Our Tools of Change (TOC) conference took another global step forward this past weekend as we held our first event at the Bologna Children's Book Fair. Both Publishers Weekly and Publishing Perspectives wrote terrific summaries of TOC Bologna but I thought I'd take a few minutes to pass along my own observations:
I loved keynoter (and Nosy Crow chief) Kate Wilson's thoughts on how an ebook should be a "living, breathing, evolving thing with third-party input." What a huge step forward that is from the world of static print books!
Kate also reminded the audience about the difference between the impulse purchase potential of brick-and-mortar stores and how that's so lacking in the largely destination purchase online world. It sparked a number of comments throughout the day about just how bad discoverability is in the iTunes App Store. Whoever solves this problem will be a hero to many.
One last plug for Nosy Crow... It's wonderful that their digital products feature in-app user feedback. They're actively encouraging their customers to tell them what they like or dislike, all from within the product itself. Sure, there are other apps that do this but Kate Wilson made it clear this feature is as important as anything else in the app.
Marie-Adele Murray of Winged Chariot noted how app icons are the new book cover. Stop and think about that for a bit and consider how it affects your branding message. How do you condense a visual from what's usually at least 5x8 inches into something smaller than a postage stamp? And if you have a series of products that lend themselves to a simple visual representation, do you still have enough room to distinguish one from the other in their app icons? The best example I've seen of this is with a few different travel guide series in the iTunes App Store. One series might have a graphic of an airplane on all their icons and each title is differentiated by the three-letter airport code for that destination. Simple and effective, but how many other products lend themselves to something so intuitive?
Sara Berliner of ScrollMotion talked about the importance of cross-platform content development. As she put it, "consumers want to know they can find your content anywhere." Yes! That's precisely why I buy my ebooks from Amazon and not Apple. I know that if I abandon my iPad/iPhone combo for something else my Kindle library won't be locked into Apple's hardware platform. Amazon was smart to offer Kindle reading apps for all popular platforms, but what about all those apps you're creating for either iOS or Android?... What happens if HP's webOS or Microsoft's Windows 7 become the dominant platforms? Amazon is covered but how many others will be?
I almost missed Joe Schick's talk about the Blio platform...I'm glad I didn't. Blio is an e-reader app (not a hardware platform) that's currently available only for Windows. Additional platforms will be offered shortly. The app renders PDFs and EPUB files and although that doesn't exactly sound newsworthy, I see an application for this that I mentioned to Joe after his session: Blio could be a terrific white-label option to any publisher who hasn't yet implemented their own direct ecommerce solution. Don't laugh. There are way too many publishers out there who still are not selling their ebooks directly. If you're one of them you should check out Blio.
Another popular topic, the debate about DRM, was discussed several times throughout the day. Brian O'Leary of Magellan Media covered the results of some of his recent research showing that there's no correlation between piracy and whether or not a book is DRM-free. In fact there are quite a few digital versions of books floating around out there that were never offered as ebooks to begin with. Publishers, stop punishing your customers with DRM!! Brian also made an excellent point about how piracy often indicates a demand for your content resulting from the fact that people can't get it locally in a legal manner.
The trio of O'Reilly's Kat Meyer, the Bologna Book Fair's Roberta Chinni and Winged Chariot's Neal Hoskins did an excellent job on this outstanding event. I can't wait for next year's TOC here. On top of all that, the food was excellent and the weather was perfect!