Author Archive

Sophie O’Rourke

Sophie O’Rourke works at emc design, a leading print & digital design agency for publishing. She is interested in how education is being transformed by new technologies, the web and social media. You can find her writing for emc design’s blog (, on Twitter @sophie_orourke or at the next Book Machine social!

5 questions for Jacks Thomas, Director of The London Book Fair [INTERVIEW]

Portrait of Ann Bissell of Midas PRJacks Thomas is the Director of The London Book Fair and she will be BookMachine London’s speaker on 27th February. I caught up with her to find out what the new plans are for LBF14 as well as getting a bit of an insight into the running of the fair.

1. What’s new for LBF this year that visitors must make a note to see and do?

Firstly, new dates!  This year’s Fair starts on a Tuesday, rather than starting on a Monday as it has done in recent years, which means our Publishing for Digital Minds Conference will now take place on the Monday before the Fair.

Korea is Market Focus country, so there will be a full programme of professional and cultural events showcasing Korea, and we also have bestselling writer Sun-mi Hwang as our Market Focus Author of the Day. We’re very lucky once again this year as our other Authors of the Day are Terry Pratchett and Malorie Blackman.  I would definitely suggest visitors go to their talks on the PEN Literary Salon.

This year we have a brand new academic theatre located in LBF’s Academic & Scholarly zone called The Faculty @ LBF and LBF’s dedicated area for authors has been expanded and re-launched for 2014 as Author HQ, with a three day events programme for self-published writers to learn more about the industry.  We are also launching Gaming @ LBF, a dedicated space for developers and publishers to connect.

Don’t miss the virtual golf tournament either…more on that anon!

There will be over 250 free-to-attend events in LBF’s “Insights” seminar programme, with a staggering range of topics, I would highly recommend visitors attend some of these sessions.

2. Can you give us a bit more detail on the International Publishing Industry Excellence Awards, and why they fill the gaps that other awarding bodies aren’t fulfilling?

I take your point but the key difference with these awards is that they look out from the UK to the rest of the world.  To win, you will be operating outside the UK.  So these awards fill a gap in that they celebrate international achievement across the whole business of publishing and a truly global view of the book world.  The awards will hopefully be simple, slick and celebratory a fab opportunity for the UK publishing industry to recognise and showcase the achievements of their international publishing industry colleagues.

The awards cover everything from digital innovation, translation and copyright protection, through to trade, academic and children’s publishing.  There are 15 categories, and both companies and individuals are eligible to enter themselves, or put forward a nomination. PLUS! We’re really pleased that broadcaster and author, Gavin Esler has agreed to present the evening.

3. How do you ensure there is a balance between exhibiting companies and publishers that have huge marketing budgets – compared to those who are still integral to the industry, but can’t justify the marketing costs to be there (smaller publishers/service providers)?

We try to balance this by offering a number of exhibitor packages.  For example, we always  have Small Press stands which are  ideal for first time exhibitors or smaller companies to have a ‘taster’ of the fair, we have the start-up zone in Tech Central and with the new-to-show industries such as Gaming, Brand Licensing and Comics Pavilions we have very competitive packages in association with the respective Trades Associations Industry partners.

Altogether, a stand can be pretty much as large or small, fancy or simple as the customer decrees.

4. Over the last few years the scholarly, educational and seminar programme seems to have got a lot bigger. Why do you think this is and do you think exhibition events, like LBF, are expected to provide this as part of the overall offering?

In the K12 arena, technology is increasingly ubiquitous in lecture theatres and the classroom and a number of the most exciting digital innovations are happening in the educational sector.  The boundaries between education and what is entertainment are now much less defined, with new ‘edutainment’ initiatives are being launched every year. These new policies and techniques are debated at the IPA Education Conference; What Works on day 3 of the book fair.

