By Jeff Maes and Annemie Speybrouck, Boek.de
Some 28,000 new Dutch titles are published yearly in Holland and Flanders, and about 105,000 Dutch titles permanently available. This means the Dutch book industry requires an army of creative professionals to steer a course of innovation. The Flemish book industry’s engagement with other creative and media industries is a strategic choice for economic growth.
Here are some examples that illustrate why and how we approach the challenges of migration to digital reading and publishing, invention of new activities, identificiation of global opportunites, and creation of new partnerships within creative industries.
Creative Media Industries: Let’s Stick Together
As initiator of the OCI (Flanders Creative Industries Platform) – part of Flanders DC District of Creativity (the organization set up by the Flemish Government for support on the creative industries) – Boek.be is committed to supporting innovation in the Flemish book industry. The OCI platform represents 12 creative branches: architecture, audio visual arts, visual arts, communication and advertising, cultural heritage, design, gaming, fashion, music, new media, performing arts and, last but not least, books and printed media. Many of these mentioned branches increasingly overlap and converge nowadays.
The OCI platform has three goals for bringing these sectors together: 1) to stimulate cooperation between the different branches, 2) to encourage innovation within the global creative industries, 3) to structure Flemish government support for creative industries. This collaborative and innovative strategy, which includes a roadmap presented to the Flemish government, has resulted in practical applications within the Flemish book industry.
One of the many challenges for Flemish publishers in a developed digital age is to bridge the gap between difference creative industries. This means books meet games, meet television, meet exhibition, meet social media, etc. Collaboration between publishers results in high-quality products. Participation in 360-degree projects generates new consumer groups. Co-creation by converging media invites to new partnerships in creative business.
Theoretical outlines? Nope! Flanders does translate this into effective practice. The projects below illustrate how joining forces results in many projects based on cooperation, collaboration, and co-creation.
The Times, They Are a-Changin’
The four-year project, Publisher of the Future, financially powered by IWT (a governmental organization stimulating innovation and technology) is a partnership between Boek.be and iMinds. iMinds MultiMediaLab is a research and development division at the University of Ghent, and iMinds SMIT is a research center for Studies on Media, Information and Telecommunication at the University of Brussels. Both independant research institutes, funded by the Flemish government, have joined forces within the Publisher of the Future project. This project provides Flemish publishers with research on new cross-media and transmedia concepts, startups, development of fresh products, and research on new business models. Publisher of the Future is a demand-driven project, and its goals include analyzing opportunities of digital publishing, defining the needs and priorities of the Flemish publishers, facilitating the development of innovative and enriched ebooks, and initiating matchmaking between publishers and technology partners. Today, 26 publishers and 6 ICT partners participate in this project. At the end of 2016, the completed projects and research reports will be shared with all Flemish publishers. In 2014, the project will focus on hybrid publishing, automatic data generation, and exploration. Results will be shared at various conferences, seminars, workshops and events.
Events for Converging Media: Smells like Team Spirit
In order to increase collaboration between publishers and audio visual producers, Flanders DC organizes workshops, bootcamps, coaching processes and networking events. In 2013, Boek.be organized the first Converging Media Conference. About 40 speakers from different branches and industries (movies, television, gaming, magazines and newspapers, advertising, education) together with researchers from different knowledge centers and universities inspired 200 participants by focusing on challenges and opportunities and converting innovative ideas into commercially viable propositions. Sharing knowledge and insight, as well as looking for collaborative opportunities, are key steps toward reshaping the future of the book industry. The Converging Media Conference will have a sequel in autumn 2014, with a focus on gaming and innovative cross-media content.
In 2013, Boek.be and Publisher of the Future organized two Creative Book Labs, which offered hands-on sessions open to publishers, writers, illustrators, game and app developers, graphic designers, and digital agencies. Presentations highlighted new forms of storytelling, user experience and business models, followed by a pitch session of new ideas. In June 2014 a Development Lab will be organized. During three intensive, fascinating, and amusing days, a team of mentors will help the participants build their digital publishing ideas into a technically strong concepts, supported by solid business models and distribution strategies, ready for production. The highlight of the lab is a pitch session, when the teams present their projects to a jury, receiving useful feedback on the creative and business potential of their concept. At the end, the jury will hand out an award to the most innovative and future proof book project.
Be Our Guest at the Flemish Book Fair
Boek.be presented a series of multidimensional content projects at the e-pavilion of the Flemish Book Fair. This “classroom of today and tomorrow” invited children and their parents through a digital learning journey. Workshops on tablets and smartboards, as well as lectures and presentations of digital products launched by Flemish publishers, were shown not only to professionals but to a large and mainstream audience. The e-pavillion also included an interactive reading room, demos of digital applications, a gaming hub with educational games, a comic creator, ereaders, and animated Kidscam workshops on translating print into animation.
Future-Proof the Book Industry
Because Belgium is a small country with limited resources, interdisciplinary collaboration and creativity are key to survival. Flemish publishers excel in various fields, including educational publishing, comics and illustrated non-fiction. For educational publishers integrating interactivity, facilitating collaboration and sharing, improving assessment, and connecting serious gaming are both priorities and challenges. Many Flemish publishers take 360-degree approach to their content, which means more collaboration across media industries, serving an immersive audience, and generating new revenue channels.
The Flemish government encourages and supports innovation through Flanders DC (coordinating the cultural industry) through IWT (funding support), through iMinds (research & development), and Flanders Investment and Trade (expanding & export). The results of these multiple efforts accelerate innovation in the Flemish book industry and aim to put Flanders on the map when it comes to creativity, collaboration, and co-creation. However, as publishers embrace advanced tools and techniques to generate new content formats, the creation of compelling content remains undoubtedly key to any future proof success.
In 2016, the Netherlands and Flanders will be joint Guests of Honour at Frankfurt Book Fair. A challenging opportunity for the Flemish Book Industry offering fresh innovative perspectives and stimulating new partnerships.
Jef Maes is Manager, Expertise Center at Boek.be. Annemie Speybrouck is Project Manager for Publisher of the Future at Boek.be.