Smart Bitches Trashy Books LLC is a media partner for the 2010 O’Reilly Tools of Change Conference (and if you’d like a discount off registration, click that ad over yonder and use the code toc10sb for 15% off the cost), and I’m preparing for two presentations at the 2010 conference. Nervous? You bet your sweet bippy. Why? In both cases, I’m talking about digital books and digital reading, and while these are subjects that I’ve learned a tremendous amount about, I remain convinced that those who drive the digital reading and digital publishing industries are not always listening to the reader. So my brain is spinning with all the things I want to communicate – and I’m trying to make sense of everything I want to say, because I want to make sure I do a fair job of representing the feedback I’ve received about digital books, devices, and the experience of digital reading.
One panel I’m on is titled Test Driving the Digital Reading Experience, and it’s all about – you guessed it – the Smart Bitches Test Drive of Sony Readers in 2009. My part of the presentation will explain a bit about the demographics that made up the pool of Test Drivers, and the common frustrations each experienced during their Test Drive, as well as the enthusiasm. While the Test Drive was going on, I had a special email loop set up for them to talk to one another, and one of the coolest parts of the loop was that they served as community tech support to one another as they set up and started using their devices.
The other panel I’m on is Essentials of Digital Books from the Consumer’s Point of View and I’ll be presenting alongside Jane from DearAuthor and Angela James from Carina Press. The focus of this presentation is, obviously, the consumer’s wish list and check list for ideal digital books, from buying to reading to organizing, keeping and (GASPOMGWTFNO) potentially sharing with friends.
Because the audience for Tools of Change is very technically savvy – seriously, you will never see so many surge suppressor strips in one room for laptop plugging-in as in a conference room at ToC – and because the audience is also made up of publishing folks who specialize in digital and print production as well as those who mastermind software, hardware, and device prototypes, I want to give the best presentation possible, and I want to make sure I accurately represent the fiction readers who adore digital, and why, and those who aren’t interested, and why.
More than anything, though, I want to move past the digital vs. print mentality. I want to do away with the phrase “dead tree” as if books in print are something to feel guilty, un-ecological or just plain maudlin about. I want to move past the conflict rhetoric most of all because reading in any form is important, and book production as a profitable enterprise in any form is in danger economically. My favorite part of our proposal is the following:
The inability of print and digital marketing efforts to promote one another for greater collaborative success is the true cannibal of everyone’s profits.
It makes me want to get Biblical on people’s asses, by way of a simple question: do you want swords or do you want plowshares? Publishing in any form is a withering market every quarter, and if you want growth and profit, put the swords down and start working together on digital and print as a two parts of the same profit stream. Seriously, the digital vs. print war is old, tired, and makes me want to stab someone in the ass with a spear and a pruning hook.
So while I’m crafting two presentations about reading from a consumer’s point of view – and that by necessity includes print and digital – and about test driving the digital reading experience, what points do you think are the most crucial? Do you want to talk about the books you read? The devices you use, or the books you own? What key points must not be missed, in your opinion, in discussing any tool of change in publishing?