Publishers’ Forum, Berlin, revisited

May 2nd, 2012 by Anna von Veh § 1 comment § permalink

I attended the recent Publishers’ Forum in Berlin for the first time this year.

axica interior

axica conference and convention centre, designed by Frank Gehry

I was impressed with how the presentations intelligently intersected in interesting and relevant ways. The sense at the end of the two days was of a dynamic network of intelligent content, created by people with vision and energy.

Helmut von Berg of Klopotek was an indefatigable host and organiser and was as passionate about the subject as any of the speakers. It is commitment of this sort that will lead the way.

Brian O’Leary’s keynote address ‘Context First Revisited’ was as relevant today as when he first presented it in 2010, although now the word ‘container’ is simply a term we all use when talking about books. That his terminology has become part of the currency of digital publishing demonstrates how important his insights were and still are for us all.

All the sessions I attended were worthwhile and had something to offer. (As an English speaker, the German sessions were not an option, but looked very good too.) One of the English sessions that made a particular impression on me was that by Gregor Wolf and Christian Kohl, ‘Integrating deGruyter.com e-commerce with the back office software’. This is a side of publishing that most prefer not to think about; social media for instance is so much more exciting to talk about (and yes, as important). But it is precisely this kind of work behind the scenes that is crucial to the success of digital publishing. The presentation was focused, to the point, and the system they described seemed deceptively simple: a mark of true elegance, thorough analysis and hard work.

I want to thank my co-presenters, Ingrid Goldstein, and Brian O’Leary, who are both a joy to work with. I was privileged to have had this opportunity to present with them.

This conference gave me renewed confidence in the future of ‘book’ publishing, whatever the ‘book’ may look like.

Note: This post also appears on the Forum website.

Content Strategy: Master or Meta?

February 16th, 2012 by Anna von Veh § 0 comments § permalink

I was musing again about Content Strategy and it occurred to me that there are two ways of looking at it.

There is what I would call the ‘Master’ view: the all-seeing eye that knows everything, plans everything and creates clear structures to realise a certain vision. This is most appropriate to the ‘Enterprise’ model, particularly for industries where compliance is incredibly important or for highly structured modular content.

The other is the ‘Darwinian’ view: life develops largely through chance, circumstance, and constraints, making use of minute building blocks (DNA) to combine and create new life forms in endless and unforeseeable combinations. And, likewise, the binary nature of digital (so simple that it’s either on or it’s off) makes content uncontainable, unconstrainable and endlessly combinable. This paradox is both a threat and an opportunity.

» Read the rest of this entry «

Meet Laura Bontrager – a new romance author

February 11th, 2012 by Anna von Veh § 10 comments § permalink

We asked Laura Bontrager (@lily_bart), author of the forthcoming novel, Fences, to tell us about herself. (To find out how we discovered Laura, read Writing undercover on the web.)

What’s your story?

I was born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee, but my parents are from Ohio and California. They never expected to stay in Memphis when they came, and they spent a lot of time keeping me and my brother away from the Southern accent. So I’ve grown up with an interesting mixture of Southern, Californian, and Northern heritage.

Laura Bontrager

I graduated with a degree in English, and then worked as a behavioural aide for a boy with autism, and my poetry was published in various magazines and journals. Currently, I work in the library of a boys’ private school in Memphis. And I write.

When did you start writing and why?

I started telling stories first with my Barbie dolls as I created scene after scene of soap-opera-worthy tragedy. And then I wrote down stories because I wanted to illustrate them, not because I particularly loved the words. I felt I could show the pictures in my head better by creating pictures (but I turned out to be only a mediocre artist). Then I really got down to writing somewhere around 12 years old; the stories needed out. It was Holocaust survival tales (I was fascinated with WW2), and ‘magical realism’ (wizards and secret quests). And then those morphed into what is now called fan fiction. I wanted my favorite characters in my favorite TV shows to get together, to realize their love for each other, or to face certain doom and triumph. I rewrote episodes or I gave the characters backstories. I still didn’t think of it as writing though. » Read the rest of this entry «

Contented

February 6th, 2012 by Anna von Veh § 4 comments § permalink

The other day, Ingrid Goldstein and I were discussing content strategy and publishing (in preparation for a workshop we will be giving at the Publishers’ Forum in Berlin in April.) We got to talking about the often slow rate of adoption of content management when compared with other document-heavy industries.

One of the reasons may be that much of the current language of content management uses the language of logic, with little attention to the lyrical or personal. The reason for this may be that most companies using CMSs up until now have been businesses outside the creative field. Within these contexts, the purely rational language of content management may be valid.

Publishing companies, however, are different. » Read the rest of this entry «

Writing undercover on the web

February 3rd, 2012 by Anna von Veh § 21 comments § permalink

Confession: I’m a serious fan of the TV show, Castle,  which stars the ‘Geek God’, the witty Nathan Fillion, and the beautiful, and enviably multilingual, Stana Katic. What does this have to do with publishing, you may ask. Well, a lot it turns out.

I tweet about Castle under a ‘Castley’ pseudonym, and fangirl with the best of them (many of them teenagers, but also a fair smattering of English majors, doctors, teachers, film/media types, and of course, Firefly fans). What became increasingly interesting to me as I watched the show and followed fans on Twitter was the way the show crossed the usual boundaries of fandoms, media types and genres. I was particularly fascinated with how a show about a crime writer seemed to be encouraging young people to read long-form narrative that they might not have read otherwise, if they read books at all.

» Read the rest of this entry «