I’m back from an exhausting time of trying to cover TOC for you guys and here are a few thoughts about my overall impression of the conference.
TOC is a rather odd duck in that I don’t think it quite knows who is eating its eggs. It is a mixture of low level, in the trenches, stuff and very high level thought pieces. This makes many of the sessions suitable for the worker bees and mid-level managers (for example those on copyright, the workshops on the first day). The dichotomy comes in when TOC goes with its keynotes. These are very high level sessions that are more suitable for upper management (for example the interview with Ray Kurzweil or Law is Not a Business Solution) who are more concerned with larger issues such a strategy and planning. The two don’t really meld.
The overall message being sent by the conference was inconsistent this year. Throughout the sessions publishers were being told that innovation was the key to success. Do things differently, do new things, think in new directions. But the message of the final keynote by Tim O’Reilly was that publishers will never win in the technology race and they they should do what they always do, but just do it better. Not what everyone else was saying.
Should you go next year? On the whole I would say yes if you are in management up to the mid-level. I do know from talking to attendees that people make a lot of contacts here, so if you are in a small business it might just be the place for you to meet one of the big guys you haven’t been able to get ahold of or to be able to find contacts to help you in the operation of your business.
As to specific presentations, three stand out in my mind as head an shoulders above the others. The first is Peter Meyers 10 Ways to Enhance Your iPad Books. This really was an eye opener when it comes to how to think about really enhancing books, not just enhancing them by adding a video. Second was Perseus Books Groups 10 Secrets of Digital Publishing No One Will Tell You. Some good stats and also some real insider info about what it was like to really do an enhanced book. It isn’t easy. And the third, which really should have been a keynote instead of a session was Michael Mace’s Check Out My Scars, Seven Lessons From the Failure of Ebooks in 2000. His discussion of the tipping point should be required reading, especially the part about how the publishers’ increase in ebook prices will bring the tipping point closer, as opposed to putting it off. They are inadvertently hurting themselves.
O’Reilly has been putting the sessions on the web and I would suggest you go to the O’Reilly site and see if the three I mentioned above are on line.