Readmagine took place one more year in Madrid (May 31 / June 1-2) with the emphasis on the United Nation’s Sustainability Development Goals.

As the prologue of the first day devoted to the publishing industry there was a focus in Spain as the special guest at the Frankfurt Book Fair. That was the reason why María José Gálvez -Managing Director of Books and Reading Promotion (MCD) was invited to open the sequence of presentations and round tables of the Readmagine 22 meeting with a general introduction, for the very first time, about the country were this event is organised. The challenge was: if we had to explain what this guest in 2022 is in terms of reading and its book industry, how would we make the introduction? What would the portrait look like ahead of the Frankfurt event?

Galvéz structured her presentation to the international professional audience that attended her conference in the auditorium of the FGSR  in four blocks:

  • Current data on the Spanish book sector.
  • The literary creation overview.
  • Reading behaviour and the strategy of promoting reading.
  • The public policy agenda for the book.

In reviewing the data, she used the 2020 figures, with a turnover for book sales of 2,500 million euros, ebook sales of 126 million euros, in a production that represented 0.9% contribution to the Spain’s GDP , among other figures.

In the case of statistics on reading habits, Gálvez presented the reality of a society that reads more and more each year, with about 65% of the population reading in their leisure time and a consolidation of the data reached during the lockdowns in the proportion of frequent readers with respect to the total population.

Global Web Index has been a recurrent guest throughout past Readmagine events. At this year’s conference, Tom Morris – Senior Trends Analyst at GWI- shared a plethora of compelling data and analysis regarding trends in media content across the world.

Specifically, different perspectives of media consumption and how consumers have been shifting from one type of media to another during the past few years.

Morris underlined three main ideas as a recap of his thought-provoking presentation:

  • People are spending more time across the different types of media, particularly online content.
  • Brands and services are branching out into new territories in order to remain competitive and attract new consumers.
  • Metaverse spaces will rise in popularity as a result. Accommodating all kinds of online media in one ‘hybrid’ platform.

The content consultant and analyst Roberta Franceschetti offered in Readmagine 22 a presentation on the last trends of younger generations in consumption of content. She shared very specific insights about the new relation of kids and teenagers with books, comics, webtoons, TV or manga and how there is an increasing trend of transmedia consumption.

The five main conclusions that Franceschetti shared with the professional audience were the following ones:

  • We should engage readers with different reading experiences and conversations which are meaningful for them, which use codes they are familiar with and which they like. we should engage readers with a social experience, a space or a moment in which they can talk about the stories they love and create new narratives starting from the stories they like”.
  • Nurture your readers with exclusive content and experiment with new business models.
  • Tear down fences and curate your stories across different media.
  • Content sharing platforms have extended their role: from content distributors to producers of original content.

One of the sessions was focused on strategies for a positive impact on SDG (of 2030 UN Agenda) from the public libraries and the publishing industry. This part of the conference was moderated by Alicia Sellés (President of FESABID) and had the presentations by Anna-Maria Soininvaara (Oodi Library, Finland) and Arantxa Mellado (LiberExpres, Spain).

Mellado is working in several innovation projects for the improvement of workflows and data in the Spanish publishing industry and invited the audience to focus on the SDG 12 -Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns. Sustainable consumption and production- and its implications for the day by day work in this industry.

From her point of view there are three challenges that should be tackle by the industry  to meet the requirements of SDG 12: overproduction, overdistribution, non 100% sustainable products. Mellado’s ideas from the perspective of the book life cycle there could be three different situations in a “Publishing pull model”:

  • Offset for large print runs
  • Digital POD for short print runs
  • Digital PTO (1-to-1 distribution) for the long tail

According with this approach Print on Demand and 1-to-1 distribution are the solution for the overproduction, with a very clear bet for local printing to reduce the logistic needs and the carbon footprint.

Anna-Maria Soininvaara is director of Helsinki Central Library Oodi since 2018 and during the 2022 edition of Readmagine participated in two sessions of the conference: in the first one she focused on her experience in Oodi -the emblematic Helsinki library project- for an audience of Spanish librarians and in the second one she shared the floor with Mellado about perspective of the new business models linked with the SDG of the 2030 Agenda of UN.

All libraries support literacy programs, provide a safe space for learning. Soininvaara said that in Helsinki City Library they have a good program for schools and kindergartens, where they visit libraries regularly.

The programmes in the library related to reduce inequalities are focused to lifeline to marginalised groups, who may struggle to access information, skills or support elsewhere with the aim of foster community engagement and citizen participation. She admitted that library’s values such as freedom of expression and equality are sometimes in conflict with each other and from this point of view, during the pandemic they met  problems with aggressive anti-vaccine and anti-covid demonstrators. When this situation got easier, the library met the propaganda according the Russian aggressive war in Ukraine.

One of the most insightful sessions was devoted to the present and future needs in the training strategies for the professionals of the book industry. In this conversation participated Monika Kolb (Director of Mediacampus Frankfurt), Nana Lohrengel (Secretary General of Umberto and Elisabetta Mauri Foundation) and Rüdiger Wischenbart (WCC).

