The mark of any good conference is how much conversation goes on about it after it is over. Last week in San Francisco, the Internet Archive hosted a conference that this year they called “Books in Browsers“. This was the second such conference held by the Internet Archive. Last year, I don’t think it had a name, but the overall effect was similar – it was nearly impossible to stop thinking about it or talking about it. On Twitter, the hash tag #BIB10 is still very active, and the mailing list Read 2.0 (also hosted by Peter Brantley of the Internet Archive) has enough fodder to keep it buzzing for the next 6 months.
There are some great accounts written about the meat of the conference by Kassia Krozser, Patrick Brown, and Jeff Kaplan (and a special thanks to Eric Rumsey for pulling it all together). I encourage you all to read them.
However, the big take-away for me was about innovation in general. Leaving the conference (both years), I had a feeling similar to the one I had as a kid leaving the Year 2000 exhibit at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York. Believable fantasy was made into reality (or at least a prototype). Not everything I saw in 1964 is with us today, but some of those innovations are, and some of them took a long, hard road to get here.
For example, the video phone. It was a huge hit at the Worlds Fair, and AT&T went and built it, but the market wasn’t ready, and it failed miserably. But today, how many of us use Skype to communicate with close family over long distances? When you add in the eras of video conferencing and online meetings, you can see how this concept of communicating on multiple levels was way ahead of it’s time in 1964. But, the vision put us on a road to where we are today.
Back to #BIB10 – Many of the presentations gave me the same feeling. Some of them were BIG ideas, and others were very practical. Bob Stein’s much debated social reading platform was one of the big ideas, as was Brian O’Leary’s Unified Field Theory of Publishing. (Please allow me one quick aside – How cool is it that Bob Stein, a hero-innovator in electronic publishing is back creating controversial debate about reading?). Some ideas were innovative on a much more tangible level like Joseph Pearson’s Monocle software platform that is (it seems to Joseph’s surprise) powering several reading programs, or Kevin Franco’s transmedia demonstration. These were only some of the presentations, and I’m only citing them here for the purposes of making a point.
The good news: This all relates to the world of reading, writing, publishing, and experiencing the power of the written word.
I could write a tome on the examples of innovation I witnessed, but below are some tenants I came away with. What would you add to this list?
1. Innovation is often not a brand new idea, but one that expands upon an already given belief. (Social Reading)
4. Broad based excitement about an innovation has a shelf life, after which the excitement is kept alive by only a few. (OPDS)
5. Innovations become great ideas only after they achieve success in their market. (Kobo).
6. Anyone can be an innovator, anyone willing to follow through on the execution of an idea. (Richard Nash)
7. Lack of mass market acceptance does not kill the innovation, it just puts it into obscurity. (Bob Stein and the original Voyager work)
8. Innovation is often not new, it’s just something happening outside our sphere of being. (Voyager Japan)
10. Innovation often requires doing things for the sake of doing them, and deferring the idea of ROI. (FrancoMedia)