Yesterday, I finally made it to a 9:30 session, and the lack of energy and sparse crowd in the room at the Digitally Rebranding the Republican Party session. Still, I love politics and even though I am not a republican, I do know they need to get with the program, technologically speaking, so it was still good to see.

I then hit up a session called Making Content Relevant To Me, Here And Now. It spoke mostly to making searching for information better, and improving suggestion engines. I learned about a site called Hunch that helps people make decisions based on interesting questions. To keep the political trend, I learned Republicans prefer iceberg lettuce and Democrats like arugula. I’m too poor for arugula, and find iceberg bland, which might give more insight into my political views than I think.

The panel I really came here to see was A Brave New Future for Book Publishing, and it did not disappoint, except that it left a taste in my mouth that publishers are relying heavily on the advent of the iPad and winning the ebook pricing war to solve a lot of their problems. They reiterated some of the problems publishers (especially big ones) are having, since 80% of books that get published never make back the money invested in them.

But I was challenged to think of the book in a different way, by separating the stuff in the book from the book itself, separating the content from the container. Anymore, the book is no longer the mothership for readers; it’s the content. And even the representatives from the big publishers (Macmillan, HarperCollins) admitted they are built for a world that does not exist anymore.

Instead, the publisher is becoming more of a service-oriented model instead of a dry goods manufacturer. This allows the authors to have the connection with the audience (since they are the ones the readers want to hear from). For instance, HarperStudio, the digital wing of HarperCollins, is profit-sharing with its authors.

They asked the question of what the new players in the book publishing game look like compared to the hardback world:

  • The author of the future: engages its audiences and makes the readers part of the writing process, and gets a following and a community in place before engaging the publisher.
  • The publisher of the future: uses multimedia to reach new audiences, like vook.com who includes video books with author interviews and much more, competes with individual writers, and sees themselves as providing a service instead of owning writers and their works.
  • The editor of the future: looks more like a movie director or producer, who does the line-by-line editing second and decides the best vessel and medium for the delivering the work first.
  • The book of the future: may be delivered in any format, for example, the same novel could be delivered as a $1.99 ebook, a $5.99 paperback, and a $23.00 hardcover, each of which offers something a little different.

I could say more about it, but I would just be reiterating things I’ve already said in some way. You can see my tweets from the session at #futurebook also. The thing that I will say bothered me was that the session seemed to be suggesting writers to write to the market instead of writing what they are passionate about. Even the screenwriting panel I was in advised against that, and they’re Hollywood.

I finished the day watching a podcast recorded with writers from the Onion, College Humor and the Obama Girl, about cashing in on humor, and began the night with some kick-ass parties, most notably with the creators of Found Footage Festival, which was freaking awesome.

This morning, I’ve got a Texas-sized headache and have yet to leave the hotel. And I have no idea how these girls are walking all over Austin in heels.

A Brave New Future for Book Publishing