Digital Book World’s Choir: Keynotes From Amazon, Apple, And All

Image - iStockphoto: VitalyEdush
Image – iStockphoto: VitalyEdush

The First Major Publishing Pilgrimage Of 2015

Publishing conferences are ritual performances. They are to the varied segments of publishing what morality plays are to the various forms of Christianity. They are narratives that are organised to demonstrate, emphasise, and reinforce the orthodoxy.

Those are the words of one of our most dependable iconoclasts, Baldur Bjarnason.

And our first test in 2015 of such a view will come early: the sixth annual Digital Book World, hashed #DBW15, will gather in the Hilton Midtown’s cathedral-sized ballroom on Sixth Avenue from January 13th to 15th. Produced by F+W Media’s Digital Book World vertical, DBW is one of the signal events of the publishing-conference year. In 2014 it drew more than 1,500 members of the industry and media people who cover publishing.

Baldur Bjarnason
Baldur Bjarnason

Bjarnason wrote his essay On Conferences last month, and it has served as an interesting touchstone of thought for some of us who are working on conference programming. (I’m a media partner with DBW and am working on programming with Authoright’s London Author Fair, the International Digital Publishing Forum’s Digital Book, Novelists Inc. and others.)

Certain speakers, Bjarnason tells us, appear at publishing conferences as figures of the heterodoxy to display  whatever is generally accepted by the congregation as wrong-headed thinking. Bjarnason includes himself in that category for a mainstream conference, and indeed I saw him ably play the role in his fond fedora last May in Berlin at Klopotek’s fine Publishers’ Forum.

There, Bjarnason told publishing-house chiefs: “Most of you will think of digital as a sideline until you are a sideline.” In other words, he’s good at the role.

I wrote up part of his address for Publishing Perspectives and quoted him saying: “If you don’t change,…most of you will fail. In ten years, most important publishers will be gone.”

It makes sense, then, when Bjarnason describes the heterodox speaker, himself or someone else, this way:

By providing a clear demonstration of threatening ideas from the outside, we end up giving the orthodoxy’s ideological centre a clearer delineation—reinforcing it. We are Vice, Folly, Death, Prodigality, and Temptation in the morality tale. We have to sound plausible, reasonable, and enticing for the drama to work, but are then parodied and mocked by the context.

In that context, it’s particularly interesting to look at the DBW lineup of keynote speakers, only some of whom may fall into the category of what Bjarnason classifies as “the characters Mercy, Justice, Temperance, Truth, Virtue and Tenacity.”

Read More

There’s more: Read the full story at Thought Catalog

By Porter Ander­son | @Porter_Anderson

Writing on the Ether: Digital Book World’s Busy Choir: Keynotes From Amazon, Apple, And All

Originally published by Thought Catalog at



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