Monday, February 13, 2012

The Future is Here and it is in Jet Packs!!!

I was fortunate enough to attend the TOC Executive Roundtable held at Random House today (thank you to Cevin Bryerman of Publishers Weekly and Kat Meyer from TOC).   There were a lot of publishing people you would expect from execs to people on the tech side, but a good mix from the big NYC houses and a variety of publishers, packagers, niche publishers along with a number of related tech companies.  

The featured speaker was Eric Reis, author of the best selling The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Business.  Eric got the discussion going by stating that one of the inherent problems, not necessarily with publishing, but businesses today as whole, is we are efficiently building the wrong things.  Instead we need to efficiently figure out what to build in 1st place.   In other words, people are more engaged in the process and not the outcome.  They build a great product without a market for it.   There was a lot of spirited talk about the 'things' that were wrong with publishing or pondering what the 'solution' is for publishing and the dangers of complacency, hanging onto old models, etc....  Needless to say a lot of there was a good amount of debate and opinions being being shared.

Before I get too far, I want to state I normally abide by the advice of Mark Twain that it is better to keep one's mouth shut and let people think you are idiot than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.  Not heeding my normal reservations & acknowledging I am closer to a carny than a publisher as I run an event and I am not in the trenches of publishing - I will risk sticking my foot in my mouth to share my opinion from the conversation today.

I could go on endlessly (and some people did) about  the context of the challenges publishing is facing, but that is better left to real publishers.  What was so confounding was all the talk about revenue models, literacy challenges, platform delivery etc...trying to identify what is the 'real' issue publishing is facing.  To me it seemed as plain as could be - everything that was discussed today was a sales and marketing issue - nothing more and nothing less.   It is not as fundamental and complicated as people are making the challenges out to be.  People are trying to guess if the future is jet packs or if we are going to be teleporting things so everyone can place the right bet on which technology is THE one.  People are still going to go from point A to point B - it can be cars, trains, jet packs or a transporter just like people are going to read, it just so happens that it will be on a variety of devices, delivered by multiple methods as well as through good old fashioned paper books.  Technology is not the problem.  Good books have a market, they just have to be built efficiently, everything else is white noise. 

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