The Society of Young Publishers - Question Time

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Last night I attended the Society of Young Publishers Question Time held at the Swedenborg Hall in Bloomsbury. Having only joined in October it was the first Question Time I had attended and I thought it was marvellous. The panel were as follows:

Joanne Dickinson - Fiction Publisher, Sphere and Piatkus, at Little, Brown
Dan Franklin - Digital Editor, Random House
Barry McIlheney - Chief Executive, PPA

Chaired by Celia Brayfield- author, journalist, lecturer and cultural commentator

 Lots of questions were raised, predominantly concerning the changing tides of publishing and the tsunami of technology that is seemingly challenging the survival of traditional hardback publishing. However it was comforting to hear the panel discussing the probability of survival for the printed word as recently it has seemed under threat from imposing Kindle and iPad advances. So here is a summary of the points they made and the further questions prompted.

1. Will the printed word become outdated in the near future, and if so, how will this effect third world countries and their accessibility to literature?
The printed word will never become outdated, at least not in our lifetime. The advances made on the digital market should be seen as a positive aspect as it provides more avenues for both readers and writers. No longer do writers have to trawl through a long list of publishers before they find someone to commission their transcript. Furthermore, readers can now access a broad range of literature through alternative media, allowing more of an interactive relationship between publishers, authors and their readers.

2. How will the publishing industry cope with the inevitable attack of piracy?
 The publishing industry have been lucky in that they have witnessed the impact piracy has had on both the music and film industry. By making literature both easily accessible and reasonably priced, there should be little if no threat from further piracy attempts.

3. Can digital formats and the printed word co-exist?
Yes. And it will most likely be a fruitful relationship. We should hold an optimism when it comes to considering the mutual relationship between these mediums as they are interlinked and can each deliver attractive results for the publishing industry. However, it is also true to acknowledge that hardback sales may see a slight decline in revenue as paperback will be cheaper and on a more level playing field with the digital market.

4. For the recent graduate, is it necessary or advantageous to have digital experience and skills?
It will always be an advantage to have some level of digital capabilities, however most people graduating now have already got an innate sense of how to use the technology to their advantage. What is most important to employers is that you show an understanding of what is happening in publishing at the moment and how this is effecting the global publishing industry. 

So to summarise, the printed word is not going anywhere - what a relief! Yes, there may be a slight decline in hardbacks, but as ever that is completely up to the consumer and their retail preferences. I will most definitely be looking to buy a Kindle  and I agree that we should all consider this transformation with optimism and not grieve for a medium that is yet to die. Rejoice in the co-existing nature of these siblings and hold on tight for an exciting ride!

Read the Printed Word!

And the digital word!

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