Last night I had about as much fun as you can have at a publishing event without taking your clothes off (although I did see some suspect tweets about imagining the audience naked).
BookMachine, sponsored by Unite, hosted a huge birthday bash to celebrate five years of events in the publishing industry. With a thought-provoking and engaging talk from George Walkley, we cast our minds forward to contemplate what the next five years could hold in such a fluid and adaptive industry.
Taking inspiration from the infamous Donald Rumsfeld quote, George explored some of our industry knowns and unknowns in 2020. He suggested that we can be confident that, while consumption patterns may change, our basic human desires will not; entertainment and education are still going to be the driving force behind the industry for many years to come. He argued that not only is there a place for publishing in 2020, there’s a place for publishing in 2120 too – just not in the capacity we know it today.
While we cannot truly predict the consumer preferences of the future, we can certainly prepare for the continued growth of digital – technology definitely isn’t going away. Innovation is a long term process that has to be constantly moving forwards in order to be successful but at the moment publishing is too short term, only peaking round the corner of the next season.
Foreseeing a broadly mixed economy of print and ebooks in 2020, George also commented that self-publishing has become a complete unknown due to the huge gap in the figures.
After George’s session, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to interview publishers and other industry professionals, discussing their vision of the future and broadcasting a live steam on Periscope. It was such a fun experience that allowed me not only to meet some wonderful people, but also engage in lots of interesting and insightful conversations. The general consensus? It’s impossible to know. Many people shared their hopes and wishes for the future of our industry and others simply just couldn’t say. The interviews are still available on Periscope (@fireflyreads) if you’d like to catch up!
As for me, my vision of the future is an enormous increase in the diversity of the literature we commission, produce and publish. As a YA and fantasy reader, I’ve seen a number of campaigns spring up over the years in support of diversity and I can only hope that their small successes can translate into big wins by 2020. This isn’t just a problem in the publishing industry, however, and I feel that as society as a whole becomes more aware of the injustice this lack of diversity brings, we will begin to rectify it in more constructive and positive ways.
In any case, the landscape of publishing will certainly look very different in 2020. We may not be able to gaze into a crystal ball and see exactly what’s coming, but making our future bright begins with the choices we make today, tomorrow, next week and next month.
I had a wonderful time at the BookMachine event and loved making so many new connections. It was great to meet even more of my MA Publishing cohort too! Let me know if you’ll be attending the next BookMachine/Unite event on 27th October – I’d love to meet you there!
@BookMachine @UnitetheUnion @UniteLE7064E @walkley