Visit to HarperCollins

My interactive media class was held at HarperCollins today. I don’t have the best photo of the building, but we were told to wait outside until 6:30 p.m. so as not to overwhelm security, and it was freezing. Below freezing, in fact, it was snowing, and we were waiting in a wind tunnel, longingly looking in at the cozy looking HarperCollins lobby.

Our guest speaker was Carolyn Pittis, the SVP of Global Office Services in the Digital Division at HarperCollins. “2010 is the year that things really shifted in book publishing,” she said.

Her emphasis was on data and data gathering. Book publishing has finally gone digital, and they are the last of the media to do so. But it’s tough trying to get a grasp on what all the changes mean. As Carolyn put it, “We are in an economy and an age of infinite choices.”

Fortunately, since books are the last to go digital, the industry can learn from the mistakes of others. For example, Carolyn said we learned from print media that free is a marketing model, not a business model. From TV she said we learned that people are willing to pay for content, and from film she said we learned that we should look outside of the US to grow.

The real challenge for publishers right now, is to prove to authors that they are still relevant and useful. Amazon is currently looking very attractive to those considering self-publishing, but publishers still have a much wider reach than Amazon, and are still better marketers. Still, the way publishers handle authors and how they determine their success is changing everyday. “We need new types of skills in publishing. We need innovation,” Carolyn said.

This is great for people like me who are just starting in the publishing business. As Carolyn said, “I’m very optimistic—for you.” Right now, the key is change. “Change it all! I think you should change everything. Do it quickly, because we need as much help as possible.”

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