In the academic, professional, STM sectors, we know that change is fast and that these  sectors often lead the way in innovation. We very much wanted to get a dedicated show floor feature going to complement the seminar stream in the conference programme, which is why we’ve launched The Faculty @ LBF. We are absolutely delighted with the feedback we have had and that is in no small part due to the partnerships we have with ALPSP and the PA.

5. Once all the hard work is done for 2014, what will you be doing during the book fair itself?  Do you get to participate as an observer, or are you running around on call?

Hopefully – enjoy it!  I always refer to the way it evolves once we are at Earls Court as watching a small village being built. I love seeing behind the scenes. As to what I will be doing, I very much hope to get to the Great Debate, the Faculty, The Children’s Hub, The Digital Theatres, The Bic Bar, at least a dozen of the 240 seminars and, of course, the IPA Education Conference, our new London Writers’ Fair on the Friday and kicking off the week with the Publishing for Digital Minds Conference.  In between all that I will look forward to the Korea Market Focus Pavilion Opening Ceremony, meeting our authors of the day, and getting to talk to our exhibitors and visitors. Hopefully I will also get time to buy guests the occasional drink or two at the Club at the Ivy Pop-Up, which is back for its second year. All of this should help me to prepare for The London Book Fair 2015 which – in case you missed it – is at OLYMPIA!

If you want to hear more from Jacks make sure you’ve booked your BookMachine London ticket!


What impact has social media had on marketing & product development?

I’ve been really fascinated to start to see the impact social media has been having on the marketing and product development teams of Publishing houses. Social media has created more channels for Publishers to engage with their audiences, and more quickly, but are they really listening? Have products actually changed significantly in light of market feedback and real-time market research? My background is mostly within ELT and Educational Publishers where materials go through lengthy approval and development processes. However, it seems that it isn’t until quite late on in a courses development that it gets taken to market for approval and this is then where there are often conflicting view points and markets that don’t feel it is the right product to meet their needs.

Here are some further questions to delve a little deeper into this issue – it would be great to get your feedback and thoughts!

  1. Have marketing departments been given the recognition and influence in the publication process they perhaps deserve? And more importantly need if Publishers are to sustain revenues through their educational publishing departments? Not to mention compete with technology companies that are taking products to market quicker and that meet gaps in the market?
  2. How much is the product design of new material being influenced by Marketing and user feedback?
  3. More specifically how much of a role do the marketing department have in taking a prototype to market, to get real time and useful feedback, before a Publishing house has invested a lot of time and money in generating a series/concept that thinks will sit well in the market place?
  4. Once a prototype/launch has been taken to market how much of the feedback actually affects the finished products? Are teams willing to listen to the feedback and change their plans accordingly?
  5. Where is the tipping point financially for this change? If too much has been invested in a potentially flawed product who is ultimately responsible for pulling the plug? Or is there a ‘wing and a prayer attitude’ that has up until now got everyone through?
  6. If marketing teams were to get involved earlier on in the concept stages do you think there would be less time and money wasted on producing irrelevant/past it content/products that don’t meet a market need?
  7. Have recent developments in the Publishing industry (ie all the digital explosion, production but also marketing channels, of the last few years) affected the structure of publishers and the status quo amongst differing departments?

Would love to know your own experiences if you work at a Publishers or your thoughts on any of the above?

New tech company Saundz enters the world of English Language Teaching (ELT)

Sophie O’Rourke has a keen interest in ELT developments. Here she speaks to Milena Jerkov Bibic at Saundz, a high-tech pronunciation software for language learners, to find out how they are intending to help English Language Learners across the world. 

It is estimated that there are around 2 billion English language learners around the world currently trying to learn English. And of those who are being taught, in schools, on-line and with one to one tuition, very few students have access to native English-speaking teachers. And the one area of English language learning that becomes much more difficult to teach with a non-native speaking teacher is the pronunciation of sounds, phrases and words. There are many tools being developed by start-ups who are seeing the gaps in the market and identifying and creating programmes to reach large audiences. One of those new companies which is doing just this is American based They are interesting because they are using technology to fill a face to face skills gap at grass-roots level but are also building a community at the same time.

