This has been quite a week for the Australian publishing industry, with the Revolution in Digital Publishing seminars held in Melbourne on Monday and Sydney on Wednesday, and additional ‘digital chat’ sessions with special guests on the Tuesday and Thursday morning in each city. (You can read our Weekly Book Newsletter reports here and here and see what the Twitterverse was saying here.)
All the events have attracted hundreds of delegates—the Melbourne session that I attended filled the State Library’s auditorium to standing room (well, for the morning keynotes—Faber’s Stephen Page and Bloomsbury’s Richard Charkin, pictured—at least …)
These days were organized under the aegis of the Australian Publishers Association’s excellent professional training program, so it’s not surprising—and is right and proper—that the focus was on informing *publishers* about how digitisation is rapidly changing their world.
But considered from a wider book industry point of view, it was disappointing how little consideration was given to retailers, readers and authors, and how much of the talk was about reassuring publishers that digital was ‘same but different’—it’s just another format, it will operate within existing territorial copyright conditions, it won’t change rights sales, etc.
There was a real need for a contrary voice on the program, someone with radically different opinions on digital rights management (DRM); the future of copyright; and the rapidly changing relationships between creators, publishers, retailers and readers.
We all need to take off our ‘safeguard the future of the book industry’ goggles for a minute and think of things from a consumer’s perspective: for example, from an ebook buyer’s point of view geographical restrictions on ebooks seem ludicrous—it may be deemed necessary by the industry, but if it is we have to explain it much, much better. Or even better, we have to move very, very quickly to make these current barriers invisible to consumers: get the rights issues sorted out so we can offer as much multinational digital content as possible to readers—and not only international titles to Australian readers, but Australian titles to an international online audience.
[edit: see what Sydney independent bookseller Jon Page has to say abought the same event/s at his blog]