Monday, May 25, 2015

'Not simply books squashed into smartphones'

Tom Bonnick: 'Not simply books squashed into smartphones'

The day your children apply for jobs at "Simon&PenguinRandomHouseHachetteCollinsSchuster," Nosy Crow's Tom Bonnick muses, what will be the process that goes into the making and selling of books? Whatever it is, Bonnick tells us, his experience in the children's market makes him think that today's nerve-wracking industry alarms can be "as pathologically gloomy as they are ludicrously simplistic." Instead of focusing on supposed killer retailers and digital death stars, he takes heart "that children’s publishers have taken an industry-wide anxiety around digital and alchemised it into a celebration of print." Here is welcome encouragement: "Processes may change, but books are not going anywhere." -- Porter Anderson, associate editor

This week I’ve taken part in two events which — in most ways — really could not be more different, but both have left me thinking about the same subject: the future of the book.
On Monday night it was off to the Groucho Club to speak on a panel at one of Justine Solomons' excellent Byte the Book events, on the theme of book design in the digital age. I love being invited to speak at Byte the Book for two reasons: (1) if you’re speaking, you don’t pay for any of the drinks yourself, and (2) when you’re asked by friends and relations what you’re doing that evening, you can airily reply, “Oh, just off to the Groucho, darling”.

Each of the panelists was asked to identify the most important issue in contemporary design, and I — hopelessly out of my depth; the least design-y person there; with only the children’s market to speak about — grasped around for something inoffensive to say and landed on the ways in which digital and print exert subtle influence on each other.

I say “subtle” because digital still represents a tiny proportion of sales for the children’s market (even tinier once you’ve stripped out the YA being bought and read by adults), and so, to mind, is viewed largely as an opportunity to exploit, rather than a threat to mitigate, as it has been perceived by various sectors of the adult market.

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