FutureBook Live 2018 FutureBook 40 survey

‘People, not tech’ Trade’s digital leaders optimistic for future

Tis year saw the coronation of 40 book industry professionals whose groundbreaking and innovative work has caught the eye. What do they see in publishing’s near future?

Molly Flatt @mollyflatt T

his year saw the launch of our inau- gural FutureBook 40 list: a roll-call of people doing some of the most

interesting book-related innovation in the UK. From podcasters to marketers, authors to entrepreneurs, these are the individuals help- ing to broaden the horizons of the industry… so it seemed mad not to ask them for their thoughts on what’s coming up.

First, the good news. Over half of this small but powerful communit are tentatively optimistic about the future of the book trade (28% are very excited; 14% hopeful but worried; and none of them, reassuringly, are terrified). And when asked to name the most innovative thing they’ve seen in publishing in the past year (that they haven’t worked on), that tentative optimism tipped into the glowing kind. From the campaign for Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris’ The Lost Words (Hamish Hamilton) to the creation of The Good Literary Agency, from podcasting partnerships to pop-up literary dinners, there was no shortage of suggestions for inspiring projects. As for a theme? Pan Macmillan’s Sara Lloyd got it in one when she commented: “innovation is about people, not tech”. There was also, however, a consensus that

technology still had some valuable disrup- tions to come. Asked which emerging tech had the potential to shake up the sector in the next five years, 29% of respondents agreed that voice was the most likely candidate, with AI/ machine learning appearing in second place. The bad news? When asked for the greatest innovation red herrings in the industry right now, the pickings were worryingly rich. From AR, to blockchain, to “so-called book apps”, no buzzword was leſt unscathed. Prolifiko’s

04 9th November 2018


Bec Evans summed up the mood when she asserted that “the biggest red herrings are around new technology. Real innovation that will ensure the survival of the industry has to be around business models, ownership of rights and Open Access.” For all the hype, it looks like even the most free-thinking publishing pioneers are reluctant to venture beyond traditional formats: 57% of respondents hadn’t read a single “unconventional” book in the past year—be it cross-platform, interactive or a digital-physical hybrid—and even the most open-minded consumed fewer than 10. Ouch. Finally, when it comes to faster and more successful experimentation, the stumbling blocks are all too familiar. A third of our group reported that lack of investment is the main barrier, followed a paucit of relevant skills.

Looking ahead

So what are the FutureBook 40’s suggestions to fill the innovation gap? Well, a spot of individual up-skilling would help. Some 20% of respondents reported a desire to person- ally boost their leadership skills in order to improve the future of their company, while 20% would like to improve their coding prow- ess. Marketing and audio production were also singled out as areas where more training would pay off.

Te biggest red herrings are around new technology. Real innovation... has to be around business models, ownership of rights and Open Access Bec Evans, Prolifiko

When it comes to achieving organisa- tion-level change, the message was clear. Collaboration across creative industries was the number one business tactic our leaders believed could most improve their current way of working. Closely related, and almost as popular, was a chance to work with entre- preneurial partners, while 14% craved more nimble internal experimentation processes. In other words, bringing in outside perspec- tives and expertise is considered essential for any publisher wanting to innovate. As for how to boost your own innovation mojo? Try reading a few of the books inspiring our FutureBook 40 right now: Move Fast and Break Things by Jonathan Taplin (Litle, Brown), Information Doesn’t Want to be Free by Cory Doctorow (McSweeney’s), Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath (Penguin) and Ours to Hack and to Own by Trebor Scholz and Nathan Schneider (OR Books).

Feed back

Don’t forget to let us know what you think of the #FutureBook40 list and discussions on Twitter, before, during and after this year’s conference, by tweeting us @TheFutureBook.

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