The O’Reilly Tools of Change for Publishing Conference

I have spent the last three days at the O’Reilly Tools of Change for Publishing Conference in New York. This conference is designed to address the issues related to publishing and technology. This was my second year to attend. Five of my colleagues from Thomas Nelson accompanied me.

Someone’s Head Exploding - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/morkeman, Image #5391990

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/morkeman

As was the case last year, my head is exploding. The presentations were excellent. They covered all the current issues and gave us a glimpse of the future. I am always surprised by who doesn’t show up at this conference. (If you are in book publishing and don’t attend this conference, you are putting your company and your career at serious risk.)

From my perspective, three presentations stood out. If I had to give Olympic Medals, I would have awarded them as follows:

  1. Gold Medal: Skip Prichard, President and CEO of Ingram Content Group, spoke on the topic, “Are Ebooks Dead?” In my opinion, this was the best presentation of the conference. Skip’s slides were killer. (Nancy Duarte and Garr Reynolds would have been proud.) His delivery was flawless. He was totally engaged and played “full out.” His message was inspiring and made me proud to be involved in publishing. You can watch his presentation—and sample the TOC conference—on YouTube.
  2. Silver Medal: Ariana Huffington, co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post, was also outstanding. She spoke on the topic, “Publishing is Dead; Long Live Publishing!” Her presentation was stylistically very different from Skip’s. For starters, she didn’t have any slides. But her content was provocative and engaging. She definitely “gets it” in terms of new media and is a true practitioner rather than a theorist. You can watch her presentation on YouTube.
  3. Bronze Medal: Tim O’Reilly, founder and CEO of O’Reilly Media, was the host of the conference and the final speaker. He spoke on “The Future of Digital Distribution and Ebook Marketing.” He made a powerful case for why publishers are not going away any time soon. For starters, retailers want and need someone to aggregate the content. They are unwilling to deal with thousands of individual authors. Second, publishers act as a filter and bestow status on the authors they publish. Both of these functions are still valuable in the digital world.

There’s no way I can recap all that I learned. Frankly, I am still processing much of it. However, I thought I would share just a few of the quotes that I jotted down in my notes:

  • “Nearly one quarter of Ebook consumers are exclusively buying Ebooks (unless no Ebook option exists).” —Kelly Gallagher, R.R. Bowker
  • “Compare how long it takes to consume various media: Songs take three minutes, sitcoms take thirty minutes, movies take one-hundred minutes, and books nine hundred minutes.” If you are a publisher, you better make it worth the consumer’s investment.” (I didn’t note who said this.)
  • Klout.com measures your Twitter clout. It is an amazing tool with lots of important metrics.” –Mike Hendrickson, O’Reilly Media
  • “There is no fundamental right to survive.” –Skip Prichard in reference to publishers and booksellers
  • “The more we try to go back to the Golden Age of publishing, the more we miss the current Golden Age. We are living in the age of engagement.” —Arianna Huffington
  • “Often book reviews are conversation-enders. They need to be conversation-starters.” –Arianna Huffington
  • “Self-expression is the new entertainment. This is why millions of people blog.” –Arianna Huffington”
  • “As publishers, we have to run two companies: a traditional print business and a digital startup.” -Dominique Raccah, Founder and CEO of Sourcebooks
  • “I could have titled my talk ‘Why There Will Always Be Publishers.’” –Tim O’Reilly
  • “The ugly stuff will always have to be done.” –John Ingram, as quoted by Tim O’Reilly
  • “Obscurity is a bigger problem for authors than piracy.” –Tim O’Reilly
  • “There are more than 21 eBook channels already. Authors can’t possibly get to these and do what they do best.” –Tim O’Reilly
  • “In social networks, you gain and bestow status through those you associate with.” –Tim O’Reilly
  • “A key function of a publishing brand is the bestowal of status by who and what you pay attention to.” –Tim O’Reilly
  • “Create more value than you capture.” –Tim O’Reilly

I hope to expand on some of these idea in future blog posts. I was particularly struck by Tim O’Reilly’s statement on “Why There Will Always Be Publishers.” He made it crystal clear what publishers must do to remain relevant in the publishing eco-system.

Questions: Did any of these quotes strike you? If so, which ones?
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  • http://twitter.com/ToddHiltibran @ToddHiltibran

    “Create more value than you capture.” –Tim O’Reilly__That's going up on my wall. I'm a missionary in Europe. This fits whether I'm dealing with people in Europe or the US. I'll be you never thought a missionary would be thinking this way. =)

  • http://www.womenlivingwell-courtney.blogspot.com WomenLivingWell

    I loved hearing all the quotes – thank you!!! You picked the golden nuggets out for us! Bonus!
    One quote that interested me was:

    “Often book reviews are conversation-enders. They need to be conversation-starters.” –Arianna Huffington

    Since I do book reviews for Thomas Nelson (through book sneeze) on my blog – along with a few other publishers – I found this quote as a good guide for what a good review is.

