Compiling notes from the Tools of Change conference

My Twitter page is drowning under a tweetstorm of posts from people at the O’Reilly Tools of Change conference. It’s really amazing how, with so many people posting snippets from each talk, you can actually get a three-dimensional (if patchwork) image of what each talk covered, and the messages.
Let me tell you, it’s some fascinating stuff – makes me wish I was there. Here’s some of the best bits I’ve gleaned, either paraphrased or as direct quotes from twitter.
On publishing
So far, in the various sessions at the conference, two messages about publishing in the digital age are coming through loud and clear.

  1. Publishers need to reconsider exactly what it is they’re selling – not just to the reader, but what service they’re actually providing to the author.
  2. Going forward, the most successful books will be as much about community as about content. (I.e.: Creating a community around the thing that you have created — see the quote down below on Creating Your Work Today.)

While these concepts are new and difficult for mainstream publishers, indie or indie-ideal authors [Doctorow, Scalzi] and small imprints have embraced them from the start – often without even realizing they were doing something revolutionary. Big publishers now have something to learn from the independent, publishing writer.
“What can publishers do for writers who are better at the web than them?” (And don’t say “a listing in catalogs for chain stores”, because… upping the book price to cover the cost of getting a book listed with stores that represent less than a third of book sales, and whose share continues to dwindle? Not a selling point.)
“Media that doesn’t die can still dwindle — Opera relies on rich weirdos, not cultural relevance/commercial viability.”
Re: eBooks: “Paper is just a device.” That might bend some people’s minds, since it’s assumed as a publishing basis for so long. The horse was a “device” too.
“Best way to predict the future is to imagine that the thing you can’t live without will stop existing and prove to have been unimportant.” (Read that in terms of the current-and-perpetual publishing industry.)
“Free books enable the market for paid books.”
“The more you restrict the ability to transform an ebook (thanks to DRM – did you know that reading an ebook from your iPhone to your kid while walking through the grocery store is actually illegal?), the more it has to be valued on the same axes as a tree-book. E-books fail on those axes.”
People want to configure their personal culture. Making a priori assumptions about reading habits will cost you customers.
You know where 30% of reading occurs? In bed. [[Personal bitch: given that information, why doesn’t Kindle have a backlight?]]

On Creating your Work Today
Down economies are golden ages for bohemia as creatives are released from the rat race and make art instead.
“Don’t just blog, do something more sophisticated with all of your content.”
The value of a web-site is orthogonal to its value as commercially-prepared info. Its real worth is dependent on its social characteristics.
“To double your success, triple your failures.”
Publetariat: It’s time the word “indie” carry the same street cred for book authors as it does for indie musicians, [me: “gamers”], and filmmakers.

One of the most repeated tweets regarding TOC had to do with the representatives from getting up and walking out on Cory Doctorow’s anti-DRM presentation. (Note: this didn’t actually happen. :)
The heart of the message from that presentation:

“‘Doctorow’s Law’: if somebody puts a lock on something you own and doesn’t give you the key, it’s not to your benefit.”

People will pay for content, provided you don’t make the case that buying content opens you up to having it taken away later by DRM.

There’s tons and tons more stuff coming out from ToC, but that’s what snagged my brain this morning.