Tag Archives: FutureBook


As promised, a blog post about The Bookseller‘s FutureBook Hackathon which took place last weekend (14th and 15th June) at University City London, an event of which I had the amazing opportunity in volunteering at. IMG_20140614_155510

The Hackathon was the first to take place in all of the publishing sector’s long history. In retrospect, I would probably say it was long overdue; however, considering the vast surge in digital content and ebook technology in recent years, one could say that the Hackathon took place at about the right time. Issues have now been around long enough for people to start thinking more about the solutions. Certainly, it has given publishers a lot of food for thought in terms of how they will continue to deliver content in formats and models to satisfy consumer demand, and it has also given them time to contemplate what it is that they wish to focus on themselves.

The event was organised by Blake Brooks, Alice Ryan and Matthew Cashmore and what a fantastic event it was. Cashmore has commented that he  has never sat and heard such consistently good ideas in the whole ten years in which he’s been running hacks.

Alice Ryan and Matthew Cashmore get the Hackathon underway

Alice Ryan and Matthew Cashmore get the Hackathon underway

The weekend started with publishers posing challenges to the hackers and encouraging ways in which they can enhance the industry by creating solutions to the issues. One topic’s presence which surprised me was the topic of audiobooks. In my time completing my MA in publishing, alongside the internships I undertook, I can honestly say that I rarely heard the term ‘audiobook’ used. Not that it was an alien concept to me or anything, it just appeared as though with the massive demand for content and ebook technology, it seemed as though the audiobook was left behind. Other challenges talked of by speakers included the discoverability of books, the best use of data, automated content curation (because there are more exciting and interesting ways to suggest new books other than ‘other readers bought this’), and the best digital reimagination of print assets (with a focus on children’s). An hour and a half later with the publishers’ motivational speeches still ringing in hackers’ ears, the game to win £5k and create something amazing, is on…

In and amongst helping out, I had the chance to wander around and take a peek at some of the team’s ideas and various demos. Something which I found incredibly intriguing, was the use of conductive paint in a children’s book. With the aid of an electric board, some wires, a chip, an SD card and a human touch, said book produced sound from a mini speaker, thus sparking the idea that paper books can be interactive. A savvy piece on work aimed at children’s books, and if you ask me, a nod in the right direction of those parents who despise the idea of their children using an iPad in order to encounter an interactive book.

The afternoon entailed publisher workshops which, again included some interesting debates and were to encourage and help hackers to complete their projects.

Saturday workshops which took place

Saturday workshops which took place

The event ran throughout the night, with the submission deadline for projects being 1pm Sunday afternoon. Read here for all of the winners over each category. Possibly one of my favourite winners was: Book Monster, who created a search engine which enabled people to find a book purely on an advertisement they’d heard, when they couldn’t remember the title or author. Definitely a useful way in which to discover books. I do actually remember getting the tube back across London that evening and seeing a poster advertising a book a couple of times, but was unable to catch the title or the author. Certainly the projects showcased would definitely be highly useful in the publishing world.

The overall winner of the £5,000 prize, Voices, was announced on Thursday 19th June.

Voices aimed to connect people with audio by encouraging them to record their own audiobook clips, and be rated for their performance online.

With audio always being seen as the inferior within the rights family, new technology means that it can now be seen as a serious contender against other forms of publishing. Literograph, were the runners-up in the Hack, being awarded £1,000. The group created a widget to “sit on relevant news stories, so that readers interested in a story could click through to books on the subject and a means of buying them.” Sara Lloyd, communications and digital director at Pan Macmillan, stated: “I loved it for its simplicity and because it answers a real need, to embed curation and discovery into the online channels where readers already congregate.”

Overall, the event has proved to be a great success with many publishing professionals singing the praises of the 75 or so hackers which took part in the event. I wouldn’t be surprised if it becomes an annual occurrence. It certainly shows just how exciting the publishing industry is and the endless possibilities which are available in enhancing the sector for the future.

All information regarding the FutureBook Hack (some of which was used to help write this post) can be found on The Bookseller.

The battle of the future begins: FutureBook Hack

I think it’s quite safe to say that I’ve been out of the blogging-sphere for a while. While I’ve finally landed a full-time, salaried job (hurrah!!), admittedly not in publishing, I have definitely drifted away from the publishing world, and have since realised that it’s time to get firmly back into it again…

One of the most intriguing articles I’ve come across is that The Bookseller‘s The FutureBook will be hosting a ‘Hackathon‘ next month in which many of the industry’s major players: Pan Macmillan, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Penguin Random House and Faber & Faber, all of which are founders of the event, shall be attending. The initiative behind it comes from Simon Trewin (William Morris Endeavor). It is thought that such events have occurred in many different sectors in the past in which companies and businesses can come together and brainstorm solutions to issues concerning the industry. It is said that nothing like this has been taken on by the publishing industry in the past.