    I have read all of the "guidelines" but this takes it a step further in drawing the blog reader in to interact with the review. Great thought – thanks!
    Courtney
    http://www.womenlivingwell-courtney.blogspot.com

    My recent post Do You Have a Dream?

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/success2you John Richardson

    "There is no fundamental right to survive." -Skip Prichard. This has never been a more timely statement than now. Whether you are a publisher, small business owner, or just a worker bee, times are changing. You better find out who your customers are and what they need. You need to turn your mirrors into windows by taking the focus off of yourself and put it squarely on your customer. Then start a conversation… an engaging conversation to find out what your customers truly want and come up with novel and exciting ways of fulfilling those needs.

    Those who do this will thrive, those who live in the golden age of the past will quickly fade into obscurity.

    Thank you, Michael, for being a trailblazer and taking us boldly into the future.
    My recent post Checklists and Why Diets Fail

  • RA Bowen

    "Obscurity is a bigger problem for authors than piracy." –Tim O'Reilly It continues to amaze me how many book titles exist. The fact that any book can make it through to the top and land on any Best Sellers list seems just short of a miracle. Thanks for the twitter updates throughout the conference.

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

      I so agree with this quote too. I'd rather spend my energies working on interaction and building a tribe than worrying about whether my words are being stolen.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      I’ll bet I have quoted this ten times since I heard O’Reilly say it. It is so true.

    • Matt Bowman

      Totally agree with that quote. Yes, piracy is a problem but ask yourself this, "would i rather my content be used by another w/o my permission or would i rather no one be exposed to my ideas?" If your goal is to make money from your ideas, then fight piracy, but if your goal is to spread an idea, piracy can actually be an ally. So what if you miss out on a couple of buck in royalties or that your name doesn't appear in a footnote! I would take it as a compliment if someone found my stuff worthy of ripping off!
      My recent post

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/patriciazell patriciazell

    I also choose "Create more value than you capture" by Tim O'Reilly. This quote captures my motivation–this is why I'm writing my book through my blog. I believe I have understanding that will add value to people's lives, and I am willing to do the work necessary to reach them. After all, what will help people more than realizing that God loves all of us, and His love is absolute–perfect, complete, and real? I'm looking forward to the day when His love is fully manifested in our world and when it "chases" away all evil in our world.

    My recent post #31 BECOMING A SON OF GOD: THE BAPTISM OF FIRE

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/PaulSteinbrueck PaulSteinbrueck

    Mike, I think Tim O’Reilly's point about why there will always be publishers is huge. The digital age has lowered the barriers to producing and distributing content. That has tons of positive implications, but the negative is the noise level has increased greatly. Now more than ever we need people to filter out the noise for us. We look to people we trust to say, "Hey, this content is worth your time." Good bloggers and Twitterers serve this role when they reference, link to, and retweet good (mostly short) online content, and good publishers will always be needed to serve this roll with larger/print content.

    My recent post Worldliness: Where is Your Media & Music Taking You?

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      I really want to blog on this. I have been thinking about it all morning.

    • Robert Collings

      Could not agree more Paul. Having worked in the music biz during its e-volution :-) one thing that struck me was the increasing likelihood that an independent artist/record label could break through the public consciousness but at the same time how the major record labels retained their importance. Recent anecdotal evidence suggests that the majority of records selling 10,000 units or more are backed by labels and don't come from independent artists!

      Similarly, publishers will be important as a source of investment capital (although their business model is seriously flawed) and as marketers.

      Marketing is a task record labels have generally done very well — lots of people working in the department/s, reasonable capital allocated to projects, always open to new ideas — but I think publishers can and need to do more.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/PaulSteinbrueck PaulSteinbrueck

    Mike, I think Tim O’Reilly's point about why there will always be publishers is huge. The digital age has lowered the barriers to producing and distributing content. That has tons of positive implications, but the negative is the noise level has increased greatly. Now more than ever we need people to filter out the noise for us. We look to people we trust to say, "Hey, this content is worth your time." Good bloggers and Twitterers serve this role when they reference, link to, and retweet good (mostly short) online content, and good publishers will always be needed to serve this roll with larger/print content.

    My recent post Worldliness: Where is Your Media & Music Taking You?

