Many of the speakers at the Devices and Desires conference program on Friday re-enforced ideas that have gone around the publishing industry for a long while now and did not bring much that was new or couldn’t be previously deduced by technology-aware book industry players. While there are open-minded players in the industry who applauded loudly the ideas and suggestions placed before them, after having witnessing firsthand the vehement resistance to change and progression that exists within many of the publishers that were present at the conference—let alone those who were simply disengaged—I can understand why speakers feel the need to reiterate the same ideas over and over again in their blogs and speaking engagements related to the book industry.
The day began with a high-level discourse from university and college professor Alex Manu. The main idea behind Alex’s presentation was to encourage the exploration of technology as a means to deliver the messages publishers wish to disseminate because it’s there, it’s available, and the next generation—the people we need to begin marketing to—is embracing it wholeheartedly. Alex’s message was not necessarily that the book is going to disappear; the point was simply that with so many new avenues to communicate, it is suicide not to take advantage. I found Alex’s speech inspiring and enjoyable, and hoped it gave a more academic argument for publishers to consider the possibilities for the future of publishing.
This theme continued throughout most of the day. The rest of the presenters gave specific examples of how to market books in new and interesting ways, why publishers should use Web 2.0 social networking applications to promote their books, etc. etc. etc.—we’ve heard it all since Tim O’Reilly first coined the term.
The afternoon workshops were interesting—I attended Marketing to Youth with Mike D’Abramo and The Creative Problem Solver with Catherine Graham which, while each quite interesting and holding their own benefits for me, I had difficulty relating back to the theme of books merging with technology. However, that perhaps was not the point so much as the new perspectives and insight I gained by having sat in on workshops that were slightly less focused on the book industry.
After the workshops, the entire audience returned to the main room for a few more speakers. I particularly enjoyed Sarah McNally’s quiet speech explaining how she manages to engage and maintain patronage at her independent bookstore in New York through many events, spaciousness, and lots of seating areas. There is still a role for independent bookstores in the future of the book, and this was a great introduction to Michael’s speech on Super Saturday concerning how book retailers can continue to grow in the currently hurting market.