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Knowledgespeak Exclusive: An interview with Joe Wikert, Conference Co-Chair, Tools of Change for Publishing - 08 Feb 2012

Q

Knowledgespeak: Briefly talk about the forthcoming Tools of Change (TOC) for Publishing Conference highlighting key topics that will be addressed? Please share with us any interesting events / trends that you expect to see in the Conference

A

Joe Wikert: Our theme for TOC NY 2012 is Change/Forward/Fast. The reason we chose that theme is that change is all around us, but we want to challenge attendees to determine how much they're *embracing* change in their own organizations. Experimentation is another key component of this. We want to encourage attendees to do as much digital content experimentation as possible. That includes content acquisition, development, distribution and pricing; all are worthy experiments in the current environment. I feel 2012 is an important turning point for conferences like TOC. There's far more practical advice and lessons learned that can be shared now. In the previous years there was a great deal of pie-in-the-sky talk of what might be or what could happen. We're seeing enormous growth rates of digital content, platforms and devices and TOC is a gathering of many of the best change agents in our industry.


Q

Knowledgespeak: E-book readers are getting more interest now in the academic market. According to you, how can device independence and mobility help e-book growth?

A

Joe Wikert: If by device independence you mean digital content format that work on any device and are DRM-free then yes, I believe these are critical to our industry's growth. That's not just the case for the academic market either, btw. I wrote an article for Publishers Weekly recently that talks more about this. In short, we need to take a page out of the music industry's playbook and not only abolish DRM but also come together as an industry to provide one common format that can be used across all devices.


Q

Knowledgespeak: Lately, we have seen that new leaders are emerging with the vision to adapt or change their business models to embrace the opportunities created by the social web and the cloud. What are the implications of these generational changes in technology and online networks? Do you see the TOC Conference as a venue for sharing information about these changes?

A

Joe Wikert: I think far too many leaders in our industry have dismissed social as trendy or not applicable to book publishing. They're making a huge mistake by ignoring the social media. I've heard the excuse that "reading is a solitary activity" and that Facebook/Twitter have no place in a book. The problem is they're looking at it all wrong. It's not a simple case of trying to splice Facebook into the activity of reading a book. It's all about creating a seamless experience where your friends can make recommendations to you in that reading environment and you can share excerpts with them without ever leaving the app. Then there's the in-book notes that can and should be passed among friends. I'm seeing startups who are implementing this sort of feature but the bigger players are still on the sidelines.


Q

Knowledgespeak: You have an interesting panel of speakers lined-up for the conference. Can you give our readers some highlights from the schedule?

A

Joe Wikert: I need to give props to my fellow conference chair, Kat Meyer, for the bulk of this. She's invested countless hours in bringing together all the great speakers from several different areas of publishing. We deliberately focused on speakers who have real world results and data to share with the audience. Attendees will hear from speakers who are on the cutting edge of digital content development at both startups and established publishing houses. I'm particularly excited that we've laid out three different tracks this year: Manage, Make and Market. The Manage track is aimed at leaders of an organization and those sessions typically fly at the 30K foot level. The Make track is targeted more at the implementers. These are the editorial and production people who roll their sleeves up and make the products happen. Lastly, the Market track is for sales and marketing professionals who want to learn the latest in distribution and discoverability.


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