  • Robbie Poe

    "There is no fundamental right to survive." — Tell that to our government.

    But seriously, the conversations in the current publishing market remind of Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson. There is, and always will be, plenty of cheese out there for you guys. It's just a matter of being remarkable and finding it.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      It’s probably worth re-reading Who Moved My Cheese? The only way to survive is to embrace change. Resistance is futile—and likely fatal!

      • http://intensedebate.com/people/patriciazell patriciazell

        A new quote–"The only way to survive is to embrace change. Resistance is futile–and likely fatal!" I wholeheartedly agree with you. Not only is this valid in the business world, but also in our walks with God. What we call repentance is really just change–we change what we were doing before we came to Christ to actions that will produce God's will in our lives and in the world. Let's not resist the baptism of fire!
        My recent post #31 BECOMING A SON OF GOD: THE BAPTISM OF FIRE

  • Pingback: Are Ebooks Dead? at Ray Fowler .org

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/dannyjbixby dannyjbixby

    The one that stuck out to me was, “Self-expression is the new entertainment. This is why millions of people blog.” –Arianna Huffington”

    I agree with the 1st part….but not the 2nd.

    I believe that people take the course of least resistance, and the course of least resistance to self expression on the interwebs isn't blogging; it's micro-blogging. Twitter, Facebook, Posterous, etc.

    And I think that as time goes on we'll see more and more of a shift away from blogs to most people sharing through those mediums. Because really, which is easier: Creating a blog post about this great video you saw or book you read? Or merely sharing a link to it with a 1-2 sentence blurb on the social networking site of your choice (or several)?

    Granted, big blogs will exist, and thrive, but personal blogs I feel are mostly on the way out.

    My recent post Don't Pretend You Know What You're Doing

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      I don’t see it as either/or. I Twitter, blog, design, and photograph. For me, my blog is my “homebase” or central hub.

      • http://intensedebate.com/people/dannyjbixby dannyjbixby

        Agreed on the central hub.

        I just see (on the average) people making their central hub something other than their personal blog.

  • http://twitter.com/ftoolan @ftoolan

    Mike,

    I thought that when Scott Lubeck said in a panel discussion "Organizations are nothing more than a tool for implementation, if it's not working, change it", I was hit with a blinding flash of the obvious. This was said in the context of re-examining our missions – which needs to happen often during times of great change, and rebuilding our organizations to best support the implementation of that mission.

    Scott also said that "if you are working for a company whose CEO and senior management are not aligned on a change project, quit the company and run for the hills". Change needs to be facilitated, supported, and sometimes cajoled by senior staff, otherwise it's doomed to fail.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      I wasn’t in that panel discussion, but those are two great quotes. Thanks for sharing them!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Lindsey_Nobles Lindsey_Nobles

    Several of these struck a cord with me. Especially these…

    “Self-expression is the new entertainment. This is why millions of people blog.” –Arianna Huffington”
    “In social networks, you gain and bestow status through those you associate with.” –Tim O’Reilly
    “A key function of a publishing band is the bestowal of status by who and what you pay attention to.” –Tim O’Reilly

    I also loved seeing the possibility in the future of publishing. What do new technologies and new distribution methods make possible? So energizing to look at it from that angle.
    My recent post Reflections on a Year of Blogging

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Me, too, Lindsey. I was so energized by the conference. I think it is all this possibility that I find fascinating.

  • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

    Great, helpful, informative post. Makes me wish I'd been there. Thanks for posting Klout. That was interesting, and it confirmed what others have seen in me–a connector.

    I loved the quote about book reviews. I much rather would see someone start a discussion about my books than simply state an opinion. I wonder how we can encourage reviews like that?

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Mary, I want to try to encourage these kinds of reviews with our BookSneeze.com bloggers. I think this could be a key differentiater between professional reviews and blogger reviews.

      • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

        I like that idea because so often blog reviews are things readers skip over. Blog reviews become like noise.

  • Keel

    Excellent summary, and I agree with your awards. All three of these speakers (Prichard, Huffington, O'Reilly) are clearly among the thought leaders in the industry now. They were so lucid about showing the way through the woods. On social media, I particularly liked how Tim captured how it really works and how best to approach it, and Arianna's comment that "This is the golden age of engagement."

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I liked that comment from Arianna, too.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Kevin_Martineau Kevin_Martineau

    “Compare how long it takes to consume various media: Songs take three minutes, sitcoms take thirty minutes, movies take one-hundred minutes, and books nine hundred minutes.” If you are a publisher, you better make it worth the consumer’s investment.” (I didn’t note who said this.)

