Will You Please Manage My Metadata:  TOC Frankfurt - Tuesday 5 October 2010

7 October 2010 in Future of Publishing

TOC (O’Reilly’s Tools of Change) Frankfurt was demanding, brain-filling day - lots of great speakers, and great projects showcased.  The focus was on publishing and the digital - ways forward for the book industry.  On the whole, it was an optimistic day

For me the most interesting speaker was Dominique Raccah of Sourcebooks US, a medium-sized independent publisher.  Dominique has moved swiftly and firmly into the digital realm, and is excited about the possibilities for the future, while remaining frank about the economic reality of publishing digitally in the present day.  Her talk was a model of transparency - she discussed various multimedia projects she’s been behind and their success (‘We Interupt This Broadcast’ being an early best-selling example), and failure (several of her more recent multimedia endeavours).  She is also frank about the real cost of digital publishing - the whole business of managing what Dominique calls ‘the ugly stuff’ - metadata.  This was the thing I came away with from TOC Frankfurt - that the role of publishers in the future will not be publishing books, but will be all about managing metadata.  In a world with multiple digital formats and multiple digital reading devices all with their own specifications and multiple digital retailers all with their own demands, it will be down to publishers to make sure all this metadata is managed correctly.  Gone are the days when publishing was about acquiring manuscripts, editing, copyediting, lay-out, print, and distribution:  now it is all about managing metadata.

Jeff Jarvis finished the day with a complex keynote about his idea that publishing is ‘a tool of publicness’ - his new book is about the notion of The Public.  Frankly, I was a little too brain-dead to take on what he had to say,  However, he did say the following:  publishers need to think carefully about what their value is, and in a digital age, that “value is not distribution, control and ownership, but in curating people, content, editing, teaching and promoting.”

There’s an interesting report on Raccah’s talk over at The Bookseller .


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