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 ©, Image #5391990

Photo courtesy of ©

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.)
  • 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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