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Thursday, July 17, 2008

A book publisher's manifesto for the 21st century

I came across another blog while doing some research recently. the Digitalist is a blog by the digital team at Pan Macmillan. They have a number of interesting posts on different topics and a helpful tag cloud to utilize. One of the more interesting streams on the site is a series of six posts labeled "A book publisher's manifesto." If you like, you can read the full set of postings via one .pdf document. The postings and debate around the series of pieces are very interesting and have given me some new thoughts and a list of new items to follow-up on when time permits. I thought the questions posted at the start of Part V were particularly relevant to stores as well. It begins:

The question really is no longer, “Will consumers read on screens in the future?” or “Will all content be found on the Internet?” The question is rather, “How will consumers read on screens in the future?” and “How will all content be found on the Internet?” And as publishers have been latecomers to the online party, the question lurking behind all of this is what, if any, role do publishers have in the digital future? It’s a future which is not too distant and in which texts are potentially increasingly inter-related, multiple information sources and media types are mashed, and a combination of search and social networks provides the gateway and the guide to content online.

In many ways we could substitute "booksellers" for "publishers." It is a question of redefining our role and future. I always appreciate good questions, and I think these are some good thought questions, which could lead to even better ones. Perhaps the question for stores is, What would it take for stores to help provide the future of course materials for customers (faculty and students) in the next six months? The next year? Answering this question leads to some natural action items and opportunities for us to work with campus faculty and libraries, as well as publishers, authors, and students in new ways.

The "manifesto" has a number of interesting questions and points. Some, certainly controversial. Others, excellent points to ponder. For those alone, the document (which is fairly short as manifestos go), is a worthy read. Stores might consider sharing it with campus colleagues and arranging a brown bag lunch to discuss some of the ideas it raises -- or even pick one question to start. As the facilitator from Innovate noted last week, as managers we are paid to think, and thinking can be hard. If we were to write the "college store textbook seller's manifesto" how would it compare to this document? Where would it vary? Would our glass be viewed as a little more full or a little more empty? Thoughts?

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