BOOK FESTIVAL – Publishing in a Digital World

Bringing together a trio of publishers who are all exploring the opportunities of new technology, this industry event chaired by Padmini Ray Murray was also opened to members of the public.

Mark Buckland from Cargo Publishing spoke of how his house are involved with leading tech companies to push the boundaries of what constitutes a book, describing how technology can change the nature of narrative and involve the reader as an active collaborator.

A project he is currently spearheading looks to the videogame world for inspiration, with the aim of creating an immersive, multi-platform universe with the book as its big bang point of origin. “Authors are the spark,” he said. “The hope is that it runs out of our control.”

Allan Guthrie from Blasted Heath has experience from all sides of the industry, being publisher, agent and author. He spoke of how the world of e-books and digital publishing have created a unique way in which authors and publishers can “test the market”, using short stories and novellas as the “literary equivalent of pilot episodes” to gauge reader appetite for larger works.

Martin Greig from sports imprint Backpage Press spoke of the concept of the book as a central point around which a cluster of other content — such as video, blog posts and apps — can be built. The “agile collaborative business model” is something he also thought was important to future success, where publishers, authors, designers and content creators are all able to quickly contribute to a product, getting it to market far quicker than previously possible.

Mention was also made of the “patron” model which crowdfunding can enable; of the power of Amazon’s vast amount of data on sales and readers; and whether things like enhanced books and apps are merely gimmicks.

But in a fast moving digital world where the potential has only just begun to be realised, one theme came up again and again — the increased opportunity and necessity for collaboration.

And with technology now allowing for easy and efficient global sharing of skills and ideas, this shouldn’t just be done on a local scale. “Scotland,” said Buckland, “has to spread its wings a bit more.”

Publishing in a Digital World took place at the Edinburgh International Book Festival in association with Publishing Scotland on 23 Aug.

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