Coronavirus Notes: Events Going Digital, Spain’s Readmagine Among Them

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

Speakers and topics are being announced as registration opens for Madrid’s Readmagine conference, which plans its online events in June and a ’boutique edition’ in-person event in late November.

An April 15 shot in Madrid, devoid of tourists. Image – iStockphoto: Marta Fernandez

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Learning the Digital Ropes
In our coverage on Monday (May 11), we looked at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair effort to present the world publishing industry’s most ambitious effort yet in mounting a digital edition of a long-running (57 years) trade show event. There were many successes, especially good to see coming from one of the hardest-hit international book markets in the coronavirus pandemic.

Many of the key takeaways from that event for other programs now working to develop their own digital evocations have to do with practical realities. Needless to say, the question of audience is paramount.

If your event is one aimed at consumers, as ReedPop’s BookCon-in-cyberspace, BookConline, will be, then the digital presentation, its aesthetics and architecture, is fan-driven for an audience made of customers, not industry professionals. This will be the kind of driver considered by the Sharjah Book Authority, too, for its 10-day online reading festival.

A potentially tricky issue in audience—consumer vs. industry—may arise for ReedPop’s BookExpo development online. The trade show, of course, is traditionally an industry-facing event, but Reed has said that it wants BookExpo to be publicly available. At this point, almost any chance to engage the public in books and reading is to be welcomed, of course. But as Bologna’s work indicated, professional people in the publishing industry may have different needs for how a digital event is designed.

If an online event is aimed at the industry—as Bologna’s was, and as more being announced for the summer and autumn will be—producers will be looking at a shortlist of challenges distinct from those in a consumer event.

  • Navigation: A publishing executive, rights director, literary agent, or editor won’t arrive at a digital-event site with a lot of time to enjoy extensive graphics or hunt around through layers of welcoming material to find the material she’s looking for—a live stream or timed video playout, perhaps. The faster someone can land, determine where to go, and click through to the right place without mistakes, the better. In the physical setting of a trade show or conference, we have more claim on our attendees’ time and attention than we do in the digital setting. Efficiency counts.
  • Visual design: It sure is great when an online presentation’s design serves navigation and straightforward communication. When it doesn’t, it can be prettier than it is practical. Functionality is more important in the professional online setting, just as it is in real life. There’s a reason that conference tables are kept clear of decor, right?
  • Timing and translation: Our internationalist audience here at Publishing Perspectives knows the extraordinary dance of the time zones we all perform in our communications and other coordinated efforts (normally including extensive travel). If your event online is something you’d like to see draw the world publishing audience, consider immediately available replays of your live events—which cannot possibly suit everyone’s time zone. And think about audio channels that can provide translation as an option. If you’re thoughtful enough and able to handle these elements well for the international industry, we recommend you promote them liberally so that everyone knows your work is available and accessible across borders and time zones. It’s also a mistake to announce a time for a live event without its time-zone designation. Don’t ask your users to guess.
Readmagine Names Speakers: A Digital + Live Approach

In Barcelona under pandemic restrictions, March 29. Image – iStockphoto: Dino Geromella

The approach being pursued by Madrid’s Readmagine annual conference program, as we reported on April 16, is a hybrid in which the program expects to produce a series of digital offerings between June 1 and 12, followed by an in-person “boutique edition,” as they’re calling it, in late November.

And what’s being put together for the digital component looks to be carefully thought out and structured, which is good to see.

José Manuel Anta

The Fundación Germán Sánchez Ruipérez is a generous producer and José Manuel Anta, managing director of Spain’s Federation of Distributors’ Associations (FANDE), writes with admirable frankness that in organizing the Readmagine program, he and his associates hope that the digital edition “will offer the chance to learn, contribute, and cheer up your spirit after this disgusting quarter.”

Anta and his countrymen and women have been through one of the world market’s most appalling onslaughts from COVID-19.

At this writing, the 1:36 a.m. ET update (0536 GMT) of the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center ranks Spain—with its population of 47 million–at No. 3 in the world for caseloads, after only the United States (now 1.4 million cases) and Russia (232,243). Spain has 228,030 confirmed cases and 26,920 deaths.

On Monday (May 11), Rodrigo Oriheula reported for Bloomberg that Spain had registered its lowest daily coronavirus death toll in almost two months (124 fatalities). So it is that also on Monday, roughly half the country’s population started a second stage of the Sanchez government’s effort to ease the two-month lockdown. This means that bars and restaurants are allowed to operate at 50-percent capacity, with gatherings of up to 10 at private residences.

As everywhere in the world in which loosenings of mitigation efforts are being made, the fear is that new cases and deaths will be triggered, many citizens either not understanding or not believing the gravity of the risk.

Readmagine’s 2020 Digital Programming

An April 1 shot in Madrid’s Plaza de Callao. Image – iStockphoto: Carlos Moreta Ventura

As Anta and his associates announce some of their programming, you can see a good structure of presentational organization in development. The program, he says, comprises four elements:

  • Presentations with registration
  • Documentation that will come to a user in advance of a presentation
  • Interaction opportunities with speakers and other users
  • Working groups around the creation of “statement documents”

Main topics include:

  • Consumer trends in the pandemic and in-home consumption
  • The situation and challenges around subscription models
  • The future of book sector after the pandemic
  • The audiobook sector
  • Optimization of publishing workflows
  • Certifying ebook accessibility

Speakers being mentioned at this point are:

  • Busch, Michael, CEO at Thalia
  • Hadrien Gardeur, De Marque
  • Liisa McCloy-Kelley, Penguin Random House
  • Cristina Mussinelli, Fondazione LIA
  • Brian O’Leary, BISG
  • Richard Orme, DAISY
  • Veronica Reyero, Antropología 2.0
  • Andrew Rhomberg, Jellybooks
  • Michael Tamblyn, Rakuten Kobo
  • Jens Tröger, Bookalope
  • Olivia Valentine, GlobalWebIndex
  • Daniel Weck, EDRLab
  • Erik Wikberg and Alexandra Borg, Stockholm School of Economics
  • Rüdiger Wischenbart, consultant

We’ll have more details of the program as they develop. Registration is here.

More from Publishing Perspectives on the Spanish market is here, more from us on Readmagine is here, and more from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here and at the CORONAVIRUS tab at the top of each page of our site.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

Facebook Twitter

Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.