Re-Visiting Random House’s BookScout app


In January, Random House Inc. launched a new social reading platform on Facebooks app center called BookScout. Back then, I asked Amanda Close (Senior Vice President, Digital Marketplace Development) 6 questions about the book discovery app.

This month they have launched a new mobile version of the app so I asked Amanda some more questions about what the release involved and why developing a mobile version was important to enhance the users experience as well as to prompt more discussion and sharing of books people love.

6 Questions for Amanda Close of Random House, on launch of book discovery Facebook app BookScout [INTERVIEW]


Worried about Amazon buying up GoodReads? Have no fear: Random House, Inc have launched BookScout a new social book discovery app on Facebook. The app allows readers to create and organize their own digital bookshelves and explore friends’ bookshelves to learn what others are reading. BookScout encourages organic word-of-mouth recommendations as people can share what they’re currently reading with their Facebook friends, tag books they’d like to read, and keep track of books they’ve read. The app also provides personalized book recommendations from all publishers, and includes links to major retailers so people can easily purchase print books and eBooks they’re interested in.

Sophie asked Amanda Close, SVP Digital Marketplace Development, some more questions to find out why the app has been made, what the plans are for future and how the analytics are forming future growth strategies…

4 quick Questions for Greg Ioannou of Iguana Books [INTERVIEW]

In the run up to BookMachine Toronto we caught up with Greg Ioannou who is a busy Publishing bod. Between all the various roles he fulfills (Publisher at Iguana Books, President of Colborne Communications and President of the Editors’ Association of Canada), he does a lot of networking. So if you’re going to the first BookMachine Toronto, Greg will be propping up the buffet bar so do say hello!

Eventbrite - BookMachine Toronto


5 Questions for Ricardo Redisch of Grupo Editorial Nacional [INTERVIEW]

Ricardo RideschRicardo Redisch kindly gave up some time to talk to me before the first BookMachine Toronto. Working as Executive Publisher at Grupo Editorial Nacional, one of the biggest 3 Academic and Educational Publishers in Brazil, Ricardo is based in Toronto and has some really interesting insights into why publishers should be listening to their readers through social media…

Eventbrite - BookMachine Toronto


5 questions for Kelvin Kong [INTERVIEW]

Kelvin KongIn the run up to the very first ever BookMachine Toronto we’re compiling some interviews with publishing-type folk who will be going to the event.

Kelvin Kong is Foreign Rights Manager at The Rights Factory and gave us a quick interview on what he does, what his expectations of BookMachine will be and also if he has any predictions for the future of Publishing.
Eventbrite - BookMachine Toronto

O’Reilly’s TOC announces Publishing StartUp Finalists & BookMachine is one of them!

toc_13_startup_showcase_finalist_badgeLast week O’Reilly’s Tools of Change announced their 10 Publishing Startup Showcase Finalists and I am thrilled to announce, on behalf of Laura, Gavin and Titash, that has been selected as one of the 10 finalists. They will get to go to TOC in New York later in the year to strut their stuff and really show everyone how brilliant is. Huge thanks to everyone who voted!

The top 10 are an impressive mixture of Startups offering some of the most exciting new ideas for the Publishing industry including another brilliant UK Startup ValoBox – congratulations to you guys too!

If you want your very own page, so you can connect with those important folks from within the Publishing industry, drop an email to and ask for an invite.

Design teacher, Andrew Buck, creates revision app [INTERVIEW]

Andy Buck

Andrew Buck is a Graphic Design teacher at Hastingsbury Upper School in Bedfordshire. He and his design students have created an app that is hopefully going to transform the way students can prepare and succeed when it comes to the dreaded exam season. Whilst the app isn’t necessarily linked to Publishers, it’s an interesting app and has come from identifying a real need in the market. I asked him more about ExamPal, how they’ve priced the app, how he got the attention of Apple and what he thinks about technology in the classroom.

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