Ahead of next week’s Digital Book World conference in New York City, Ingenta spoke with Ted Hill, conference chair and founder/president of THA Consulting, to discuss what attendees can expect, the changing face of technology in the publishing industry, and what 2017 will hold.

Ingenta:  What is the difference in programming this year versus past years at Digital Book World?

Ted Hill:  The biggest change is really two things:  The first is a shift from future issues, such as what we would see in five years’ time, to more practical issues important today in 2017.  The second is a focus on tools and practices.  We have divided the programming into four tracks along the publishing value chain—Editorial Acquisitions & Development, Production & Distribution, Marketing & Sales, and Data Analysis & Reporting—to give anyone who attends the opportunity to have two full days of programming tailored just for you.

IG:  How has technology changed since Digital Book World began?

TH:  In 2010/2011, we really did feel we were in a transformative period.  Now, we’re at the point where that has settled down and we have the basic tools in place.  Now, we wonder how we move past that.   Our biggest challenge remains—how to engage with readers, which includes everything from finding the right books to analytics.

IG:  Some critics of technology in publishing have said that some of these advances that add more science into the process takes away some of the serendipity, the art, the magic of discovering a book.  What do you think about that?

TH: Publishing has always been a mixture of art and science.  Currently, the balance is shifting where we need more science [to help us be more effective in our jobs].  When we first made the move to computers and email, it took a lot of the pain out of the day-to-day.  With these advances, we are integrating in the same way the world is changing.  We all live in a digital world, we have to think about all activities as seen through that lens.  The focus for that change is on productivity and efficiency.

IG:  What are your predictions for 2017, particularly when it comes to some buzz words like big data, machine learning, virtual reality/augmented reality, and curation?

TH:  Big Data:  I think big data has a meaningful impact on business.  Houses like Amazon and other places with data scientists that service that information [will be able to better use it to their benefit].

Machine Learning: Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning prove increasingly useful to cut through the clutter.  This technology shows publishers how trends are shaping—with systems culling through reviews, discussions, chatbots—by gathering up how people are actually talking about books, and, thus, how publishers can communicate about their books more effectively.

VR/AR: I don’t see a lot of applications here.  I think it is hitting its peak in the “hype cycle” and is about to take a turn into the trough of disillusionment.

Curation: In a world full of clutter, curation is more important than ever, however you do that—book clubs, reviews, etc.—will help.

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