The current challenges that face the German book market are diverse, but Monika Kolb decided to focus on three core topics:

  • “There is a dramatic shortage of skilled workers, specialists and executive managers in the book industry that fundamentally threatens the corporate success of the industry”.
  • “As a result of the corona pandemic, newly hired employees have been working remotely for more than two years: So we are facing the big challenge of an adequate employee-company connection. Among other things, this situation makes it necessary to rethink, restructure and relaunch personnel development”.
  • “While the topic of sustainability was still a far away goal a few years ago, today it is one of the most important goals of companies in the industry, in order to be able to do business in an economically, ecologically and socially sensible way in the future”.

With about 100 seminars per year the Mediacampus frankfurt program covers all fields of publishing and bookselling, from production to sales and business development, from basic classes to management courses and soft skill trainings. Based on these seminars mediacampus frankfurt develop customized in-house trainings for the clients and partners, council and support them through change processes and strategic business development workshops such as:

  • Team building
  • Business model development
  • Implementing visions and corporate culture
  • Strategic sales trainings
  • Agile project management for publishing projects
  • Target group marketing

Nana Lohrengel explained the activities of the educational strategy of Mauri School, focused on the fundamentals of running a business as a bookseller, exploring all the required management, technological and cultural skills. The program of Umberto and Elisabetta Mauri Foundation School for Booksellers also aims to take stock on the necessary knowledge for an ever-evolving profession. This School’s project has long been characterized by two main activities:

  • The specialization course in Venice, referred to as a postgraduate seminar
  • The monographic courses held in Milan

Now the Foundation is spreading the training courses to many other places in Italy and in the on-line field Lohrengel said that the pandemic during 2021 and (also) in 2022 was a big challenge and the School successfully shifted to the online mode. Several hundreds of attendees joined the monographic courses and the two online editions of the final Conference were followed by over 1000 participants in 29 countries.

The considerations by Rüdiger Wischenbart were focused on the different situation of the companies in the context of the Covid crisis. The pandemic crisis has not meant the same thing for everyone, it has not been identical type of crisis for everyone: it has not meant the equivalent for large companies as for small companies, nor has it been the same for large markets as for the little ones. Because the big ones have all the possibilities to add efforts or to work together in the book value chain.

Small and medium size companies cannot be oriented towards innovations as big ones do to face a crisis. This Covid-19 crisis already had a precedent with a sustained drop in printed books sold in each market, which is a long term problem for all, but a huge challenge for small businesses.

During this 2022’ conference took place a session focused on the impact of e-lending on the market of ebooks in some countries and the solutions that the platforms could offer with some different business models as intermediators between libraries and content owners.

Enrico Turrin -Deputy director of the European Federation of Publishers (FEP)- presented the main results of the study that FEP commissioned to GFK in order to understand the impact from the perspective or the publishing sector of the lending of electronic books. This research is focused on the Swedish, French and Italian market, along the lines of a similar survey already conducted in Germany by the same company.

Taking into account all the remarks explained by Turrin, the main conclusions from the results of this study are that the e-lending is prevalent especially among the high-income and highly educated groups of the population, and has a significantly negative impact on the purchasing not only of e-books, but of printed books in particular.

During the same session Christian Schumacher-Gebler (CEO of Bonnier Group in Germany) started by a clear statement, pointing that although the ebooks market has grown “but when we look in our turnover or revenues we don’t see the big increase and what we saw is that the main reason for this are, obviously, the e-lending platforms”.

Schumacher-Gebler informed the audience that there is the initiative “Fair lessen” (Fair reading) launched by important publishers, booksellers and top authors in Germany that addresses the politicians “that we have a problem here if this trend goes on” and asking the right to decide which books should be in the library service and which not.

Johanna Brinton (Senior Regional Manager EMEA, Global Libraries and Education at OverDrive) shared in this session the point of view of the digital platforms which aim to lay bridges between libraries and publishers. Brinton argued that reader interest and engagement “is the most important part here and the biggest opportunity for both parties to work together” because “libraries are a very unique space in the community and the type of activities and the type of engagement across every social economic layer in that community in an area where working in the interest of the community and around books there is a closer collaboration that could happen between publishers and libraries”.

Erik Wikberg, CEO of House of Innovation SSE, presented during Readmagine22 the publishing landscape in Sweden in relation to digital subscription models, in particular audiobooks, which are succeeding undoubtedly in recent years.

The Swedish market has been largely digitized since 2015, and Storytel is the dominant platform. Wikberg lists its main competitors, including Audible and others of Swedish origin such as BookBeat. Wikberg then compared the situation of the digital publishing market in Sweden with that of a possible paradise, but he questions for whom, addressing different aspects. It turns out that the subscription model proposes a different way of invoicing, since it is not done from the number of copies, but from »units of time». Wikberg suggested that these formats can be a paradise for the consumer, since it is the cheapest format there is and also the most accessible, not only for a theoretical matter in which it is not necessary to know or be able to read, but because it is not necessary to have free time, since listening to audiobooks can be combined with other activities.

