Feeling Rudderless with the Loss of O’Reilly’s TOC? Consider This

Tools of ChangeMuch conversation and virtual space has been devoted over the last week to the announcement by O’Reilly that they are discontinuing the Tools of Change conference. The announcement stunned many, and lamentation abounded at the loss of what had been, for many, a forum for hearing new ideas and, equally important, an arena for networking and maintaining significant ongoing professional connections.

As the producers of the Publishing Business Conference & Expo, one of the events in the same space as TOC, we have long respected our colleagues at O’Reilly. It might be expected that we would jump into the fray and exclaim that we intend to fill the gap left behind.

Publishing is a tumultuous business these days, and we each focus on different segments of the market in terms of our publications and our events—our content. We in the Publishing Business Group cover a wide swath; Book Business and Publishing Executive keep close tabs on developments in the book and magazine industries. At our conference, we bring these worlds together in a way that allows publishing executives to cross-pollinate, as it were, all while gathering information that will help move their business agendas forward. This year we are expanding our coverage by including a new Scientific, Technical, & Medical (STM)/Scholarly track.

No doubt, TOC leaves a hole in the market. It’s one we’re uniquely equipped to fill. Indeed, we already are presenting cutting edge programming that examines publishing’s present and future. We are preparing a conference for this coming September that will be true to its theme of Building Bridges Between Content, Technology and Business. We will present and bring together a range of forward-thinking publishing professionals, those behind the podium and those in the audience, to listen, ask questions, discuss, learn and advance the industry.

We hope that those who have formerly found a home at TOC will join us, as we are all asking many of the same questions. Together we can analyze the present and attempt to predict the future, and then plan for it. We can talk and listen, ask and answer, ponder, provoke, foment and carry on steering this big unwieldy ship that’s moving full steam ahead.

• This article originally appeared on the website of Book Business magazine, where it was titled “Taking Stock of Change.”

BREAKING: O’Reilly Media Retiring the Tools of Change Conference and TOC Blog

O'Reilly MediaEarlier today, O’Reilly Media founder Tim O’Reilly announced in a blog post that after seven years of hosting the Tools of Change for Publishing conference, a digital publishing event attended annually by many of the biggest names and most important members of the industry, the conference is being officially retired.

Also folding along with the conference is the popular TOC blog, which, like its namesake series of events, is considered a crucial portion of most every digital publishing professional’s media diet.

The rationale behind the cancellation of Tools of Change seems largely to be one of financial priority. In the aforementioned blog post, O’Reilly alludes briefly to a digital publishing platform with the code name “Atlas” that O’Reilly Media has apparently been developing for a few years now. “Bringing [Atlas] to fruition is central to our future plans,” O’Reilly writes. “We believe it takes a big step towards fulfilling the promise of digital publishing. You’ll be hearing much more about Atlas in the coming months.”

To our knowledge, O’Reilly hasn’t yet made public the specific date on which the TOC blog will be shuttered, although he does suggest that readers “can continue to follow our thoughts about publishing on the O’Reilly Radar and on the Safari tech blog.”

At TOC, a Tempest of paradigm-challenging ideas on what an e-book can be and do

Fabienne Riener, Chief Operating Officer of SourcefabricO wonder! How many goodly books are there here! How beauteous publishing is!

I attended the O’Reilly Tools of Change for Publishing (TOC) conference this past Tuesday and learned about a topic that captivates me: new forms that books are able to take when they are conceived as e-books. There is so much creative work being done in this area that I often want to hold it up to show those who think we are an industry in turmoil. An industry in transition, yes, but with many bright minds at work moving us in exciting new directions.

Here’s a quick look at some highlights:

Fabienne Riener of Sourcefabric and Adam Hyde of Esetera talked about Book Sprints. The process is based on Booktype, an open source platform for collaborative book writing, editing and publishing. A Book Sprint involves getting together a group of experts in a particular area, locking them in a room (preferably one in a resort with good cooking facilities) and jointly conceiving, structuring and writing a book in five days.

Wow. I’m in! If someone will offer to foot the bill for the room and board, I’ll organize a Book Sprint. Shoot me an email ([email protected]). I have a topic in mind!

Soren Peter Sorensen of SystimeSøren Peter Sørensen, a project manager at Danish company Systime, presented something he called “Service Publishing.”  What his company creates is something they call an Internet book. It’s not an e-book. It’s not an app. It’s not a website. Well, he confessed a bit later, it is kind of a website, one with licensed access and all kinds of cool interactive features. Sørensen calls it database publishing, single-source publishing and also multi-platform output publishing. What goes in can come out in any format and on any device required or requested.

Systime’s clients are using the system primarily for educational books. The content is behind a pay wall, but once you’ve entered, pages are in plain text so you can use the content to your own liking and integrate it with other tools. It has systems for interaction at all stages: author/editor, student/teacher, and more. Much of it is built on open-source platforms.

What they mean by service publishing is providing “educational materials as a service.” You don’t just sell a book and then the transaction is over. All the involved parties are online together and the book keeps evolving. As an author you can keep developing and expanding your book even as it is in use. (Visit their website and view the video below to see how it works.)

And finally, I was very engaged by a presentation by Meagan Timney, Senior Product Designer at Blurb, Inc., about UX (user experience). Integrating UX into the creation of digital books, she says, is a holistic and non-linear process. It’s something of an agile model. She suggested a scenario where one would release a chapter of a book, see how users respond, and then integrate that knowledge into future chapters. Wow again!

Timney described aspects of the UX process in some detail, displaying an impressive understanding and having some fun with the packed room by using the example of a bacon cookbook as a model.

All in all, we have models here for books that are interactive, responsive to users (heretofore known as readers), collaboratively generated, instantly published, and flexible and adjustable as opposed to fixed on a static page.

O brave new world that has such books in it!

(This post originally appeared on the website of Book Business magazine, a TeleRead sister publication.)