BEA 2011: Talking Technology And The Future Of Books

This week authors, publishers and industry insiders have gathered in New York City to take part in the annual conference hosted by Book Expo America (BEA). All week long we will be bringing you a look to the action as we attend workshops, meet up with authors at book signings and much more.

Today we are thrilled to be talking about the future of books, the focus of today's "Day of Education" at BEA. Programs and presentations centered on the frontiers of publishing including the effects of the recent innovations in technology. From enhanced e-books, such as the Penguin Classics Amplified Editions that we reported on last week, to mobile publishing, to special social networking features authors can use to reach consumers, technology is playing an increasingly large role in the way that authors (and publishing industry insiders) connect to readers.

International Digital Publishing Forum's Digital Book Program

The big question on everybody's mind was addressed in the panel "What's Next for the Book?" Thanks to the invention of dedicated e-readers, the rise of e-books and high-tech gadgets that allow for multimedia experiences, defining exactly what a "book" is has become challenging. Moderator Steve Inskeep of NPR's Morning Edition pointed to Al Gore's newest project Our Choice as a work that defies definition. Recently Gore created an app for his book. Now "readers" can check out video and interact with the text. But the question is, is it a book? Chairman & Chief Creative Officer of Callaway Digital Arts, Nicholas Callaway, says that if it is interactive multimedia that leads to an immersive experience it is no longer a book. What publishers have created is actually a new medium as distinct as other media. So what are some of the things we are seeing for enhanced e-books and apps? Graphics, photos, illustrations, music, audio, video, animations — the sky is really the limit. However, Steve Smith, the CEO of John Wiley & Sons, points out just because we can add something to the text, doesn't necessarily mean we should. He says that some projects don't need a thing and they are still fantastic.

"What's Next For The Book?" Panel (left to right) Steve Inskeep, Nicholas Callaway, Reid Tracy, Steve Smith and Perry Chen

Regardless of his caution, the consensus at the convention thus far seems to be that the race is on for newer, bigger and better and the publishing industry is changing faster than anyone can keep up with. Skott Klebe, a pioneer in copyright and licensing technology, pointed out in his panel "The Arc of Publishing" that "today's innovators are tomorrow's leaders and next year's stumbling dinosaur." So, whether we like it or not, the publishing revolution has begun and books as we know it will never be the same.

Each day of the week we will focus on a different aspect of BEA, so be sure to check back tomorrow as we spotlight the romance authors at the convention!