I finally made it to a worthwhile publishing conference. I've written in the past about my ideal publishing conference, and I've attended a number of publishing industry shows that were a complete waste of time for me. I'm not in the market for a million dollar printer, offshore outsourcing or integrated inventory and contact management software. The only thing I want from a publishing event is information, and I'm always prepared to give in anticipation of receiving. That and I have a big mouth:-)
The 2008 Publishing Business Conference And Expo in New York City was a show I'd never been to before, put on by Publishing Executive and Book Business magazines. Thanks to a rare schedule conflict, I only made it in for a half a day, the second afternoon of the conference, but what I saw was enough to make me want to return. The mix of attendees was excellent, ranging from small publishers to large trade publishers, consultants, and people seriously involved in book production. The floor show was primarily taken up by printers and binders, many of whom catered to smaller publishers, or at least smaller print runs.
I only had time to sit in two sessions, but both were worthwhile. The first was titled "Digital Strategies: Getting the Most Bang for your Buck" with Laura Dawson presenting. Laura publishes The Big Picture newsletter, and showed an expertise in book industry systems. A good deal of the discussion turned on the practical application of ISBNs to ebooks, with the current industry position coming down on the side of assigning an ISBN to any text that a publisher wants cataloged for sale. I got involved in the discussion (from the floor) pointing out that Amazon offers a work around and reporting on some of my own ebook experiences. I didn't let slip that I know publishers who not only update books without changing the ISBN but actually change the copyright date as well, because I was afraid of giving her nightmares. It's clear that the traditional publishing industry bases their systems on the sanctity of ISBN numbers, while up-and-coming publishers just want to sell their books and ebooks, and the devil take the hindmost.
The second session I sat in was titled "Choosing and Implementing a New Content Management System" with Joeseph Bachana presiding. The panel discussion participants were Aiden Colie of Time Inc, Interactive and Larry Tunks of The Congressional Quarterly. I'd expected a hum-drum "why choose this platform" type lecture, like a dog-and-pony show for Joomla I'd attended a month or so ago. Instead, Joeseph led a very interesting discussion about the challenges and compromises involved in creating a large scale content management system, with Aiden and Larry offering real-life examples from their websites. In one case, the choices that the publisher made in adopting their content management system actually let them out-compete and acquire their chief competitor. None of the participants even hinted at the existence of a turn-key solution that could meet all the needs of a publisher, which may have come as a shock to some of the audience. These guys weren't selling dreams, they were talking turkey.
What I missed at the Publishing Business Conference was a chance to talk with people, because I literally ran in, walked the floor show, took the free lunch to eat in the first session and left from the second session directly to the train. However, I didn't come away empty handed, as you'll see in the video, shot on a fire escape for that New York City ambiance. I even arranged to have a loud truck drive by!