TOC Highlights

TOC ended on Wednesday afternoon, and in addition to the sessions we’ve already blogged here, I wanted to note a few other highlights that I caught.

In the Gadgetopia session, Bill Damon of Harvard Business School Press gave a handy tip: If you want your organization to explore publishing on electronic devices, get some sexy hardware into the hands of your senior executives. While people associate teenagers with heavy mobile phone use, CXOs are among the most avid users of high-tech devices. And once they’re using a GPS-enabled/6-megapixel camera/ Internet-friendly/multi-function calculator and calendar/Tetris-playing phone, they’ll be hot to support in-house mobile publishing initiatives.

Stephen Smith of Crossways Books shared some valuable information about direct sales—and about how a small publisher can bootstrap important projects.

In the closing keynote, Erin McKean, a lexicographer and Chief Consulting Editor for the American dictionaries of Oxford University Press, made some wonderful observations about the mismatch between the contents of a dictionary and the physical form of a book. She’s coined a phrase about it that neatly sums up the gap: “Information wants to be ambient.” And she urged publishers to think about whether all of your material is most useful and delightful to readers in the shape of a book. (We videotaped the keynotes, so we’ll post Erin’s presentation soon.)

Surprisingly, one of the unstated themes of the conference turned out to be “Looking Back in Time.” Eighty percent of the sessions I attended (and the presentation I gave with Tim) included a quick review of publishing or media or books or information for the past few hundred or few thousand years. I suspect all the retrospecting reflects a sense that we’re at a historic point today. By the next TOC conference, we’ll hopefully have tipped into a phase where we’re spending more time looking forward than back.