Publishing, but not as we know it

Eoin Purcell

A screenshot of SCD Library Website

A screenshot of SCD Library Website

Hopes & Dreams
I went to Children’s Books Ireland’s talk on Thursday 11th June on the future: Publishing but not as we know it | ebooks, digital publishing and children’. Aside from the very minor quibble, that the panel had no publisher (odd given the topic) it was nonetheless by far the most interesting group assembled to talk about the topic that I have seen for some time in Ireland.

I arrived late and so missed Samatha Holman of the Irish Copyright Licensing Agency who I have seen talk recently about Google and possess probably the best understanding of Copyright law (both national and international) in Ireland. This added greatly to the discussion because it enabled her to cut through the hopes, dreams and wishes right down to the what was allowed and what had yet to be agreed, always useful when discussing the future!

I also missed Peadar Ó Guilín which annoyed me, as I found his contributions to the discussion after the main talks, fascinating, even if he seemed an evangelist for no longer needing publishers*. If I have him wrong, I’ll apologize.

Two other panelists really fascinated me too. The first was speaking as I arrived, John McNamee, President European Booksellers Federation spoke about the challenges of bookselling in the future and spoke of a vision where he sold the customer the intellectual property for a fee and then asked what format he would prefer it in. Seems a nice idea, though my gut told me that it wouldn’t work at a decentralized level and would work at a much more central level. But then, being proved wrong on that one, would be a bonus.

By far the most revelatory though was the South County Dublin Librarian, Georgina Byrne. She revealed the extent of their download services something its seems that has floated beneath the radar of nearly everybody in Irish publishing (certainly non-one has ever mentioned it to me).

They have partnered with Overdrive and now deliver up to 3000 titles in ebook and audio book form to members via their download zone.

If you like paper and love paper books then the message Georgina had to share was a depressing one. Children love the libraries Tumblebooks service which offers children’s books online. And, if you listen, read an watch one, you can see why. I tried Dinotrain and it is fun!

As Samantha Holamn said during the discussion, the panel and teh subsequent discussion was by far the best she had attended because it looked forward and I think that was due in large part to Oisín McGann who chaired the event quick wonderfully offering his well considered contributions and links out to funny and informative videos throughout.

I’ve left numerous side issues out but needless to say there was much discussion on Agents, Publishers, Contracts, Google, a little about Amazon, Scribd and a little about revenue models and changing cultural norms. It was a shame I had to leave so quickly when it ended I’d have liked to discuss some of the issues more with the panelists. Still, a thoroughly thought provoking evening.
Eoin

* It always amazes me that people would relish the disappearance of publishers wholesale. Yes some publishers might not be excellent and sometimes working relationship have become strained or just plain broken, but surely as an industry over the lifetime of their existence, publishers have been more than simply blood suckers?

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6 comments

  1. Hi Eoin:
    This sounds like a dream conference. I’m especially intrigued to hear/read more from Samatha Holman, as in almost every recent conversation about the now and future of publishing, copyright law in the global and digital age is the one thing that no one knows enough about.

    To a large degree, Overdrive and the ebook offerings of libraries are flying under the mainstream radar in America as well. I’m sort of aware of these issues, and I didn’t know until a few months ago that our local county library system has been partnered with Overdrive since 2002.

    Thanks for a great post. It’s really enlightening to hear what’s happening in other parts of the publishing world.

    1. Kat,

      Thanks for the comment and the sentiment.

      I was frankly amazed by the forward looking nature of the Librarians! I’m looking forward to digging more and finding out more.

      Samantha knows so much it’s scary, but exceptionally useful, because as you say, the conversation tends to happen in a void of knowledge about what can legally happen and when the copyright law of a particular jurisdiction is headed!
      Eoin

  2. I downloaded some audiobooks before christmas with the overdrive thingy from South Dublin libraries and listened to them while I was wrapping (which can get very boring) and cooking. I couldn’t save them to my Mp3 player/phone so I had to use my laptop but they were very good. YOu can have them for 10 days I think

    1. I think I’m going to give it a try, the on;y audio books I’ve listened to to date are Seth Godin business books that don’t really need to be digested in long chunks.

      I’m worried though, I love sitting reading with news radio on in the background, I’d lose that with audio books! Not sure it’ll work, for me that is!

      Eoin

  3. Hi Eoin,
    I’m glad you had a good time. I’d like to make clear that I am not an anti-publisher evangelist by any stretch and that I have benefitted enormously by my own association with a great publisher.

    However, I am just trying to point out an enormous problem their part of the industry is going to have down the road. I.e., what value can they add in a future of non-paper books? Agents have slipped a little into an editor’s role already, for example.

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