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I wasn’t sure until the last minute whether I was going to Tools of Change 2013. When I ran a publishing startup, TOC was the most important event of the year: we organized our entire product release schedule around it. (Keith calls this “Conference-Driven Development.”) It was often the only opportunity to meet our current customers face-to-face, and giving conference presentations and attending mixers constituted 100% of our marketing and sales effort. Missing it was unthinkable, a potentially catastrophic failure for the company.

This year I still have lots of meetings and not enough time, but the stakes are much lower. In the end, what convinced me to come back was less the urgency of the appointments and instead the opportunity to see friends and colleagues. If I didn’t attend, I’d miss the chance to stay in touch with those who’ve supported and encouraged me in the rollercoaster ride that is 21st-century publishing.

It’s always a crapshoot which sessions I’m able to see — many get preempted by interesting session-break conversations that spill into the next track (and are always well worth the time). Here are the talks I’m hoping to attend, some of which naturally overlap, sigh:

Preparing Content for Next-Generation Learning

Greg Grossmeier (Creative Commons), Michael Jay (Educational Systemics, Inc.)

10:45am Wednesday, 02/13/2013

Safari considers itself as much a learning company as an ebook company, but the “e-learning” industry is one with which I have almost no familiarity. We’re always looking for ways to facilitate professional development and skill-building, and I’m eager to keep on top of the leading edge of the space, especially with regards to web-centric approaches versus traditional learning management systems.

End To End Accessibility: A Journey Through The Supply Chain

Dave Gunn (Royal National Institute of Blind People), Sarah Hilderley (EDItEUR Ltd), Doug Klein (Nook Media, LLC), Rick Johnson (Ingram | VitalSource)

1:40pm Wednesday, 02/13/2013

Though our product has significant accessibility affordances, most of them pre-date advances in accessible content, including EPUB 3 semantics. I want to be ready for us to take advantage of semantically-rich content and ensure that we’re providing a consistent user experience relative to other ereading systems.

Book as API

Hugh McGuire (PressBooks / LibriVox / Iambik ), Alistair Croll (Solve For Interesting)

1:40pm Wednesday, 02/13/2013

Some publishers and book services have had public APIs, but have placed enough restrictions as to make them useless for general purpose use. Consequently the APIs don’t see wide adoption, and then the organization wonders why they’re supporting something nobody uses — supporting a public API is a non-trivial investment. Eventually the API is discarded. I’m interested to see if there’s a way out of this self-defeating cycle.

Information Wants to be Shared

Joshua Gans (Rotman School of Management)

9:20am Thursday, 02/14/2013
Google’s First Click Free or innovative approaches to search engine discovery are offering publishers more choices in discoverability and sharing that shouldn’t compromise sales or devalue content. This is a critical topic for any web-based aggregator.

The Elusive “Netflix of eBooks”

Travis Alber (ReadSocial and BookGlutton), Christian Damke (Skoobe), Justo Hidalgo (24Symbols), Andrew Savikas (Safari Books Online)

10:35am Thursday, 02/14/2013

I suspect this is relevant to my interests. Also my boss will be there.

Don’t miss

Other sessions likely to be time well-spent: Revamping Editing: The Invisible Art (Maureen Evans & Blaine Cook, Poetica), especially if you missed their Books in Browsers presentation;  Creators and Technology Converging: When Tech Becomes Part of the Story (moderated by Erin Kissane), an interesting line-up of speakers from outside traditional publishing; PubHack: Understanding Industry Barriers, And How To Get Innovating Anyway (moderated by Kristen McLean), a must-see for publishing startups struggling to work with larger organizations.


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