This Sunday, as part of the London Book Fair, the Digital Minds Conference will be held at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in Westminster, London.

The organisers have told us to get there in good time because public transport in London sucks on a Sunday. In fact the real reason is because security at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre is so paranoid it will take you as long to get into the building as it takes an innocent Brit to get into the United States via JFK. Last time I visited I thought I saw the words “anal probe” being mouthed by the security guards. I vowed never to go again.

But all the leading lights of the ebook world will be there (if they’re allowed in), so attendance is virtually compulsory. Many sessions and seminars are taking place. Bill McCoy, the Director of the International Digital Publishing Forum (they create and maintain the EPUB ebook format, the standard for ebooks) is chairing one session called Join the Conversation – Digital Platforms and Standards. This consists of round table conversations on a wide range of topics steered by industry ‘experts’, with three subject sessions and approximately 18 different tables covering a variety of angles.

The reason I put ‘experts’ in quotes is that I am one of them — my table theme is Photographic and Illustrated Ebooks. This will be an informal round table discussion with 12 people on the design, production, marketing and future of illustrated ebooks. You are welcome to join in. I’ve been asked to host this as a result of the publication of our first forty ebook titles by VisConPro’s digital publishing arm, Heritage Ebooks.

There are over 1,900 photographs in Heritage Ebooks’ Follies of England series, the majority provided by talented fotoLibra photographers. It is the biggest digital heritage ebook project ever published. And we created it to demonstrate a new method of visual content provision to digital publishers, fotoLibra’s advanceImages system.

Now we have a chance to sit down with other digital publishers and talk through what we did and how it works. It’s a great opportunity for us. And I hope it will prove useful for participants.

If you can’t run to the conference fee of £399, I’ll be happy to meet with digital publishers for free at the London Book Fair next week. We’re on Stand T905, through the kind courtesy of our hosts Publishers’ Marketplace.





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10 Responses to “Join the Conversation”

  1. I haven’t delved into all of its mysteries yet, but Scott Berkun’s article on how to turn your blog into a book seems full of value:

  2. John Cleare says:

    I sent a rather telling comment – twice.
    But each time I typed the final line, it disappeared. Into thin air.
    Is there a space / word limit to these comments ?

    • Gwyn Headley says:

      Not as far as I know, John. Write it up elsewhere then paste it in. If there turns out to be a word limit, send it paragraph by paragraph!

  3. Mike Mumford says:

    Creative Media Convergence:
    I’m all for convergence of media, creativity and accessible across all screens from TV to smartphones.
    Digital Platforms & Standards:
    Let’s have open standards across platforms, open programing code on demand. We should use the best digital platforms, enabling the best to rise to the top, with a BIG no to fixed-layout for eBooks. Just wait for the day when we have two page layouts and full smartphone interactivity. Only then will we have the best eBooks possible.
    To publish an eBook just in text and black and white is a sin. All digital eBooks should have and use the full electronic interactivity at their deposal. It’s like running a web site like an old fashioned blackboard with no colourful images and few hyperlinks. The SmarteBook will use all the tools available, provide figure-tip information at the speed of light, see
    Publishing Law: Barrier or Enabler?
    Lastly and most importantly publishing law should be there to protect intellectual author rights.
    Copyright laws should not tie-up image rights for 140 years, or in some cases indefinitely, locked into a one-off ownership inside a private or public archive.
    All images should be freely available after a much shorter time. We live in a world-wide-web where we should re-cycle images for public use, so freeing up creativity for everyone?

  4. moris kushelevitch says:

    dear sir ,I travel a great deal for work and pleasure ,I am the possesor of the “wrong ” passport and yet I have never ever been “anally probed” or checked beyond what is polite and acceptable conduct in any country . I must include many “unfriendly” countries I have visited .

