Future Book Forum 2020

November 18, 2020 at Canon Europe, Munich, Germany (2 day event)

This year’s Future Book Forum explores the best new ideas in book publishing.

Over the last 6 years of the Future Book Forum we have come on an incredible journey together –  exploring how to reinvent books, publishing and printing, in a world that is changing incredibly fast. Exploring the changing technologies – from data to content, machines to channels – but even more importantly, the changing markets – from consumers and behaviours, to influencers and value perceptions.

Some of my favourite moments from recent forums have included the:

  • What’s the business case for change? – rethinking the business models for publishing, from books to customisation, events to crowdfunding, modular and premium editions, freemium to subscription revenue streams.
  • Defining a new DNA of books – for some of us content is still king, including the author and imprint, title and words – for others the consumer is the new king, including data and collaboration, relationships and applications.
  • Innovating book formats – increasingly a book is not just 300 pages of print, but a more holistic experience that combines physical and digital formats, ongoing delivery to support consumers in different ways over time.
  • Exploring the potential of consumer data – from retail data to personal insights, utilising all forms of intelligence to be more personal, predictive and profitable in the way we develop content, target audiences, and engage consumers.

We realised that we cannot continue as we are, that there were far more creative and profitable ways to grow. We realised that digital was much more than ebook formats, better printing and social media. We realised that similar industries like music and entertainment offer fabulous places to learn. We realised that we have some phenomenal assets that we could use in new and smarter ways. We realise that value is less in the book, and more in access to and application of ideas. And we realised that together, we could create new industry-wide approaches.

What happened at Future Book Forum 2019?

Last year we focused on how to drive growth by engaging with communities of readers who have a passion for their particular interests. They have a deep commitment to their topic and each other, participating together, sharing ideas and experiences. Books can play a useful role in enhancing these communities, in a very tangible, memorable and profitable way.

Indeed the forum concluded that communities are probably the most powerful way in which book publishers can drive new growth, both through selling more books to more people more often, but also by generating new types of revenue streams.

Think about some of the great examples of brand communities through which people engage with brands and businesses today, influencing what they buy, who they trust, and how they achieve more. From Lego Ideas to TED Talks, Xbox Ambassadors to Nike’s Run Club, Disney’s D23 Fans to Bayern Munich’s supporter’s club. Here are some of the most famous:

  • Harley Owners Group – recognised that owners loved much more than the bike, it was the freedom to ride the roads, the thrill to ride together, to hang out at Ace Cafes, to share their passion for life.
  • Glossier – became the world’s fastest growing beauty business, emerging out of a Vogue editor’s blog followers, to become a community where consumers share ideas and advice, but also co-create their products.
  • Rapha Cycle Club – a store for premium apparel became a hub for people who love cycling, a place to indulge in experiences, a service point to fix your bike, an online platform, a starting point for rides, all around the world.
  • Behance – Adobe’s platform for showcasing and discovering great creative work, a platform of over 10 million users, including exclusive tools and project collaboration spaces.
  • Spotify Rockstars – bringing together people who love music, encouraging discussion and recommendations, rewarding and ranking the most active, and also a platform for discovering new talent.

A brand community is a group of consumers who invest in a brand beyond what is being sold. From meaningful consumer retention to new sources of revenue, unfiltered consumer insight and predictable cashflows, branded communities offer many opportunities to drive growth:

  • Enhance consumer experiences – how people achieve more, collaborate and recommend, and create new content together.
  • Ongoing engagement – how people engage with brands continuously, not just at moments of promotion or purchase.
  • Know consumers better – 67% of businesses use communities to gain deeper insights to drive better focus and innovation.
  • Increase brand exposure and credibility, making it easier to sell without selling – typically 35% increase in brand awareness.
  • Reduce consumer support costs – 49% of businesses with online communities report cost savings of around 25% annually.
  • Improve retention and advocacy –  improving retention by 42%, tripling cross-selling, and people pay more too.

Growing with communities

The genius of branded communities – when done well – is that they create a participatory experience for the consumer, to do more of what they love. Instead of projecting a need for the product onto the consumer and perpetuating the ‘us-them’ relationship, communities dissolve the boundaries, forming a ‘we’ experience, between consumers, authors and publishers.

In the world of books, communities are much more than those old book clubs, or a social media presence. They are rich engaging and participatory experiences that change the way people see books, and how they do more. Examples range from Bookabees to Bookstr, GoodReads and LibraryThing, InstaNovels and Hooked, O’Reilly to Springer Nature, Reposed and Unbound.

Building a great brand community has three foundations:

  • Consumer, starting with your target audience, with a captivating reason for members to join the “tribe”, be it a shared cause or interest, from hiphop music, to a love of science fiction novels, or a desire to get fit.
  • Collaboration, engaging with other people, facilitated by the brand and its community “platform”, which might take the form of discussions, recommendations, co-creation of products, or collaborative use in doing what they do.
  • Content, the glue that makes the community work beyond products. This might take the form of more books, newsletters, events, videos, other products and services, merchandise, exclusive offers, and much more.

Underpinning this is a business model that ensures that the community adds real value to its members, but also commercially works for the business. For community members, this means it adds value beyond the brand’s conventional products and services, typically enabling them to use them better, and get more from them. For business, this means having a business model that drives incremental revenue growth. This might be in the form of consumer retention, selling more or different products, but also other types of content, and potentially a subscription to belong.

This year’s forum includes a fabulous program of inspiring examples and practical applications – helping all of us, as publishers and printers, creators and distributors – to step up to the opportunity. From America’s Test Kitchen, which starts with a love of cooking, to Moviestar Riders, sharing a passion for gaming – we have the stimulus and also the power of ourselves as the Future Book Forum community to find new growth, and create a better future for books.

Here’s what happened last year, at FBF18:

Here’s what happened last year, at FBF16:

Here’s what happened last year, at FBF15:

Find out more and book >