TOC 2012 Conference Roundup

This time last week I was down at the Tools for Change for Publishing Conference in New York, having a whole lot of information jammed into my head. Not all of it is new, but there are certainly some new thoughts and ideas, and several new directions and developments based on the results of experiments over the last year. In any case, I’ve collected up a few of the main themes and concepts below, with links back to the slides or videos you may want to take a look at. I’ll apologize now for the number of links—this is just that kind of blog post.

Agile for Publishing

Agile was the big buzzword of this year’s TOC conference. A concept from software development that has moved out to project management and general product development, Agile is a method of going out to your consumers with a minimum viable product, getting feedback on the product, implementing improvements, then releasing an improved product based on that feedback. Then you start the cycle over again, with a focus on keeping the feedback/improvement loop running in short intervals. How can this concept apply to publishing?

Bookigee’s Kristen McLean had some thoughts on applying Agile methodologies to publishing workflows, along with some thoughts on how to test implementation within the parameters of an existing publishing house. Later, Dominique Raccah, Publisher of Sourcebooks, and Joe Wikert from O’Reilly Media participated in a panel discussion moderated by Brett Sandusky of Macmillan New Ventures on Real World Agile Publishing to talk about their own experiences and experiments. Finally, startup guru and author Eric Ries gave a keynote talk on his experience with developing his book The Lean Startup using Agile techniques.

E-Book Library Lending

It’s been a tough year for libraries and e-books. Barbara Genco from Library Journal / School Library Journal addressed the issue head-on in her opening keynote. If you have an interest in what’s happening in the library space, it’s well worth watching her presentation for the data presented from the Patron Profiles study Library Journal conducted with Bowker PubTrack on borrowing vs purchasing behaviour for both print and e-books. This was followed up by a panel discussion on alternative models for libraries, and a closing keynote by Andrew Savikas showing some results for the Safari Books Online’s subscription model.

E-Book Creation, Formats, and Workflow

EPUB 3, KF8, iBooks Author, it was all there. There are some cool new tools like Inkling’s authoring tool and Wolfram’s interactive CDF (Computational Document Format) file format and associated creation tools. For those that like to see a e-book code in action, have a look at Digital Bindery’s EPUB 3 slides—you’ll find lots of great code snippets in the slides, plus they have a list of some of their favourite tools and a sample EPUB 3 file on their website that you can break apart. O’Reilly’s e-book team showed some great slides of their e-book workflow (have a look at slide 11), showing how they tweak and adapt their original XML file to produce all the individual file formats.

“Big Data”

It’s no secret that we love data here at BNC, and there was lots of love for data of all types at TOC. So much so, that’s it’s not longer just data, but Big Data—we have so much data available: point of sale, social media analytics, web analytics, geolocation data—and it’s critical to make sense out of all the information and use it! Roger Magoulas showed the O’Reilly data dashboard they have built to make sense of all the various data points, and Kristen McLean (Bookigee) and Kelly Gallagher (RR Bowker) argued for a model that combines different data sets, such as point of sale and consumer research, to move beyond a limited view of discovery simply meaning “consumers finding my book”, and actually enable discovery at all levels of the publishing ecosystem.

All the keynotes and interviews are available to be viewed on the O’Reilly TOC 2012 YouTube channel. But if you’ve read this far, you deserve the direct link to LeVar Burton’s opening keynote. Go ahead, have an encounter with a book! If you want the full conference experience, you can even start out the way we did, with this clip of Jimmy Fallon (as Jim Morrison) performing the Reading Rainbow theme.