For reasons both challenging and exciting, the digital transformation of the book industry has closed the spaces separating competitors and colleagues across the spectrum of media. Indeed, the annual Publishers Forum bears a name that somewhat obscures its ambitions. Attendees traveling to Berlin on April 27 and 28 will hail from dozens of publishing houses across Europe and the world, but also from the worlds of video games, film and television, and even comics.
“The Publishers Forum is, quite arguably, the most senior conference for the publishing community that we have in Germany, and one of the most senior in continental Europe,” explains program organizer Rüdiger Wischenbart. “Over the past few years, we came to understand that the transformation of the digital publishing environment is not at all following the same path in all different markets. So having the largest non-English language market from Europe as the focal point, and discussing how is that transformation going on in Germany and in similar ways in other European markets, like the Netherlands or France or Italy, is a quite outstanding opportunity.”
For 2015, the Publishers Forum seeks answers on how to “reconstruct publishing” in the wake of seismic change, Wischenbart explains. On smartphones and tables, books lie immediately adjacent on the screen with film, with video games, with television, and even just simply YouTube videos. The result is not only a confusion in the marketplace for book publishers, but a kind of a clash of cultures. The audiences that they seek to relate to are ones that they may know nothing about and have no experience with.
“Publishers were used to catering to readers, and now suddenly you have fans. Fans think totally differently from readers,” he tells CCC’s Chris Kenneally. “They are more fragmented, they have a different attention span, they are more enthusiastic, but they also they want to be ahead all the time, so they try to grab something new once they have digested something. Games, movies – you can switch between different media platforms, etc. So fans are really a totally different tribe but these tribes of fans are getting more and more important for publishers. That’s why we invited people who are already familiar with that changing culture.”
Rüdiger Wischenbart is the founder of Content and Consulting, which specializes in surveying international culture and publishing markets. He is editor and publishers of the “Global eBook Report,” the “Global Publishing Markets” survey for the International Publishers Association”, (IPA), and the “Global Ranking of the Publishing Industry”, updated annually since 2007. Wischenbart serves as director for International Affairs to BookExpo America and coordinates its “Global Market Forum.”