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Why Tim O’Reilly is optimistic about the future of media and books

TOC“There are big opportunities for those of us who are unafraid of the future but who are trying to figure it out,” said Tim O’Reilly today, kicking off Tools of Change (live stream), O’Reilly’s conference for book and content publishers, held this week in New York City. Beginning with a chart showing an industry disrupted but stabilizing after a period of financial decline, O’Reilly’s opening talk was titled “Some Reasons for Optimism.”

The primary things O’Reilly’s optimistic about are the social web and the distribution capabilities it’s making available to content producers. That’s something I think people in any industry could benefit from finding inspiration in.

O’Reilly’s primary example was Vidcon, an online video industry event that he said saw thousands of young people screaming for their favorite YouTube stars like teenagers at a Beatles concert in the ’60s.

Started by video blogging brothers Hank and John Green, the conference is just one of many different media outlets the brothers work in. John is a best-selling young adult fiction author, riding a wave of popularity on YouTube and GoodReads to sell huge numbers of books to thousands of loyal fans.

The brothers sold out Carnegie Hall last month, (“one hell of an author’s tour,” O’Reilly said) and John Green shared the following thoughts with the New York Times, which O’Reilly then quoted in his opening address to Tools of Change:  “For me there is no bright line between publishing and making stuff on the Internet. They are both about collaborating with others to make something new.”

That sentiment and the Green brothers’ whole experience resonated with O’Reilly. “If you’re a publisher and you’re only thinking about books and ebooks, you may be missing out,” he said. “You need a bigger footprint online.” The whole conference is shaping up to be an optimistic look at a future of knowledge sharing that’s multi-media and multi-platform.

“Readers and authors are doing fine,” O’Reilly concluded his talk to his fellow publishers. “And when platforms are vibrant, it’s because ideas matter. If you make that the heart of your practice, you will succeed. Work on stuff that matters.”

Other fun from Tools of Change:

Cory Doctorow: “The 21st century novel presumes easy access to a search engine; you can drop concepts and trust readers to look them up for themselves.”

Who do members of the ePublishing community pay the most attention to? According to Little Bird’s community analysis: publications like Digital Book World and The Future Book, and individuals like Idealog’s Mike Shatzkin and VP of Engineering at Safari Books Online Liza Daly.

See you in the future, fellow readers and learners!