O’Reilly’s second annual Tools of Change for Publishing conference was held in New York Feb. 11-13th. The conference was sold out with approximately 900 attendees. Publishers and technology vendors used this show to launch new products and services.
David Stack, Senior Manager, Digital Media, shares some of his general impressions below:
I would consider the TOC to have been a success and a value to the publishers attending. What TOC may have lacked in scale and keynote star power, it made up for in focus. You could also give them points for style: Much like O’Reilly publishing, TOC "walked the walked" in terms of technology – free WIFI, live-blogging, web-archiving, electronic scheduling, etc.
What impressed me the most about this conference was the clear sense of purpose (the practical tools) and the strong point of view (the benefits of change). I would add that these qualities are shared by most successful blogs. The many new “tools” of the exhibitors were well-represented and ably demonstrated. While some exhibitors who doubled as keynote speakers leaned a little heavy on the sale pitch, in most cases, the evangelism for “change” was earnest and felt earned.
What the keynote presenters didn’t offer in terms of groundbreaking insight – most were careful to note that we were in a transformative period and could not guess the future – they made up for in passion and enthusiasm for the possibilities of digital publishing. Meanwhile the publisher audience maintained a healthy dose of skepticism throughout so that the TOC was not simply a case of preaching to the choir.
Naturally the attending publishers were all at different stages in their “digital development” – from beginners to advanced – from firmly entrenched to embracing change. For this reason, I would have liked to have seen some smaller breakout discussion sessions. Because the event was held in New York this year, more publishers were able to attend. There were some good networking opportunities, but I think TOC could have moderated some peer-group discussion to great benefit. Based on the audience comments (under their breaths) throughout the presentations, I got the sense that we might have heard some interesting debates, and seen some true colors.
I found the best sessions focused less on the abstract “possibilities” and more on the practical experiences of publishers in the digital space: O’Reilly reported on its experience with free content and new business models; Harlequin offered some case studies of its digital experimentation; and Hearst shared its success with mobile publishing. I would recommend reading these presentations in their entirety. Though DRM has been debated many times before, Kirk Biglione (a popular DRM blogger) presented a succinct and somewhat witty take on the mistakes the music industry made with DRM. I would recommend his presentation as well.
Most of the presentations have been archived at: http://en.oreilly.com/toc2008/public/schedule/proceedings