7x20x21 and Digital Book World

It’s taken me a full week to digest everything I learned at Digital Book World. Word was the attendance was double last year’s, and priced to attract more senior management and executive-level staff. (This was also the most common reply I heard from colleagues who couldn’t make it: too expensive.)

First off: There was an astonishing low level of stupidity at DBW. This in itself is rare for any conference that tries to program “next steps” and “the future of publishing.” (Quotes made up by me.) From the CEO panel to the Monday workshops, everyone was on point and abreast of the myriad changes in the industry. (Can you tell me the difference between Book Perk, Book Sneeze and Book Lust?)

You can't tell, but 90 people in this photo are cursing the slow wifi.

Second: what were the big ideas of 2011? Were there any dramatic, buzzed about announcement like the eBook Summit’s Broadcastr demo? …Not really.

Sriram Panchanathan of Aptara was probably the most thought-provoking with his ideas for the “Beyond the Ebook: What’s Possible?” panel. He points to HTML5 and EPUB3’s capabilities for creating bookstores within each ebook: imagine reading a how-to guide for installing a bookshelf, and you’ve forgotten whether to drill on or around the stud. Download this small bit of content for a pittance and voila. (See Spotify for this kind of micropayment precedent in the music industry.)

Additionally, Panchanathan channeled Monday’s Email Marketing workshop when he said ebooks will become increasingly personalized and customized. If the reader’s comfortable with tying CRM data into the editorial product – I’m thinking reference books here – the possibilities are great. I think I actually stroked my chin in appreciation during his presentation.

At the same panel Matthew Cavnar of Vook hypothesized, half-jokingly, that ebook enhancements in 2011 are where website design was in 1995 (remember all those animated gifs littering your Geocities page?). Everyone defaults to the same toolset for how to make their ebooks “better”: video, audio, content extras, social marginalia. I don’t think this comes from a lack of imagination–Eliza Daly‘s EPUB3 demo disproves this–but rather a disconnect between what publishers want to do, what ebook readers would like, and the massive gap between the two enabled by ereaders.

Oh, and 7x20x21 was awesome. Over 500 people in attendance! Thanks to our excellent presenters Evan Ratliff (The Atavist), Sarah Wendell (Smart Bitches Trashy Books), Alex de Campi, Rebecca Smart, Dean Johnson (Brandwidth), and Frank Rose (“The Age of Immersion”).

The view from backstage.

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