Thought Leadership and Books

Jim Hamilton
Jun 1, 2010

On a regular basis Xerox invites customers and prospects to the Gil Hatch Center for Customer Innovation in Webster, New York to explore a given topic. They call these events Thought Leadership Workshops and there are usually about thirty to fifty attendees who in addition to getting the opportunity to hear speakers talk about the market, also benefit from seeing Xerox technologies first hand. Another benefit is that each of these attendees brings an added dimension of market experience to the workshop that they share with the group in interactions over the course of the event. I believe that these interactions are key aspect of the overall experience.

So I was delighted to be invited by Xerox to speak at a Thought Leadership Workshop on “The Changing Book Publishing Model” that took place recently. My job was to provide an update on current trends in digital printing at an evening event at Artisan Works, a remarkable non-profit Rochester institution that provides studio space and supports artists through a range of community activities while also providing one of the most unique venues for corporate entertainment that I have ever seen. In my talk I spent 45 minutes going over recent technology developments, providing some baseline definitions, tracking the history of digital book printing, and looking at some examples of how books are becoming more interactive.

Event at Artisan Works, Courtesy of Xerox Corporation

Event at Artisan Works, Photo courtesy of Xerox Corporation

For the presentation the following day Xerox put together a terrific panel that was hosted by Jim Lichtenberg, founder of a management consulting firm called Lightspeed. The panelists included Richard Hollick, Print On Demand Program Manager at the Oxford University Press; Michael Healy, Executive Director (Designate) of the Book Rights Registry; Theresa Horner, Director at Barnes & Noble.com; Tom Allen, Chief Operating Officer of On Demand Books; and David Hetherington, Director of Baker & Taylor’s Digital Service Group.

Their presentations and the conversations that followed were fascinating. The event comes at a time of remarkable change in book printing and publishing. True print-on-demand business models have taken hold, e-book readers have captured the public’s imagination, and the downturn in the economy has given publishers additional motivation to examine alternate distribution models for their content. In such an environment it was eye-opening to hear what the speakers had to say. I’ll be publishing a lengthier analysis of this event for InfoTrends clients in the coming days, but for now here are a few take-ways:

  • Content is (or should be) King, but publishers aren’t treating it that way yet
  • Publishing is becoming a service rather than a product
  • The days of big iron high-volume book manufacturing are coming to an end
  • The POD model has different levels of success that are also dependent on the nature of the content
  • Google’s actions have pushed publishing companies to respond in the short term, but it will take time to change long-established channels of content delivery
  • The business of publishing is now about rights management

Xerox deserves a lot of credit for putting together an event like this. It comes at a good time and helps the attendees assess their next moves in a market in which electronic delivery and the use of POD technology are changing the way that publishers interact with their customers.

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