Book Festival: The Future of Publishing

Rating (out of 5)
Show info
Edinburgh International Book Festival
Ernst Kallus (Chair), Peter Collingridge, Davey Nougerede
Running time

There can be no doubt that publishing is undergoing significant and long-lasting change. As Ernst Kallus, board member of Publishing Scotland and Chair for this event claimed, what is occurring is probably the greatest revolution since moveable type gave the world the book as most of us still know it.

Peter Collingridge and Davey Nougerede were on hand to challenge any comfortable assumptions we may have held about books as artefacts and objects. Collingridge is the driving force behind Enhanced Editions which produce e-book apps for the i-phone. Their small but well-formed list includes Phillip Pullman’s ‘The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ’, Barak Obama’s oeuvre to date, and some fifteen other solid mid-range titles.

Collingridge began his career with Canongate, working on, among other things, the Canongate Canon, in which several books of the Bible were introduced and commentaried by noted writers. His time at Canongate and connections made there have clearly stood him in good stead when developing Enhanced Editions, several titles coming from the Canongate list.

Collingridge gave us a snappy series of presentations, including a short interview with Phillip Pullman, which made several pitches for his product but confirmed its confinement (at present, anyway) to a single, albeit currently popular, platform.

Davy Nougerede was an even mightier evangelist for audio books, and, perhaps understandably for his own particular brand, Heavy Entertainment, especially in the case of their latest venture into fiction aimed at young teenage girls. Nougerade’s outfit has ruthlessly tapped into social networking as a means of promoting this. Nougerede was also enthusiastic about the potential of streaming, but didn’t seem to take into account a public used both to ownership of media and not paying for content.

The discussion moved on to consider the longer term effects of technology-driven innovation on publishing in general. Nougerede pointed out that in France books were considerably more expensive, and discounting virtually unknown. One cannot, however, transpose economic situations, and the effects of the collapse of the Net Book Agreement in the UK continue to affect the industry.

Although e-books may in future offer advantages in terms of the kind of add-ons we now associate with DVDs, a question remained in this reviewer’s mind as to what sort of future the book as artefact may have – authors such as Alastair Gray and the late B S Johnson have demonstrated in different ways how books can be adorned, cut in chunks, reduced to single sheets and generally re-presented in unique and challenging ways. One awaits this kind of creative anarchism from the world of digital publishing.

Event: 23 August, 6.45pm