use that image as the basis of a Web search.

Whew! Tomorrow's the last day of the conference and I will be conducting a few interviews with some interesting folks. Afterwards, I'll be traveling back to Boston, and probably won't get to post anything new till Thursday at the earliest. In the meantime, if you're interested in updates, check my Twitter feed, or for many more TOC tweets, search on the hash tag #toccon.

Finally, from the It's Never Too Early Dept: Registration is now open for TOC 2011! Hey, the future will be here before you know it.

  • Date: 09/03/2015