Publishing: The Next Five Years

Hi all,

I’m back from the city of love and disgusting tubes!

Today, I’m getting away from my usual posts to discuss what I did last night!

I attended BookMachine’s event in London, where we discussed the next five years of Publishing. As I will hopefully be entering the industry sometime in the next few years, listening to people with extensive experience in publishing talking about their vision of the future of the book and the industry as a whole was very valuable.

Our speaker was George Walkley, the Head of Digital for Hachette UK. His talk was very honest, informative and funny. I tried to take notes and tweet but ended up failing miserably at both. So I apologise in advance if what follows is super unclear.

George based most of his presentation on an infamous statement by the also infamous Donald Rumsfeld. This statement talks about known knowns, known unknowns and unknown unknowns. It goes a bit like this: “There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.”

Applying this saying to the publishing industry was strangely effective because it showed us what we could anticipate and what would be almost impossible to control but would need to be watched carefully, such as disruptive technology for instance. He also added ‘unknown knowns’ that he defined as “the things that we know but choose to ignore or deny.”

George finished his talk by this beautiful quote (and you know how I love quotes) by Alan Kay: “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”

My vision

Being surrounded by people who have worked in the industry for decades, I did feel very inadequate and I still think that my vision of the next five years of publishing isn’t very valid as it’s mostly based on my experience as a reader and not as a publisher. But I’ll share it with you anyway because this is my blog and I can do what I want!

In the next five years, publishers will make much more use of online platforms like YouTube to broadcast book news, author interviews, book synopsis… When most of their market is online, publishers can’t afford to ignore these communities. Also free (excluding equipment) marketing is always a bonus.

The reading experience will need to be much more interactive. In an age where our average attention span resembles the one of a two year old on a sugar high, reading a 500 pages novel seems like a titanic task. When there are so many other things you could be doing or watching, sitting down and reading a book doesn’t seem like the best option. Publishers need to retain people’s attention by reaching them via media they find stimulating. There are many options that could be and already are exploited to increase interactivity, such as creating a website or app containing exclusive additional information to the book. But are these effective or could we find better ways to interact with our audience?

I also believe that Publishing will become even more transnational and transcultural in the future. Meeting many people from my MA program comforted me in that idea because we come from all over and we all bring our cultural experiences with us. I wrote a post on reading diversely a while back (link HERE) and I do believe that the trend is growing. Publishers will need to make investments in translations and, much like Pushkin Press already does, research foreign books that have had a strong impact on their original country and render them accessible to a larger community.


I’ve already seen a move toward the points I’ve made above (Pottermore, publishers getting involved with Booktubers…) but there are still many ways to make use of the many resources available to us in a profitable way, both for the industry and the readers.

Finally, and to end on a cheesy note, I hope I get to be part of the future of Publishing and will work hard to do so.




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