    I think this quote applies to all forms of communication. We have to make sure that what we are saying, writing, etc is worth the person's investment of time. This is the second time I read about this today. Hmmmm … I wonder if God is trying to say something to me? :)
    My recent post Three ways to find rest when you really need it

  • http://twitter.com/DrErnie @DrErnie

    Great article! A couple typos you may want to fix:

    "we have two run two companies" -> *to* run

    "a publishing band" -> *brand* (unless you're also getting into music :-)

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Thanks. Good catch. I have corrected both.

  • http://www.soulapps.com William McNeely

    Great synopsis. I wish I could have heard all the great speakers. "Create more value than you capture". It's all about helping others reach their full potential.

  • http://redhillpublishing.com Robert Collings

    “Create more value than you capture.” Totally! All our buying decisions are based upon *perceived value* (and not price as publishers currently seem to think).

    Thanks for the blog and I look forward to reading more TOC.

  • http://twitter.com/maureengg @maureengg

    “The more we try to go back to the Golden Age of publishing, the more we miss the current Golden Age.” —Arianna Huffington
    I treasure book traditions and honor traditionalists – that’s what brought me to publishing in the first place. Yet the trappings of the old Golden Age will soon be moved into the Publishing Museum, where we preserve the letterpress equipment and hot-metal type, to make room for the new. Commerce is progressive, and there are new ways for people to encounter ideas, information, stories. Not everyone can enjoy the new media, I realize, which seem more like toys than tools to some. But those of us who do, and who still harbor a drive to publish, can use these new means to connect readers, listeners, and users to content, perhaps with more speed, joy, emotion, clarity, and with an offer of participation. The current Golden Age is one of improvisation and exchange. Count me in! Thank you for suggesting your favorite quotes.

    • http://twitter.com/maureengg @maureengg

      Andrew Savikas, quoted in the textbook panel's Powerpoint, said this about educational texts: “Thinking of the problem as ‘how do we get a textbook onto an iPhone’ is framing it wrong. The challenge is how to make the best use of a medium that already shares three of our five senses—sight, speech, and hearing—along with geolocation, color video, and a nearly always on Web connection, to accomplish the ‘job’ of educating a student.” —Andrew Savikas, Vice President, Digital Initiatives, O’Reilly Media

      • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

        Yes, I agree. I think when we start with the book, we box ourselves in. We need to start with the device or the platform and ask how can we exploit this to deliver our content?

  • http://speckleofdirt.blogspot.com Speckle

    This is a great post and gives us insight into what is going on out there in the publishing world. I think Huffington is completely correct…there has to be two businesses, digital and print. When I received my Kindle, I downloaded The Help and Sarah's Key. The other day I was shopping and Costco was selling them both for around $8 and the cover photos were beautiful. I briefly wished I had hard copies I could hold and connect with visually. I'm a true book lover and know that there will always be a need for you publishers! How else are us wanna-be authors supposed to get our work out there and truly make a difference?
    My recent post Kitchen Nightmares

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/totai m_covington

    Some of my key takeaway quotes from the conference:

    – "You have to have something unique & valuable if you want to get a premium price." ~ Bob Pritchett, Logos
    – "Dive into these new waves (verticals), because if you don’t someone else is going to steal your entire business." ~ Bob Carlton, Libre Digital
    – "The consumer is saying "if you don't give me what I want, I'll consume some other media." "It's a competition for attention." ~ Bob Carlton, Libre Digital
    – "“The 12:1 ratio – promote other peoples’ stuff 12x to every 1x you promote something of your own.” ~ Chris Brogan
    – “New e-readers are fake Kindles, with dreary gray screens and then that “weird guy” from California gets up & talks about the iPad.” (loose quote) ~ Chris Brogan
    – “Transformation occurs in the margins.” ~ Dominique Raccah, SourceBooks
    – “The medium is not the message.” ~ Arianna Huffington
    – “Books don’t end in print or with the printed page, they are conversation starters.” ~ Arianna Huffington
    – “E” as we know it today will be obsolete in 5 years. It will be new and better." ~ Skip Pritchard, Ingram Content Group
    – On how it feels to be an author in the digital age “Tied to the front of a runaway train where the driver has suddenly had a heart attack.” ~ Philip Pullman via Peter Collingridge, Enhanced Editions

    My recent post "“The old law of an eye for an eye leaves everybody blind. It is immoral because it seeks to…"

  • liz@waterwriter.com

    I vote for "Self expression is the new entertainment." I am on the board for a start-up multi-discipline arts center which will stress participation by the general public – not just passively "looking" or "watching." People want the experience.
    Liz Rhodebeck