Aperçus from Earls Court

Here are statements, thoughts and ideas I picked up, or had for myself, in the course of a couple of days at Earls Court and elsewhere.  “Quotes” aren’t direct (I don’t have shorthand), so I’m typically sharing the idea, and garnering it with responses of my own.

At the Chairman’s Breakfast:

  • Mikhail Shvydkoy (Russian Special Representative for Culture/Ambassador at Large):  We are living in a world that has a great deal of information, but our understanding is diminishing.   But the nature of plentiful information is that you can always find justification for your own thoughts and beliefs online, and ignore/dismiss opposing views.  Artists help us to interpret this overload of information.  Artists are bricks in a bridge to understanding.
  • Natalya Solzhenitsyn:  Charles Dickens is the best chronicler of life in Russia at the start of the 21st century.
  • Natalya Solzhenitsyn:  Young Russians want foreign travel, consumer goods and rock & roll – and a strong, even Stalinist, leader, to ensure order.
At the Russian Book Market overview:
  • Oleg Novikov (Eksmo):  Top Kniga (Russia’s largest bookstore chain) has shrunk from 700 to 450 stores.  Mr Novikov believes Top Kniga will go bankrupt.
  • Yuri Deikalo (AST): 30-50% of readers at Russian stations and airports are reading tablets/eReaders, with the rest reading books, newspapers and magazines
At the “Great Debate” – Will Publishers Soon Be Irrelevant:
This was a nonsensical motion, as the publishing process will clearly evolve and continue, as all four panellists agreed.  It was a pity that Doctorow/Bridle appeared to be so much younger than Franklin/Charkin – a more balanced debate might have had youth/enthusiasm and age/experience represented on both sides.  And perhaps a woman or two.
Andrew Franklin was great fun, and James Bridle was a powerful speaker, but a clear consensus existed betwwen the four speakers – that publishing has a future role, but must evolve swiftly and intelligently – was shared across the platform.
At the CEOs’ Keynote – Digital Revolution or Digital Evolution:
  • John Makinson (Penguin): It doesn’t feel very evolutionary when I come into the office [it feels revolutionary].
  • YS Chi (IPA/Elsevier): Revolution is sexy, but in revolution the incumbents are toast.
  • John Makinson:  We used to say – that looks like a £25 book.  Now [selling digital content direct to the customer] we have to consider what the end consumer will be prepared to pay.  [Hmm – publishers forced to consider the edn-users – can’t be a wholly bad thing.]
  • John Makinson:  We are seeing in the US that the ebook may completely displace the mass-market paperback, price and convenience.  [Subsequent sales data has confirmed that this is already happening.]
  • Brian Murray (HarperCollins):  One year ago, there were 15m eReaders.  Today there are 40m.  [Plus the number of tablet computers has exploded too.]  Many heavy eReader users no longer visit bookstores.
  • Brian Murray;  The conversion of avid readers to ebooks in US has swiftly precipitated digital tipping point [faster than expected].
  • John Makinson:  Google employs 500 people to lobby/liaise with governments around world.  [And the total number employed by publishers is…?]
  • John Makinson:   The biggest driver of sales growth is new routes to market.  [But what happens to the overall market when existing routes shut down or shrink?]
Finally, back on Earth again, the Books in Public Libraries seminar with lobbyist Tim Coates and author Alan Gibbons:
  • Gibbons:  South Korea is building over 100 new libraries.  South Korea has the highest levels of literacy in the world; in the UK, we are tumbling compared to other nations.
  • Gibbons:   Spending on children’s books constitutes just 1% of total library spending.
  • Coates:  Brent Council could cut spending on unnecessary bureaucracy within the library service.  Instead, they are closing down half their branch libraries.

2 Comments on “Aperçus from Earls Court”

  1. ian says:

    I was in Los Angeles last week and while wandering around Glendale I went into the Borders bookstore on the corner of Brand as it was in it’s last 5 days before closure.
    They were selling everything, tables, shelves, fittings and by my arrival there were only a few paper books left on the shelves. (I was happy to see three full shelves of Sarah Palins works unsold). I managed to get a few paperbacks for the plane home at $1.50 each and while at the counter paying I overheard a discussion in which it was said that on the first day of the “more than half price sale” the whole stock of 110 ebook readers went off the shelf at $50 reduced from $120.
    Yes, the Americans like the ebook.