Editors need still need to champion books in the digital world, but they also need to have a "vision" of how the content can be used beyond the traditional book, otherwise they risk losing control of the book to the "digital department".
This was the view from a panel discussion held at Publishers Launch London today. During a discussion on "New Skill Sets: Capabilities Publishers don't Have and How They're Developing Them", Charlie Redmayne, executive vice president and chief digital officer at HarperCollins Publishers, stressed that editors needed to look beyond the book. "Editors need to become not just editors of books, but people with the content vision, and there are not enough editors in the industry who have those skills."
Redmayne warned that it editors did not take these new skills they would lose control of the content when it moves into the digital world: "The person who really understands how to tell that story in the app environment is the one who should take if forward, otherwise you end up with an app that is a book, and it should be different."
Pearson director of digital product and consumer technology Juan Lopez-Valcarel said that book publishing was "the most insular industry I have ever worked in". "We should cherish this, but every now and then you need to get off your island." He said that bringing outside talent into the business was positive since it cold create "friction". He said: "If you have cultural friction, that means you are on to something, if everyone agrees you have an echo chamber, embrace friction." But he stressed that the best products still needed a singular champion. "If you have large groups of people coming up woth products, you end up with a product without a soul."
Redmayne said the key was to make sure the new digital people were properly integrated within the traditional business. "If you bring new people in, you need to make sure they are integrated into the rest of the business, otherwise you end up with digital departments, and all the power stays with the imprints."
Jack Thomas, chief executive of Midas PR, argued that this should go both ways. "Often we recruit from the outside but then fail to explain what the industry does."
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