London Book Fair’s ‘Digital Minds’ Keep Heading Offshore

iStockphoto / ulisse_1
iStockphoto / ulisse_1

After All, After All

The idea of the industry! the industry! of publishing being a global one isn’t new. Our largest trade shows — London Book Fair, BookExpo America, Frankfurt Book Fair — have always been internationally, not least thanks to their rights and translation centers and special-guest-nation programs.

It’s interesting now, though, to see conferences at and around those shows picking up on the trend.

This infographic was produced by ebook subscription service Scribd for the London Book Fair's 'Publishing for Digital Minds' conference's Virtual Stream program.
This infographic was produced by ebook subscription service Scribd for the London Book Fair’s ‘Publishing for Digital Minds’ conference’s Virtual Stream program.

Even the author corps is taking a wider view now as outfits like Novelists Inc. stage a full-day “First Word” program in October focused expressly on independent writers’ needs and interests in international markets.

In the near term, London’s Publishing for Digital Minds conference on 13th April is the first to arrive. Live coverage begins that Monday at 9 a.m. BST (British Summer Time) / 4 a.m. Eastern, and will continue to day’s end at 6 p.m. BST. We’ll hashtag it #PDMC15, on Twitter, and hope you’ll follow along when you can.

In an unusual move, the conference — held at Olympia London, to which LBF15 itself is moving this year — will feature an international live-tweet desk.

Normally my own live-tweeting is a solo flight, but this time — according to Midas PR’s Chris McCrudden — I’ll be joined by associates working the live desk in French, German, Danish, Spanish, Portuguese and Mandarin. (Imagine the typos we can generate.)

And the programming itself, under the direction of Reed’s Orna O’Brien, includes several pointedly international segments including the Copyright Clearance Center’s Michael Healy speaking on “Digital Sharing: Protecting Copyright Around the World” and “Global Market Snapshots” featuring China and Norway.

The full program is here, in PDF.

Digital Minds’ most extensive international effort, however, was held in March, when #LBF15 produced a “Virtual Stream” comprising eight hours of international programming.

The numbers are impressive from this “Around the World in 8 Hours” event, as it was called.

O’Brien has reported that more than 350 people signed up to engage in the free event.

On the day itself, the 18th of March, “We generated 17.8 million impressions,” she says, “and reached 882,188 people on Twitter alone.
“Involvement came from 160 locations,” she reports, “from Tanzania to Argentina. ”

The program’s design was interesting, in that it utilized not only Twitter but also Google Hangouts and LinkedIn.

The highest engagement levels were detected in India, Malaysia and the States (where it was things got off to a start at about 5 a.m. Eastern time).

Interviewees and correspondents were drawn from China, Australia, Malaysia, India, Germany, Mexico and the US.

Surprises From The Indian Markets

Thomas Abraham
Thomas Abraham

My role in all this was concentrated in 90 minutes of live interview work on Twitter from India.

We started with Thomas Abraham, managing director of Hachette India. Abraham was just about able to stop the show with this information on the size of the potential e-reading telephone market:

As for digital-reading’s penetration of the market, the books being read are “overwhelmingly print,” Abraman said, “with ebooks” on the whole “constituting about 10 percent of our sales. Essentially, the average ebook contribution,” Abraham said, “remains at about three to five percent, but publishers with range have a higher percentage. Hachette India, of course is one of those “publishers with range.”

Remarkably, Abraham told me, “There has been a drop of more than 30 percent in bookstore shelf space because of stores closing. This is a serious contraction,” and one well understood in the West where trends of this kind are regarded with real anxiety.

Hemali Sodhi
Hemali Sodhi

And Hemali Sodhi, director of children’s content with Penguin Random House India, gave us all a “shut-my-mouth” moment, as we say in the US Deep South, when I asked her how the prospects for children’s and YA material look for India:

Self-publishing, Sodhi said, “is a big market here’ and has grown multifold.” There are no exact numbers — similar to the data dearth we see in the States and the UK, as well — but “self-publishing is building scale,” she said.

Indeed, the runaway bestselling Shiva Trilogy author Amish Tripathi was my next interview from India, and his story includes his initial self-publication with the help of his agent of 5,000 copies of the first book of the trilogy in order to attract the attention of a publishers.

There’s more on that part of the Virtual Stream day in a story about that interview, ‘Take Charge of Your Own Book’: Writing a Personal God, at Writer Unboxed.

More such international insights are on tap for 13th April and the audience can expect that global energy only to expand as London Book Fair opens on the 14th with Mexico as its special international guest nation. TC mark

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