The digital future of the book could be anything

A hackaton stands for an event that has everything to do with computer programming and software development. Computer programmers, graphic designers, interface designers and project managers meet to collaborate intensively on software projects. The FutureBook hackaton, is an event focusing on the digital future of publishing. The first FutureBook hackaton took place in 2013 in New York and was followed by another one that happened in 2014 in London. The event concluded with picking a winner for the most innovative idea proposed during the event.

This article sums up the concluding points for the first book hack in the UK, and that is: the book is slowly but surely changing, however, it will still remain a book.

The takeover of the digital book has been long feared by the publishing houses. There have been complaints that the demand of ebooks creates additional workload and extra costs for publishing houses. And this is true, they are required to hire or train existing staff new skills, perhaps even more difficult skills that have less to do with editing and proofing, but more to do with coding and tagging text.

Industry professionals have for long predicted that ebook sales will take over print sales,  and that the traditional book will be a rarity. However, this is far from being true in the contemporary book market. Despite the prediction of ebooks taking over the print book, ebooks have seen a fall in the sales numbers. The prediction was that ebooks were going the way of the digital music. Statistics now show that ebook owners are now going back to the traditional print book. Publishers are doing everything they can to increase and promote the traditional book, e.g.: Hachette added 218,000 square feet to its Indiana warehouse late last year, and Simon & Schuster is expanding its New Jersey distribution facility by 200,000 square feet.

The FutureBook Hackaton’s conclusion was that the traditional book won’t disappear, however, publishers shouldn’t be reluctant to progress. Publishers should embrace new technologies and take advantage of them (for instance, Blackwell’s is working on a strong digital strategy with 17 developers recruited from outside the publishing industry in order to drive this change), in order to create beautiful products, like Voices, the winner of the FutureBook Hackaton. Voices is a contest for finding the next ‘golden voice’ amongst the general public for audio book narration, like a kind of Britain’s Got Talent for beautiful voices. They won the overall prize of £5,000.

Publishers should embrace and fructify new technologies, not fear them.

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