Rüdiger Wischembart also presented the last trends of the digital books market (as summary of his“Digital Book Barometer”). He observed that when publishers make statistics they focus on benefits obtained, on the economic revenue. However, Wischenbart prefers to attend to the volume: the number of copies that have been successfully distributed, since it gives us a broader and more accurate perspective of what is going on in the sector, in the reader’s behaviour, since the figures in euros are conditioned by the kind of products that are sold (a hardcover copy can be worth the same as two and sometimes even three paperbacks).

Today the book industry is not a single, homogeneous universe, but rather an amalgam of different things. Currently, going to the digital scope, downloads are not the only mode of consumption, but there are subscription and streaming models. These new forms of consumption imply new distribution models. In terms of trends, we observe that the genres that were most successful in the print market retain its success in the digital market, although in the digital market new genres and themes stand out in comparison to the print market.

Another of the round tables was devoted to the diverse visions on the disruption in educational content distribution. This was a dialogue between Gauthier Van Malderen (Perlego), Eduardo Yagüe (Odilo) and Marc Boutet (Demarque) with Luis González (Managing Director of FGSR) as moderator.

The first was Gauthier Van Malderen, founder and CEO of Perlego. In order for us to understand what Perlego is and what it offers, he begun his presentation by emphasizing the great discontent that seems to exist among students who need textbooks, since the prices are considerably high. This is the problem that arises in the consumer realm; in the case of publishers, the problem stems from how consumers deal with their own problem, and that is that both second-hand sales and piracy are the two practices that most harm these publishers.

The next speaker was Eduardo Yagüe, director of Odilo. Odilo’s goals consist of democratizing access to education and promoting study and reading habits, helping users reach their full potential through what they call learning ecosystems. They have more than 8,000 clients, more than three million resources available (which represents the largest educational catalogue in the world) and are present in more than fifteen countries.

Marc Boutet, CEO of DeMarque, explained that in 2011 they began to distribute in bookstores and it didn’t take long for them to want to provide access to ebooks in schools. It is currently one of the few platforms that are used in all schools. In their attempt to collaborate with publishers they found certain problems to solve: how to align actors (publishers, school, ministry) around a disruptive version; how to convince that the project is an added commercial value and is not a replacement for physical sales; how to imagine features that do not meet existing needs in the school or how to generate adoption of the technology.

Michiel Kolman, Juan Mera and Patxi Beascoa, who acted as moderator, took part in this colloquium on sustainability and the relationship between the publishing industry and ecological policies.

The session begun with a presentation by Michiel Kolman, Senior Vice President at Elsevier, representing the IPA (International Publishers Association). Kolman set out the responsibilities of publishers in relation to sustainability and listed two main objectives that can be broken down into more specific ones. The first would be to become a responsible organization (that is, one that has fair labour policies, that values ​​diversity and inclusion, and that has work dynamics that are considerate of the environment); the second is to be a catalyst for change (publish content related to the global agenda, work on the SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals] to catalogue and promote content, organize projects and collaborations).

Next it was the turn of Juan Mera, the director of supply chains at Grupo Planeta, who shared with the audience that he has more than 20 years of experience in the publishing sector but that he is happy to still be here at this time because it is a time of change and challenges about which he will now speak to us.

He divided his presentation into three parts. The first dealt with the fact that sustainability is not a passing trend but rather a philosophy that is here to stay. In the second part he listed the sustainability problems that the publishing sector will have to face. Finally, in part three, he shared some insights on how an environmentally friendly approach can result in profits and growth for the industry.

The last round table, moderated by Arantza Larrauri (Libranda) as a dialogue about digital market tools for the book industry from three different perspectives, which begun with the participation of Laura Di Giuseppe on behalf of Tandem Collective, a digital marketing company focused mainly on the promotion of books. She drew attention to the recent changes that have arisen as a result of social networks, how they set trends and the role of the so-called «influencers» in this sector. Readalongs are their main method, with them they seek to create a domino effect that generates enough talk about a book on the networks to create a trend or to draw the attention of its potential audience.

Then Nathan Hull spoke on behalf of Beat Tech. He presented his business proposal as a solution for publishers to certain problems that derive from new consumption models. He added that the subscription does not imply a single form of consumption but is a means through which the consumer pays to access the content. His method is to create ecosystems that benefit all parties. They collect information on the different trends in reading habits to learn about the dynamics of the public and that publishers can take advantage of that information.

The next guest was Andrew Rhomberg, founder of Jellybooks. This company divides their philosophy into what they call ABC: audience insights, book discovery and cloud reading. They collect information before a book is published so that the publisher has the option to change something if the data suggests it will be an improvement. Rhomberg also declared that Jellybooks seeks feedback from readers regarding the reading experience with specific titles. Another of his strategies, as he explains, consists of using ebooks as a hook for the sale of printed books.

You can see all the presentations and round tables in this link.

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