Goodreads Blog

The Future of the Book: A SXSW Panel

Posted by Otis on August 27, 2012 1

Click here to vote for our panel!

These are wild times for the book. Not since Gutenberg printed his first Bible has the concept of a book undergone such a radical transformation. With the rise of e-books and the proliferation of tablets, smartphones and e-readers, anyone can carry an entire library in their backpack or purse. At the same time, the shift to a digital library has also obliterated the old barriers to publication. As author Clay Shirky recently said ". . . the word "publishing" means a cadre of professionals who are taking on the incredible difficulty and complexity and expense of making something public. That's not a job anymore. That's a button."

The results of this revolution are just now becoming evident. The entire concept of the book—from how it's produced to how it's marketed, purchased, read, and discussed—is suddenly in flux. As we rethink what the book means and what it could be, several questions continually arise. Is reading a "social" activity? Or is it necessarily something done alone? What would a social reading experience look like? Is it more than just your average book club meeting? How are publishing companies and authors using data analysis to improve how they sell books? And as we increasingly do our computing on the go, how will mobile change the way we read?

These are the issues we're planning to tackle in our proposed South by Southwest (SXSW) panel The Future of the Book. Social Media expert and president of Human Business Works (and bestselling author of Trust Agents) Chris Brogan will host a discussion with me, Otis Chandler, Goodreads founder and CEO, and Tim Sanders, co-founder of a new company that I think is very cool: Netminds, which aims to reimagine how books are produced.

Sanders has a compelling vision for where the book is headed:

In the future, all of us will likely work on a book in some capacity, likely motivated by the books we read and the authors we engage with.
I'll share data that suggests that some of the best publishing talent in the world isn't yet working in the publishing industry. This is the bridge between Net Minds and Goodreads. Book fans are often literary talents, just waiting to work on their their own books. Fifty Shades Of Grey stands as an example of this in action.

I'll share case studies of digital publishing innovations including fan-sourced content, crowd-editing and books as living documents. Each one suggests that the publishing process is no longer linear, like a supply chain, but instead interdependent, like an eco-system.
I'll talk about how anyone with a platform and a point of view can produce the most valuable media commodity of our time—books.


Chris Brogan, who will be leading the discussion, sums up the scope of the talk nicely: "Where are books heading? Ask readers and some will argue for paper while others welcome our digital future. But that's only one angle. Books as apps. Books as places. Location based books. We have a lot to cover."

If you are interested in learning a little more about our panel, check out this short presentation we made:



A few weeks ago in anticipation of this panel, we thought it would be fun to take Brogan's idea and put the question to you, our members. We tweeted "Will reading become more of a social experience?" and asked our Facebook fans what they thought the future of the book looked like. Here were a few of the responses:








Kat reminds us that there are a multitude of ways to define "social."


Several people mentioned being able to find likeminded readers, like those found in the Vaginal Fantasy Hangout and the Sword and Laser Groups.







Help us take this discussion to the next level at SXSW by voting for our panel. If you've already voted, "Thank you!" It would also really help if you tell your friends about it on Twitter and Facebook. There's a ton of competition for panels at SXSW so...if like us, you believe that books deserve some of the spotlight, we'd really appreciate your support. And be sure to share more of your thoughts or questions about this topic below. All these opinions will help shape our conversation at SXSW.

Click here to vote for our panel!
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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Experiment BL626 Slide #17. Snooki. LMAO!!!


message 2: by Nate (new)

Nate Klaiber Voted. I think this is a very interesting topic.

When the Kindle first came out, I ignored it. When the iPad came out, I refused to read books on it. I liked having physical copies of my books - there was just something about having the physical printed word. I was resistant to the idea of reading on a device.

I told myself to give it a few weeks with just the iPad. I fell in love with the Kindle ecosystem. I could pick up and continue on any device I had (Kindle, iPad, iPhone, Desktop, Laptop, etc). Now I didn't have to scour back through my books with highlights and ripped pieces of paper - I had my notes and highlights all organized digitally. If I needed to go back and search, it was much easier than sifting through an index or bookmarks. It was instant. I could share all of this if I so chose. It took on a different meaning for me.

Printed books still have a special place for me. I love looking at my bookshelf in my office and seeing the books I have read over the years. It's a visual signifier of the things I have learned, and a constant reminder at how fast things move.

Now it's not just a matter of printed versus digital. It's about the entire ecosystem of connecting with other people reading or talking about the same things. I think it helps to broaden the education aspect, as well. I think we are still at the beginning of seeing the impacts it will have as we move into the future.


message 3: by Massimo (last edited Aug 28, 2012 04:46AM) (new)

Massimo Marino In this case, new technology is not chasing away old technology. Self-publishing, ebooks...they all contributed to attract more people, especially youngest ones, to the pleasure of reading, and facilitate a plunge into a good story. Younger generations are re-discovering reading, and writers, in part because of the new technology.

You read a synopsis, comments and recommendations on social networks and BAM, one click and a new book is in your tablet!


message 4: by Bedava (new)

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