A new generation of publishing professionals, no longer cogs in the wheel, shares Shafina Segon of Taylor & Francis.
We humans are a paradoxical species. On the one hand, we are uniquely endowed with the power of extraordinary imagination – the ability to see what could be, but has never been. On the other, we are uniquely imperfect. We have weaknesses and we make mistakes, lots of them. It is the ability of our imagination to triumph over our imperfections, weaknesses, and mistakes that has driven human progress over the millennia.
The publishing industry is an apt example of this equation. It has outdone itself many times while we all were prophesizing its doom. I have myself been witness to some amazing contradictions that have borne fruitful results.
It is almost time for the next chapter of Publishing Next, the annual publishing conference curated by Leonard and Queenie Fernandes of Cinnamon Teal Publishing at Goa supported by a team of industry experts. The conference sees an amalgamation of talent from different publishing streams that converge at a common forum every year to discuss the latest trends and perspectives unique to the publishing industry. It is quite a gathering –about 38 speakers, 160 plus participants and two full days of discussions and analysis of all things publishing.
As a speaker, and a guest at the conference for the past two years, I have been witness to some amazing movements, which are in their budding state but could well become trends in the coming time. There have also been many learnings; learnings that have acted as a catalyst for changes in my perception towards the industry. Surprisingly enough, although we talk so much about the industry, its status and consequently the way forward, no one really is able to say with much confidence what the future of the publishing industry is. There are optimists and there are pessimists. While optimists strongly believe that the publishing industry is eternal, the pessimists are forever calculating the doomsday. These two sets of highly ‘conditioned’ individuals keep promoting the Faustian bargain, in which we trade our genius and artistry for apparent stability.
But there is a new generation of publishing individuals that I have started to notice. I call these the ‘The Pub-Linchs’. While pub stands for publishing of course, Linch stands for the new generation of publishing professions who no longer want to be a part of the multigenerational conspiracy that forces us to believe and follow the few basics on which we have evolved our publishing philosophy. These are a set of individuals who are ready to think differently, and are not satisfied being just the cogs in the wheel.
These young professionals are working at creating ‘experiential reading as well as listening’ for their customers. I saw them being frowned upon at the conference. Isn’t it blasphemy to try and shake the equilibrium of a well-oiled machine? What about hierarchy? Wouldn’t the seniors know better? The tragedy is that society (your school, your boss, your government, your family) keeps drumming the genius part out. The Pub-Linchs, instead of focusing on the future of publishing, are actively engaged in creating that future – slowly, persuasively, determined to change the world in their own way.
While the conference revolves around pertinent current issues, areas of celebrations, concerns, awards and workshops, I see these ‘Pub-Linchs’ slowly see becoming a tribe rising against the ‘normal’. They do not hesitate to ask questions, refuse rebuttal and have a strong opinion of their own – like almost defying the very structure of the world they belong to. They dislike ‘normal’ and are embarking on doing creative interventions in allied fields that are slowly merging into publishing.
In the past years of attending the conference, I met a girl who runs an audio program where their company records a set of individuals for an hour who want to give their opinions on various issues. That’s it. Just letting them talk. A new form of audio publishing perhaps. Unheard of, but evolving. I was also introduced to Syn Talk (short for Synthesis Talk), a freewheeling interdisciplinary talk show with a philosophical approach to understanding the world from a long term perspective. SynTalk believes that all understanding lies on nodes, and it therefore brings together concepts, ideas and impulses from different epistemological categories.I also learnt about an app called ReadMyStori that is an ebooks platform for readers to enjoy, appreciate and contribute to the views from the authors.
Daily Hunt is an Indian app that lets you read content from over thousands of newspapers, magazines and books on your mobiles without having to go to the physical shop. There were also social sector entrepreneurs who were committed to enabling the rural population have access to digital resources. Publishers who were creating products based on the auditory, visual or kinesthetic abilities of readers offering them a wider range of choices than before to interact with the content. This is the new genre of publishers, who want to make a difference. Who understand that it takes a different attitude to live without a pre-defined map; they refuse to blindly follow rules and merely contribute labour.
It heartens me to see this tribe of competence evolving in publishing. And I know that these Pub-Linchs among us are not the ones born with a magical talent. They are people who have decided that rather than waiting for change, they need to create it. They believe that a new kind of work is important, and have trained themselves to do it.
We are undoubtedly living in exciting times, where the transition of ideas and values, as it is happening today, will shape the future of the publishing industry. You can see your marketplace as being limited, a zero- sum game, a place where in order for one person to win, another must lose. Or you can see it as unlimited. A place where talent creates growth and the market increases in size. So, who would you rather be?