What’s the future of books? Time for publishers to embrace the potential of data to drive more intelligent growth

November 19, 2018

You can download my opening session here: Future Book Forum 2018

Who is the most profitable company in the music industry? Sony or EMI you might suggest, but be a decade out of date. Apple or Spotify might be the smarter choice in a digital world. Instagram or Youtube would be a thoughtful option. But the answer is Live Nation. As the music world is transformed by digital download and streaming business models, it is actually the physical experiences that do best. So much so that digital formats are largely used to promote rock concerts where the perceived value soars, as do prices and revenues.

Changing world of books

So what is the analogy for books? The parallels are quite obvious. The old world of standardised print books, challenged by the less polished world of ebooks was just the beginning of change. The real transformation comes when physical and digital formats work together, and in particular when we use the power of digital technologies to make physical experiences much more valuable. More personal, more participative, and more profitable. The printed book is not dead, but it can be reinvented in smarter and more valuable forms.

Netflix takes us a step further. Like the disruptive power of platform-based business models in other worlds – Airbnb or Amazon, Surfair or Uber – bringing suppliers (or content) together with consumers (or readers). At the heart of these approaches, lies data. Huge quantities of data about consumer behaviour. And from the this, algorithmic models enable us to profile and predict the preferences of what people want. For Netflix this becomes recommendations, movies shaped to perfection, and infinite personalisation. For books it can mean the same.

Data can transform the book publishing industry. Not just consumer data, but all forms of data from across supply and distribution. It enables us to become intelligent in every aspect of our activities, and to develop smarter business models that harness it in new ways. Developing books – from author to content, title to pricing – designed around a target audience, managing print runs and stock for optimal efficiency, targeting promotions and availability to specific audiences and events. It’s time to think radically about how to get data, interpret it, and effectively use it.

Innovative book publishing

Indeed there is a whole new generation of book disruptors utilising digital platforms with new business models to sell physical and digital, transactional and relational, book concepts  from Bookmate (the social ebook app) to Blinkist (read any book in 15 minutes on your phone), Bookabees (a subscription-based children’s book club with toys and activities) to Booksquisite Box (3 Japanese books in a box, plus 6-8 surprise accessories), Perlego (“the Spotify of learning”) and Reading in Heals (for women who “love reading, love post and love surprises).

So what is the future of books?

Over the last 4 years, the Future Book Forum has come a long way as both a physical meeting – inspiring and interactive – but also as a community of book publishers, printers and partners. In 2014 we developed a vision for a future industry shaped by technology and our imaginations, and enhanced this in 2015 by reframing it from a consumer perspective, to meet changing aspirations and behaviours. In 2016 we explored the business models that are reshaping every industry, including our own, and last year we defined the DNA of a smarter, future book.

“Intelligent Growth” is all about technology and data to drive the future of publishing. It starts with consumers – serving them in more personal, predictive, and profitable ways – harnessing the power of big data and AI, platforms and clouds, to deliver better digitally enabled, physical experiences. The opportunity for us all is to combine our experiences and imagination to consider how we can create a better industry, so that we collectively and individually can drive future innovation and growth.

This year’s Future Book Forum, again supported by Canon, takes place in Munich this week with over 400 participants from 36 countries. I will again be hosting the forum, ensuring passion, participation and progress. Here is our schedule, bringing together some of the industry’s leading thinkers, thinking leaders, and great activities to learn and act together:

Day 1, Inspiration:  21 November 2018

It starts with the consumer – and the need to serve them in more personal, predictive and profitable ways – harnessing the power of big data and artificial intelligence, platforms and clouds, to go beyond today’s world of books and ebooks, to deliver better digitally-enabled physical experiences.

0900 – 1000: Intelligent Growth, Peter Fisk, Professor at IE Business School – how can publishers embrace the power of data to create more personal, predictive and profitable book-related experiences?

0930 – 1000: Intelligent Consumers, Nick Morris, CEO Canvas8 – engaging consumers in more intelligent ways – what are the changing behaviours of people, to how they engage with content, and around the world?

1000 – 1030: Intelligent Publishers, Mark Allin, former CEO John Wiley – the need to embrace intelligence beyond content – harnessing the power of data, platforms and business models, communities and more.

1030 – 1100: Future Book Mash Up, audience co-creation – bringing together the big issues and ideas of everyone in the room!

1100 – 1130 : Break

1130 – 1200: Intelligent Technologies, Rainer Kellerhals, Microsoft – Case study of how technology is enabling every type of business to embrace data, from clouds to databases.

1200 – 1230: Intelligent Data, Tom Betts, CDO Financial Times – Case study of how data is transforming the world of newspapers, profitable with new business models.

1230 – 1300: Where’s the Growth in Intelligent Publishing? – Mark, Nick, Rainer and Tom, answer the most difficult questions.

1300 – 1430 : Lunch

1430 – 1600: Growth Accelerator – Practical workshop for all participants exploring how they can harness growth across their business models to drive growth

1600 – 1645 : Break

1645 – 1700: The Magic of Reading, Leanne McNulty, Room to Read  – more insights from our community’s nonprofit partner, helping children around the world to experience the wonders of reading through books.

1700 – 1730: Intelligent Business Models, Dan Kieren, CEO Unbound – embracing new approaches to business that combine the best of communities, participation, digital and physical experiences, for books to do more.

1730 – 1800 : The Agenda for Intelligent Growth – Mark, Dan and Sven Fund, reflecting on the best ideas for publishers to grow their businesses in smarter ways.

1900 – 0000 : Dinner at Film Casino, Munich

Day 2, Implementation: 22 November 2018

0900 – 0920 : Intelligent Technology in Publishing, Peter Fisk with Sven Fund –  rethinking the toolkit for publishers, and how they can embrace new technologies to achieve more.

0920 – 1000 : Great Examples of Innovation –  from the publishers and printers perspectives, where the future is more about process than content.

1000 – 1030 : The Publishing Innovation Toolkit, Sven Fund – what are the innovative tools in the publishing ecosystem, and 6 great examples of companies to inspire us.

1030 – 1100 : Break

1100 – 1230 : Roundtables … The Publishing Innovation Toolkit  – each participant joins one of the eight roundtables, and then a second, for 30 minutes each.

  • Increasing satisfaction – IntechOpen
  • Identifying bestsellers – Inkitt
  • New business models – Knowledge Unlatched
  • Consumer co-creation – Moo
  • Controlling inventory – Peter Lang
  • Monetising assets – Building Digital Solutions 421

1230 – 1400 : Lunch

1400 – 1500 : The Publishing Innovation Toolkit, What we learnt  – each participant joins one of the eight roundtables, and then a second, for 30 minutes each.

1500 – 1530 : Collaboration and automation, panel discussion

1530 – 1600 : Baume Custom Timepieces Series – inspiring insight into the future of the watch industry, and what we can learn from it in the world of publishing.

1600 – 1630 : The Best Ideas for Intelligent Growth, Peter Fisk … what have you learnt, what will you do … ready to change the world of publishing, again.

Here are a few highlights from the last three years:

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