Futurebook 2015 – Report from Byte Consultancy’s Hermione Ireland

Posted by Justine Solomons on 8 December 2015, in Event reports, News

We loved Futurebook this year, we learnt and networked loads. Well done everyone at the Bookseller!   Byte Consultancy's Hermione Ireland has written a report on key learnings from the event.

A lively and engaging day at Futurebook last week. Lots of interesting case studies from across the big publishers and the start ups, and lessons crossing over from academic to trade publishers. The author continued to be of main interest to the trade, with the reader coming in a close second – Michael Tamblyn of Kobo gave a very funny ‘manifesto’ about not stalking your reader. And technology has finally become an integral part of the day…… Trending heavily on Twitter as comments were exchanged.

Top takeaways

  1. Mobile – publishers have got to get better at understanding and servicing this channel. 2016: 70% of the world’s population will have smart phones, now 71% sleep with phones by bed, 3% fall asleep with them in their hands
  1. Look after your data, and your authors’ and your customers’. New obsession with data - several years behind everyone else arguably.
  2. Don’t stalk your readers – give them the amount of interaction they want.
  1. Self-publishing beginning to be respectable as far as the big publishers are concerned.
  1. Bricks & mortar retail not dead (in the UK – obviously not what Barnes & Noble are saying in the US this week). Faber and HC mentioned Waterstones particularly – premium service.
  1. Digital – explore the world around the book. It’s not about print versus ebook any more
  1. Personalisation a big theme – lots of different sorts
  1. Immersive experiences especially live, or live and mobile
  1. Rise of audio, and Audible
  1. Marketing and retail partnerships – even Pottermore are doing these now.
  1. The Bookseller are finally concentrating at book tech as something they have to look at


Faber – they’re about events and beautiful books. Digital is about building a bridge between their readers and authors. They won one of the Futurebook awards for their Members site.

Pottermore – bizarrely have only recently started analysing their customer base. Has had significant impact as their core audience is 20s and female not child/teen and male/female. They’ve removed gamification and made the interaction more mature – more info about the whole wizarding world. This audience wants mobile content. They’ve obviously felt they needed Apple’s customer base as they’ve finally created enhanced ebooks with Apple having done everything on their own before (‘because they didn’t need anyone else’ – no longer rings true). Also now working with Amazon and Audible.

Akala (pictured) - rapper and poet, social entrepreneur. He doesn’t need a publisher – has 150-200 live events a year and has his own customer base. He asked if publishing was doing everything it could to collaborate with new technology to reach new audiences and better satisfy the existing ones.

Harper Collins - committed to everything published also being released on audio, ideally simultaneously. Focusing on technology and authors – wanting to support start-ups while keeping authors at the centre. Very concerned about the threat of Amazon – thinks their new publishing even damages their existing business. Doing international publishing when they can. Also emails at scale, building communities. Publishing’s rights systems are outmoded – not flexible and wouldn’t have allowed them to do the deal with Judith Kerr on the Mog title with Sainsbury's deal.


Content unbound

  • Publishers are doing more research and iterating with digital in a way they’ve never done in print.
  • Not easy to build direct to consumer businesses (says This is Your Cookbook). They did lots of focus groups and had to make it easy. TIYC are partnering with the Times and Not on the High Street.
  • Build an audience with your content and look at sponsorship as well as subscription as business model

Lessons from academic publishing

  • Open Access is gaining momentum. Springer Nature (Mac Ed) down to the university presses are all about collaboration and open access. There is so much content in the system so it’s a great way to publish it. But lots of differences in the market.
  • The customer is at the centre, not a cliche - different relationship tier as their authors/researchers are also their customers. Like Blurb….
  • Sage are streaming video – students engage and question their environment more when looking at video compared to listening to their tutors. Using it for higher ed – counselling, education and media studies. Good for Zappar. As they say – context is queen.
  • Education is not a world for mobile.
  • Academic Book of the Future – working on Booc, Book as open online content, a live book.
  • Trade should learn from academic – they’ve done digital well already. They have direct channels to their customers, they don’t rely on Apple and Amazon (don’t even touch them).

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