According to The Bookseller‘s article,  Trewin has stated that introducing new people and ideas to the industry will create a fresh perspective for the sector. He feels that the industry needs to take greater risks in order to continue to develop. If we are to look back to The Bookseller‘s FutureBook conference last November, Jamie Byng, Director at Canongate, stated that fewer books needed to be published each year, but a greater focus needed to be placed on those published.  He affirmed that by doing this it would mean that “greater care” would be put into those published.

If I were to think about it from my personal perspective: a Graduate who studied a Masters in Publishing, a self-confessed lover of books and reading, and as a young twenty-something looking to break into the industry; I feel that publishers may be right to reduce the number of books they publish. Certainly, it may be worth a trial. My only reasoning for this, is that with how fast the industry is currently moving, and how fast industries surrounding it (ie. technology and IT) are moving, surely it may be worth taking a little breather and focusing on change and development, one piece at a time? I know what you’re thinking… Bad idea, you’ll get left behind?

While I totally admit, I am no expert in the field – I mean, I don’t even currently work in the sector – I can only comment as an observer and as someone who intensively studied the industry for twelve months, publishers should take the risk to get it right. What I’ve learnt over the past two years of undertaking internships and completing the MA, is that the industry is continuously playing catch-up. Although, from what I have seen, they’re doing a great job! And if I look at this from a consumer’s point of view, I myself, have trouble keeping up with what’s out there. I mean, it took me a couple of years after Kindles were produced, to actually purchase one! (And giving in to one was tough enough). But I think I certainly realised that I needed to be open-minded, particularly when wanting to pursue a career in the field.

Stephen Page, the CEO of Faber, stated in last November’s FB conference, that the transition to digital was “comfortable”, however “more innovation was needed”. Michael Bhaskar, digital publishing director of Profile Books, reaffirmed this by saying “publishers had to define themselves better […] It is about filtering and amplifying content to add value. If you’re doing that you’re a publisher”. I must agree with this, publishers do need to define themselves better. What’s more is that they need to brand themselves more and become more recognised.

I remember attending the London Book Fair in 2013 and thinking about how exciting and intriguing it would be to tailor the Fair to consumers, the people who, at the end of the day bought the books and products in which they [the publishers] were trying to sell amongst themselves. I felt that if consumers knew more about the industry and publishers branded themselves more, surely this would encourage even more people to buy books and integrate with the sector?

Obviously, I am no expert, but the whole idea of the FutureBook Hack and the focus on taking the industry forward is certainly an interesting and exciting one, and it definitely gives me food for thought. I’ll be keeping tabs on this one!



William Morris Endeavor (WME) with support from the Centre for Publishing at the Department of Information Studies, University College London, Blackwell’s and Midas PR. The initiative for the hackathon came from WME’s Simon Trewin

Publishing metaphors

The Bookseller alongside its FutureBook blog recently posted about the Digital Minds conference which took place earlier today, starting this year’s London Book Fair.

Philip Jones reported that numerous metaphors were used to describe the current status of the publishing industry during the conference with the digital transformation of the industry being compared to climate change. Pan Macmillan’s digital director, Sara Lloyd, stated that while digital will pose a threat to certain parts of the business, others will survive and thrive.

I think my favourite was Neil Gaiman voicing that people within the book business need to be like dandelions, ‘spreading seeds and accepting that some will fall on stony ground’. He further reiterated that publishers need to try everything and accept that some things will fail and ‘fail better’. Keeping an open mind in this day and age is key and Gaiman stated that for the ‘dinosaurs’ in the industry, digital could end up making them extinct if they don’t adapt to survive. One of the positives that Gaiman highlighted was the fact that whatever was made would most likely be right, as publishers can make or break rules which are yet to be thought of.

Will Atkinson added that the digital age had slowed down in recent months stating ‘we are in the changing rooms at half time’. The recent articles in The Bookseller reporting the vast rise in print sales, shows that indeed the digital age is slowing down. I feel that the hype of Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD release at Christmas has died down somewhat. Whilst digital is still very active, I do not feel that ebooks are mentioned as much as they were a few months ago. I feel that it has reached a stage in its growth where most publishers have acknowledged what is happening in the industry and are adapting accordingly. Sara Lloyd also observed that particularly for self-publishers, they have adapted to the changes, and also voiced three Rs: Recognition of change in the industry, respect for one another and recycling of skills/resources as the world evolved. Certainly I believe that publishers have more respect for one another as they are ‘all in the same boat’. There has been an influx of mergers over the past few months as many publishers/other related companies are joining forces to get through this ‘climate change’ in order to stay afloat.

I also feel that publishing houses across the Trade and Academic sphere have definitely recognised that they need to change. In addition, booksellers have also embraced the change, with obvious examples of Amazon’s Kindle creation and the fact that Waterstones are also selling its competitors’ devices in their stores.

The publishing sector is definitely an interesting place to be at the moment. Who knows what else 2013 could bring…

Mixed Metaphors – FutureBook, digital blog from The Bookseller

Digital Minds: Industry must try more, fail betterThe Bookseller