NEW YORK. Digital Book World 2023, held in midtown New York, January 16–18, hosted over 400 attendees—including representatives from large and small publishing companies, technology companies (like Spotify and Virtusales), and media outlets (Publishers Weekly and The Bookseller). The conference organizer claimed: “If you listen closely to all these speakers, you’ll have a good overview of the whole industry.” Will Awad and Alan Bradshaw from Newgen attended.
Talks and panels included everyone from data aggregators to bloggers to startup CEOs and technologists, but the overwhelming narrative was one of opportunity—new technology, reaching new markets, bringing new voices to the table and readers to the page.
AI—with ChatGPT getting the most mentions—and ePub 3 and the looming European accessibility rules are opening some doorways.
Much of the media attention on recent AI tools has been focused on what it can’t do and what it gets wrong and whose jobs are endangered. But it’s worth noting that hundreds of companies are working in this realm and the next version of ChatGPT—not far off—will be using 600x more data than the current one. Folks are exploring its use in creating first drafts of abstracts, citations, catalog copy, key sales points, key words for SEO, and indexes. AI is also already being used to speed up digital conversions—a huge potential market, with 65% of books published from 1923 to 1963 in the United States public domain but NOT yet digitized. As a friend of mine at Google commented, “AI isn’t going to take your job; someone making better use of AI than you is going to take your job.”
Many speakers argued that new technology can enable easier and smarter access to the book market for smaller companies—and for readers in terms of cost and customization. The possibilities are wide-ranging. One company, Chegg, talked about lowering student costs with digital textbook rentals. Another company, Book.io, discussed how it’s creating additional revenue by using AI customization capabilities, coupled with blockchain technology and ePub 3, to help solve the perennial issue of collecting publishers’ and authors’ royalties from secondary (used book) sales.
Several speakers argued convincingly that, in addition to reaching new markets and aiding accessibility, new tools present opportunities to promote and enhance the pro-social aspects of reading itself. Padmasree Warrior, the founder of a social media/book club platform, Fable, after noting the health benefits of reading just 30 minutes per day, said “Our mission is to deliver the world’s best social experience with exceptional stories in service of mental wellness.” Rebel Girls, a children’s publisher, is offering stories with “360 degrees” of empowerment.
Altogether, the event was inspiring and optimistic.
If you want more details:
Selected DBW 2023 presentations may be viewed and downloaded here.
The conference was widely covered in the media:
Brown and Lucas Address Black Women in Publishing Panel (Katy Hershberger, Publishers Lunch)
DBW Redux (Lorraine Shanley, Publishing Trends)
Digital Book World 2023: The Future of AI Writing and Audio (Ed Nawotka, Publishers Weekly)
Digital Book World Focuses on Data and Accessibility (Ed Nawotka, Publishers Weekly)
Digital Book World Returns to New York City (Jane Friedman, Hot Sheet Pub)
Digital Book World: Startups Are Entering “A New Age” (Ed Nawotka, Publishers Weekly)
IPA’s Karine Pansa at DBW: “A Big Wake-Up Call” (Porter Anderson, Publishing Perspectives)
Turbulence Ahoy as Big Publishers Find Trouble at Top (Gayle Feldman, The Bookseller)