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Knowledgespeak Exclusive: An interview with Joe Wikert, Conference Co-Chair, Tools of Change for Publishing - 07 Feb 2013

Q

Knowledgespeak: O'Reilly Media is set to host the Tools of Change for Publishing Conference. Can you share with us any interesting events / trends that you expect to see during the event?

A

Joe Wikert: Our theme this year is "Connect, Explore, Create". What we're finding is that consumers are starting to want their ebooks to behave like other digital products and that includes connectivity, not stand-alone content. Discovery is also an enormous issue in the ebook world, and that's where "explore" comes into play. The digital revolution has led to more new publications each year than ever before. As that rate increases the discovery problem only gets worse. Lastly, more and more consumers are also becoming content creators. That's what's driving the self-publishing movement. We're helping meet the needs of this audience by launching our first Author Revolution Day at TOC NY 2013.


Q

Knowledgespeak: O'Reilly Media's Tools of Change and Publishers Weekly recently launched a new conference called Author (R)evolution Day. Can you briefly talk about this conference-within-a-conference that will debut during the TOC conference in New York City?

A

Joe Wikert: Great lead-in above… :-) Yes, as noted earlier, self-publishing is the hottest area of our industry right now. The problem is most industry conferences are aimed at the publishing professional, someone who can afford to spend $1,000 and be out of the office for 2 or 3 days. That's not the self-publishing world. We realize we need to address this space differently, so we've built a one-day event that runs the day before the main TOC event and is aimed at the author community. Some of the topics we cover in the main TOC event are the same but we've crafted a program with speakers who know this part of the market and can help authors learn the ropes.


Q

Knowledgespeak: The need for better discoverability of books and the role of metadata in enhancing such discovery has been increasingly emphasized by librarians and publishers. Could you tell our readers the key topics that TOC will cover on metadata and discovery for enhancing the sales of books?

A

Joe Wikert: I feel metadata is only one part of the solution. We can have the best metadata in the world and still not solve the discovery problem. What's really needed are better recommendation engines. Today we're seeing recommendations based on a few characteristics (e.g., what you've bought before, what your friends like, etc.). In reality, we need to combine many metrics to drive better results. I've talked before about how I'd be fine with a recommendation engine monitoring my online habits throughout the day. This means capturing my tweets, my Facebook likes/posts, my Gmail activity, which websites I visit, what I click on, etc. That scares privacy advocates but I think that's what we'll need to create better discovery.


Q

Knowledgespeak: The open data concept is gaining momentum in the scholarly community. Open data and open application programming interfaces are seen to offer huge opportunities, especially for research and innovation. Your comments on that?

A

Joe Wikert: "Open" is one of my favorite words and an overarching theme for not just TOC but O'Reilly in general. We're all about supporting open standards, formats, platforms, etc. We're seeing too many walled gardens erected in the industry today and that's going to impact future growth and innovation.


Q

Knowledgespeak: At TOC NY 2012, you made a point of telling attendees the need to learn the essentials of “big data,” which was a fairly new concept then. TOC NY will continue the dialog this year. What difference has a year made? Are publishers today ready to embrace big data?

A

Joe Wikert: I don't think we've seen the impact of big data yet. That said, other industries have and publishing will follow suit. I encourage you to attend the Turning Big Data into Big Opportunity session we have scheduled next week. There you'll hear more about how big data is being used in other media industries and what it's likely to lead to in publishing.


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