  5. John Cleare says:

    ( continued for previous )
    A good friend of mine ran a small, specialist, successful, one-man-and-his-secretary publishing house. Not surprisingly he was cash flow constrained and as his typical subject matter was timeless, international and likely to sell slowly over many years, he would print a relatively long run and warehouse the sheets, binding only small quantities from time to time, as business demanded. Binding is expensive but with inflation, rising cover prices and annual write-down of stock, this is a legitimate and much used publishing procedure – provided the subject matter is appropriate.
    In due course he was absorbed by a major publisher to become one of their specialist imprints. My friend was delighted, he still had editorial control, he could still work from home but his cash flow problems were solved. However a couple of years later the major publisher was taken over by a multinational conglomerate and the accountants moved in. Warehousing it seemed was an unnecessary expense and his complete back list was pulped. He was distraught, future profits were destroyed and these titles will now never be re-originated, reprinted or reissued. They’re gone for ever.
    Gone are the days when publishing was a genteel business and books that were worth publishing in a civilised society were published, subsidised if necessary by the profits from best sellers.
    Sherry in the boardroom went out some years ago, I’m afraid.
    But all may not be lost. I’ve recently published my first small book using I’m most impressed. It’s only a very short run picture book, a specific presentation for a certain client, but the reproductions are brilliant, the quality is superb, my rather eccentric layouts have been followed to the letter while the delivery was just a few days. Especially the price was very reasonable. Blurb offer discounts for quantity, sufficient – I gather – to make reasonably long runs profitable. ISBNs can be issued but distribution might be a problem, though apparently Amazon will handle such tasks. And Blurb has competitors offering a similar service. .
    It could be that self-publishing is the way forward for aesthetic books – for real books ?
    (end )

  6. John Cleare says:

    We all know that traditional book publishing is in the doldrums. Is it the fault of the book-buying public? Or of the publishers? Or of their accountants? Or perhaps of the bookshops? Or is it due to the advent of e-books and other electronic media?
    A beautiful illustrated book is one of mankind’s better and most satisfying creations. I would lump together titles as diverse as the Book of Kells, Whymper’s Scrambles amongst the Alps and the catalogue of the NY Museum of Modern Art’s Family of Man exhibition. Over the years I’ve produced nearly 40 illustrated books and the pleasure of holding in my hands a newly published tome that I‘ve ‘done’ myself, transcends any magazine feature, TV programme or film with my name on it. Such things are transitory – here today but gone tomorrow, whereas my books will be in the British Library and the other statutory Libraries long after I’ve gone. Needless to say I treasure books and collect those dealing with my particular interests.
    That’s more than can said of e-books!
    Likewise I regularly browse boxes of monochrome prints I made in the late ‘50s and 60’s before colour photography became the professional staple. But then I scan the negatives, for while the prints are still in excellent condition, images today must be in digital form before anyone will buy reproduction rights. This is progress of a sort; the results are certainly far superior to what they were in analogue days, but what of the digital files in twenty years – or fifty years -time? What will become of all those digital photographs I shot today? At the Alpine Club we regularly sell rights to digital files scanned from historic monochrome prints made in the 1860s and 70s, soon after the birth of photography. Where will today’s images be in 2160?
    But to return to book publishing. A recent letter in the Telegraph from a disgruntled Scottish author is illuminating. His five previous books have sold well but Waterstones now refuse to stock his new title. Nevertheless, it’s apparently selling well on Amazon. I’ve been told many times by publishers that W.H.Smith will stock only titles that are already selling well elsewhere and that the Sunday Times Best Sellers list is nothing to do with actual sales but is calculated on deliveries to bookshops – usually on a sale or return basis. How accurate these tales are I can’t say, but they certainly concern publishers. ( more )

  7. John Cleare says:

    A bit more to this matter…
    Today’s ( April 12 ) Daily Telegraph Business Section, front page, has very interesting piece entitled “Apple faces ebook conspiracy charges”. Essentially it appears that the US
    D of J is suing Apple for allegedly breaking US Trust Laws in conspiring with a list of the major US/UK book publishers (pretty well all of them) to fix prices of e-books and to counter discount pricing by Amazon and others…..and so on.
    Who do you trust ?
    Worth reading ! ( try )