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Will Publishers matter?

That’s the title of Stephen Abram’s keynote at TOC this morning. It’s an important question as a number of studies and trends have made abundantly clear, including the NEA’s overly pessimistic To Read or Not to Read study. So much of Stephen’s rapid-fire message is both contrarian and hopeful, but in a working class, roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-to-work kind of way. As head of O’Reilly’s online presence, several of Stephen’s points stood out for me:

  • More people are reading now. They are just reading differently.
  • Facebook is the new threat to publishers, not Google.
  • Publishing and writing, the sharing of ideas, is fundamentally a part of Web 2.0 technologies.
  • Old formats die. The novel as we know it has only been around since the 1800s.
  • To be relevant, publishers have to be available at the point of need.
  • University of Alberta library doing all referencing in Facebook, and has 5000 visitors a night in Second Life.
  • Syndication is increasingly important. If you’re still trying to create a destination site, you’re messing up.
  •  User intention paths. Have to adapt to your users, and not create barriers. Otherwise, they’ll bypass you.
  • Phone is the dominant global device. Is your content ready?
  • 85% of Stephen’s colleagues in China read books on their phones.  
  • Do you want to help create the world, or let it happen to you?

There’s way more I could write about Stephen’s talk, but Bill Burger from the Copyright Clearance Center is up next.

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