audience at Future Book Forum

Future Book Forum

Thinking outside the 'book'

Joerg Engelstaedter
Joerg Engelstaedter

Director Area Management


How do you engage readers? This was one of the interesting questions during the Canon Future Book Forum, one of Europe’s biggest publishing events, in Munich on November 20-21 - where we hosted visitors from around the world. Spoiler alert: it’s all about passion, listening and communities. The two-day forum brings together industry peers from the publishing value chain to talk about future business models, changing consumer needs, the reinvention of content formats, the role of data in improving customer journeys and the need for collaboration and automation for the future success of the publishing ecosystem. Well-known publishers and inspirational brands shared insight on how to create value and fuel innovation through communities, where the printed book becomes one part of a meaningful, extended brand experience. I’d love to share four main takeaways:


Grow your community, reap the rewards

As an industry, our challenge is to rethink how to engage with our readers. Author, business advisor and chair of the event Peter Fisk explains, “Communities should not be built around products, they should be built around passions”. Readers are consumers and their habits are regularly changing. We need to go where they are having conversations about their interests and grow with the communities to understand them. Fostering collaboration with consumers means richer content experiences, which is the glue that holds the network of people together.

Peter Fisk presenting

Don’t listen to respond, listen to understand

If we know our audience well enough, we’ll know where the growth opportunities lie. Customer insight and data play an important role in better understanding consumer behaviours. For example, where they have conversations, what they talk about, what content they consume and when they are most receptive to receiving content. As Veronica Reyero Meal of human insight specialists Antropologia 2.0 explains, “When you face challenges in your company, try to switch your business questions to human questions. For example, if you’re wondering how to drive sales of books, you need to start asking ‘How are people learning nowadays’ and ‘Where are people looking for information?’”. It’s all about connecting these dots.

panel debate at Future Book Forum

Collaboration + Automation = Innovation

It’s important to work with other publishers, authors, book printers and technology providers to better meet consumers’ expectations. “Publishers are good at collaboration, but mainly with each other. We need to expand on that and bring readers in to our world of publishing because every consumer is now a reader and an author,” comments Mark Allin, former CEO of John Wiley & Sons.

The potential of technology is still not used enough in publishing. Deploying agile, automated flexible publishing processes, such as setting up compete end-to-end workflows, can support production planning and fuel innovation. For example, Edubook is one customer using digital print to create educational materials that are completely customised to each learner’s needs. QualiFication, a software company that analyses texts and predicts book successes based on Artificial Intelligence, monitors Inkitt’s reader community to improve the production process and better predict consumers’ future content needs. 

Composite of presenters

Consider ways to go beyond the book

Speaking at the event, America’s Test Kitchen (ATK), home cooking content hub, offered a great example of a publishing business which has seen the value of building a network of like-minded culinary enthusiasts. ATK’s growth opportunity is no longer in just printed content, despite the origins of the brand’s hugely successful long-running ‘Cooks Illustrated’ magazine, which started in the early 1990s. A TV show followed in 2001 and the empire has grown into three websites, an online cooking school, Podcasts, YouTube videos and so on. Other revenue streams should now be considered where the book becomes just one part of a paid-for service. 

For further insight and more about the future of publishing watch the video below or join our Future Book Forum discussion group on LinkedIn.

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